2021 AFC East Preview: Division of Game Changers

Welcome to the 2021 season where Bill Belichick has taken his Patriots down to Miami a full week early to thwart the 2-7 record his team has in away games with the Dolphins. This move mirrors the desperation of not naming an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator in what looks to be an unceremonious end to Bill Belichick’s career. This will be his last year.

Where does this team turn when they start 0-4?? At Patriots, at Steelers, home to Baltimore then off to Green Bay. Yikes!

Yet elsewhere in the division it’s full speed ahead as Josh Allen and the Bills have become the talk of the league having made several upgrades heading into 2022.

AFC East Champions

  1. Buffalo Bills 13-4**
  2. New York Jets 9-8
  3. Miami Dolphins 6-11
  4. new England Patriots 5-12

The 1st of which is signing former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller to bolster the reigning #1 defense and help school former 1st round DE Greg Rousseau. This should free up DT Ed Oliver from interior double teams as all 3 -1st rounders should be after QBs all season. Schematically this defense played well but needs playmaking game changers and this pass rush has to be that. Just look back to the last :13 in Kansas City.

Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller (40) forces a fumble by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the second half in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame pass rushers shouldn’t fall from the sky and the Bills got the biggest defensive acquisition in football. Miller has 4.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in Super Bowl competition. In the ’15 AFC Championship he had 2.5 sacks of Tom Brady and another 4 hits on him to rattle TB12. Then last year it was Von’s sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on Brady that gave the Rams strategic control of the game sending them to the NFC Championship Game.

However the most improved team in the division is the New York Jets. Drafting Zach Wilson home run speed in OSU WR Garrett Wilson and grabbing CB Sauce Gardner and DE Jermaine Johnson with their #1 picks. Its Wilson taking the top off defenses that will allow Braxton Berrios to continue to be dynamic in the slot. However if 2nd round pick Breece Hall hits at running back this offense has the potential to be one of the best in football. They will mirror Joe Burrow and the weapons  in Cincinnati but they may be one year away from hitting full stride.

Miami will be the middle of the pack team they have been with Tua at quarterback. They did get Tyreek Hill who should turn heads early in the season with bubble screens and turning short gains into big ones early in the season. Yet look to defensive coordinators to figure out Tua’s arm can’t threaten downfield and his affectiveness to be minimized by midseason.

This season of dynamic playmakers begins and ends with Bills QB Josh Allen who could be league MVP with another great season. Completing 409 of 646 for 4,407 yds 36TDs with 15 interceptions had him in last year’s race. His 763 yards rushing will hopefully be lower and he needs to  slide more and not take so many hits. With Diggs (102 rec. 1,225 yds/ 10TDs) back and the emergence of Gabriel Davis (NFL playoff record 4 TDs in KC) this team has no obvious weaknesses. Barring injury this group of playmakers should be playing in early February in Super Bowl LVII.

It all begins by showcasing it Thursday Night against the defending Super Bowl champion Rams on the road. Time for the rubber to hit the road!

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Huge Quarterback Salaries: Feast or Famine?? Part II

The most interesting offseason since the 1993 advent of free agency culminated with Green Bay resigning Aaron Rodgers to a whopping $50 million per season. Some might argue it’s the return of Tom Brady but its not having the immediate ripple affect like this signing. Now Rodger’s favorite target Davante Adams is unnerved with the franchise tag draped over his wishes to get a new deal. Last we heard he said he wouldn’t play under that designation.

It could be a ploy to get brass to offer a long term contract however ramifications have hit with the release of Za’Darius Smith. He missed almost all of last year but flashed for 26 sacks 5 forced fumbles and earned Pro Bowl berths in his previous 2 years with the club.

These are the first two dominoes to fall in an offseason that still has the Packers nearly $7 million over the cap and the draft is still a month away.

What will happen with Davante Adams and will it affect chemistry when he comes back??

This is the second installment where I’m asking the question on large quarterback deals crippling the rest of the roster. Is it feast or famine??

The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl and the huge QB deals have not proven to win you the big game. Before we go any further lets point a few things out:

NFL salary rankings of QBs who won Super Bowl in the last 10 years.
2021. Matthew Stafford 13th highest
2020. Tom Brady 15th highest
2018. Tom Brady 12th highest
2017. Carson Wentz 18th /Nick Foles not available
2016. Tom Brady 18th highest
2015. Peyton Manning 6th highest
2013. Russell Wilson 51st highest
2012. Joe Flacco 16th highest
Take a wild guess when the last time an NFL team with the highest paid quarterback won the Super Bowl?? Try Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX to conclude the 1994 season. Super Bowl 29?? We’re headed to Super Bowl 57 next February.
Tom Brady reworked his contract on 8 different occassions and its no coincidence he has played on squads with top level talent around the roster. He has made the Super Bowl a bi-annual habit.
Get this.. the Rams won LVI with Stafford as the 13th highest paid while trading away the 6th highest in Jared Goff. So before they nabbed Von Miller from Denver they locked up CB Jalen Ramsey with a contract extension in September.
Its at this point you can see where Devante Adams is coming from. The Rams saved $7 million going from Goff to Stafford and every bit of it was needed to make the roster moves they did. Including Odell Beckham signing for a minimum deal and a chance at immortality.
So a part of the equation when The Chancellor doesn’t pick a mistake prone Dak Prescott $40 million, bypass a polarizing Aaron Rodgers $50 million and looks favorably on the LA Chargers and Justin Herbert on a rookie deal, don’t act surprised.
The ink is just drying on several moves, including the trade they just made for 2 time Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in Khalil Mack. Which looks a lot like the Von Miller deal the Rams used to vault to NFL champion status. Hmmmmmm??
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Nick Foles v. Carson Wentz – The Philadelphia Eagles Could Have a Problem

There comes a time when a team has to make a tough decision based upon an expected return on investment, ability to achieve goals, and prestige to the organization. Especially when it comes to selecting their franchise quarterback, what is more important – potential or demonstrated ability to achieve goals based upon experience??

As the final seconds ticked away in Sunday Night’s 16-15 Wildcard win in Soldier Field, it became apparent Nick Foles had saved the 2018 Eagles season. The magic carpet ride last year that concluded with a Super Bowl MVP and this uniform display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame seems to have been extended.

If the Eagles pull off another upset in the divisonal round against the Saints, Foles will have won his 5th straight post season game.

Now ask yourself a question: “What is the definition of a franchise quarterback?” He is a signal caller who can be counted on to lead his team to a championship and keeps his team in contention over an extended period of time. Preferably a 5-7 year window.

Yet when you think of Foles, he is thought of as a caretaker of the position until 1st round draft pick Carson Wentz returns from injury. By all accounts Foles was coming to the end of the line in Philly. He had been the dutiful soldier who stepped in and led the Eagles to a championship, then took his place behind Wentz again. He said all the right things but things will change with another berth in the NFC Championship Game.

How do you turn your back from a QB that leads you to multiple conference championship games?? I know Wentz was drafted in the 1st round of 2016 but there is no guarantee he has the moxie and cool to win NFL playoff games. Think back to another 1st round pick, Donovan McNabb, and the 3 straight NFC Chanpionship losses he had before breaking through in ’04. Would the Eagles have stayed with McNabb in those losses had they a Super Bowl winning QB to replace him??

Think back to 1992 when former Eagle OC Frank Reich quarterbacked the Bills to a 41-38 win in the greatest comeback in NFL history when they had been down 35-3 in an AFC Wildcard Game. He then engineered a 23-3 win in Pittsburgh the following week. Having lost 2 of the previous Super Bowls and HoF QB Jim Kelly healthy, Bills fans and local press were split 50/50 on whether they should stay with the “hot hand” of Reich going into the AFC Championship. After they won it, it was the 1st question Kelly was asked about by NBC and it followed him in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXVII.

Carson Wentz has yet to play in a playoff game. The closest he came was 2017’s 43-35 win over the Rams in the LA Coliseum when he blew out his knee. The Eagles did achieve homefield advantage with the win however Foles has eclipsed even that:

NFL records held by Foles:

  • Foles: 7 TD passes – 11/23/13 v. Oakland Raiders tied record held by Joe Kapp 1969 Vikings v Colts 9/28/69.  Also tied 4 others including Peyton Manning 2013 Broncos v Ravens
  • Foles: The only QB in NFL history to throw for 7 TDs and finish with a perfect rating of 158.3.
  • Set an NFL record with a touchdown to interception ratio of 13.5 with 27 TDs to 2 ints.
  • Tied the NFL record for most consecutive completions with 25 w/ Phillip Rivers in ’18 finale v Redskins.

Had Chip Kelly not sabotaged the Eagles in trading away DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Macklin he could have been doing this from 2013 on.

In the penultimate game this year against the Texans he inspired his team while throwing for a team record 471 yards to cement a playoff berth. This was delivered with their season on the line.

Did you know that both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles have now each played 40 games for the Eagles?? Guess who has the higher passer rating (93.2 -92.5)??

You also know that St Nick holds the Eagles records for highest passer rating (119.3/2013), the top two seasons for fewest interceptions and interception percentage…right??

Now keep in mind Carson Wentz won the Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP last season so this isn’t a knock against him. It’s just that Foles infuses juice into this team and he has rallied the offense where it sputtered some with Wentz coming back from injury. With Foles at only 29 years of age to Wentz’s 26, he has entered the realm of mature quarterback where the game has slowed down for him. In this day and age where you can’t hit the qb, he can play until he’s 40. He’s grounded and as he appeared in last year’s Super Bowl, the brightest of lights didn’t make him flinch. In fact he played better… just like these games down the stretch.

Foles threw for a team record 471 yards on the NFL’s 12th ranked team.

Eight weeks ago the Eagles suffered the worst loss for a champion in the 52 year history of the Super Bowl 48-7 down in New Orleans. Now they return to the scene of the crime in the divisional playoff round. If Nick rises to the occasion and pulls off this upset it may turn the tables and the team should keep Foles and trade Carson Wentz.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Denver for Von Miller and a #1pick if John Elway was serious about trading Von??

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Tennessee for Pro Bowl DT Jurrell Casey and Marcus Mariota to be the backup?? Team DT Fletcher Cox with Casey to form a tandem to rival Donald and Suh out in Los Angeles.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Jacksonville for LB Myles Jack and a #1pick?? Or get Tom Coughlin to throw in CB Jaylon Ramsey??

Think of the possibilites of what would be available trading across conference to teams desperate for a franchise quarterback??

Nick Foles could have this on the table with a win this week down in New Orleans. Keep in mind he lost a tough game 26-24 in the Superdome to Drew Brees in 2013. In that game he was 23 of 33 for 195 yards 2 TDs and no picks. If he handled the noise and pressure of facing Drew Brees in his 1st ever playoff game, will he be nervous 5 years later as a reigning Super Bowl MVP?? I don’t think so…

Nick Foles… your mission should you choose to accept it…

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Von Miller Facing A Four Game Suspension – The New LT

The AFC's best linebacker will see more double teams unless someone can emerge to replace Elvis Dumervil.

The AFC’s best linebacker will see more double teams unless someone can emerge to replace Elvis Dumervil.

The NFL has had it’s worse off-season in it’s history and the hits just keep on coming. Think back to prior years where there have been headlines off the field, they rarely happened to teams at the top. Now here comes the latest in Von Miller appealing a violation of an NFL policy that may be drug related. We know that he is a star and this will not hurt him overall but what does this do to his team??

When we last talked about the Denver Broncos, we gauged how effective Miller was going to be now that his bookend counterpart is now in Baltimore. In our season preview: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/08/2013-denver-broncos-preview-one-more-moment-for-manning/ we wondered if they had adequately replaced Dumervil and here we are headed to camp when this bombshell hits.  If his appeal goes down in flames, the Broncos will be without the services of their best player against the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Which gives game 2 some added significance.

One of the bigger stories for us is how Raven Tackles Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie totally neutralized him in last year’s playoffs. He only mustered 1/2 a sack in that 38-35 overtime loss. That performance was the impetus to the collapse of the Bronco defense in that game. Flacco went deep often and scorched the secondary with no pass rush in sight. After stealing Dumervil in free agency, how does the Denver defense stop Baltimore when they come to town September 5th??

If the Broncos go down in week one they have to go to New York and face Eli Manning in what should be the final Manning Bowl. With the chance to play the Super Bowl in their own home stadium as a backdrop to Denver facing one of the league’s best QBs with no pass rush, an 0-2 record is a distinct possibility. The Giants have shown the ability to clamp down on offenses that struggle to throw past 15 yards. Everyone watched the film of that playoff loss and there have been grumblings that he’s having some physical discomfort during the OTAs. This would be a game where they desperately need a pass rush.

After a four game suspension, the Broncos can ill afford his coming back rusty. In upcoming weeks he’ll have to chase Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, and RG III before we get to the second half of the season. If this suspension holds up this could have a domino affect on the season. Not as great as what Aaron Hernandez will have on the Patriots, but it will take it’s toll. To lose 29.5 sacks in Dumervil and Miller is a lot of QB pressure. If the Broncos have to manufacture a rush with the blitz, Peyton and company had better be ready for some high scoring affairs.

The only player to come back from a four game suspension and  have a monster year was Lawrence Taylor in 1988, when he gained 15.5 sacks in just 12 games. Although they finished 10-6, it was their 2-2 start that kept the Giants from entering the postseason. What will the Broncos record be after 4 games without Miller?? To who would the losses come against and how would that structure AFC playoff proceedings?? Don’t forget that Lawrence Taylor’s Giants in 1988, lost the fourth game to the Los Angeles Rams 45-31. Take a wild guess who finished with an identical record and went to the playoffs on a head to head tiebreaker. Something to think about… Von Miller, your mission, should you choose to accept it….

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2013 Denver Broncos Preview – One More Moment For Manning

Mannung delivered in year one as the Broncos finished 13-3 in 2012.

Manning delivered in year one as the Broncos finished 13-3 in 2012.

Last year the Mile High City was buzzing with the prospect of Peyton Manning taking over the quarterbacking duties for a team that had been 8-8 in 2011. He didn’t disappoint as he led the Broncos to a second straight AFC West crown. This time with a 13-3 record accompanied with a first round bye. However a 38-35 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens brought an abrupt end to a dream season.

The window for the Broncos to crash the Super Bowl with a 37 year old quarterback is a short one. This off-season they picked up ace slot receiver Wes Welker and made some key draft selections that should have the Broncos in the thick of things in the AFC West. Was it enough to allow Denver to maintain their status as the division’s best??

Quarterback: Now we did mention that Manning will be 37 years of age right? That is 259 in dog years and is an age that could prove difficult to make it through a complete NFL season. When you flash back to last year’s playoff loss to Baltimore, there were a few times his passes seemed to get away from him. Some sailed and some floated and the question had to be asked: Was Manning tired or was he struggling in the cold??

Although he was learning new receivers in 2012, it could be argued Manning had his best season. He completed 400 of 583 passes (68.3%) for 4,659 yards, 37 TDs with just 11 interceptions. During the early part of the season he would have to find his stride during the first quarter of games. Then his production would pick up for the latter 3 quarters. Keep in mind during their season ending 11 game winning streak, only 3 of the defenses faced finished in the top half of the league statistically.

Now the element of surprise is gone as teams have a complete season worth of film to study the Broncos offense. Last year the penchant for throwing only in the middle of the field was noticed by many teams. The saving grace is he has big receivers that are good space eaters. However as the season progresses he will wind up with a “sore” arm and defenses will crowd the intermediate pass routes under 20 yards. He won’t have as good a year statistically as it happened to Brett Favre in his second year with the Vikings & Joe Montana in his second year with the Chiefs.  He will still be playoff caliber at quarterback in what should be his last season.

Montee Ball fell to the Broncos late in the second round.

Montee Ball fell to the Broncos late in the second round.

Offensive Backfield:  Yes it’s true Willis McGahee (731 yds / 4.4 avg) was on  pace for 1,000 yard season before he fell to an injury, but that’s just it. At 32 years of age a running back is at the point of breaking down and needs to be replaced or spot duty at best. Enter draftee Montee Ball out of Wisconsin. The NCAA all time touchdown scorer (83) will have every chance to win the job outright. He’s played against tough Big Ten defenses and can take the pounding. Ball runs between the tackles and has decent speed.

The same can’t be said of Knowshon Moreno (525 yds / 3.8 avg) or Ronnie Hillman (327 yds /3.9 avg). Neither have shown the tackle breaking power consistent enough to sustain a starting assignment. In fact it was Moreno’s inability to sell his wares to the coaching staff that made Broncos’ brass sign McGahee in the first place in 2011. Moreno has missed 17 games in the last two years to injury and entering the final year of his contract. He will be cut this summer.

The Broncos need the drafting of Ball to pay off. If he comes in and either starts or splits time with McGahee this can be a playoff caliber backfield. However they will only run enough as a team to make them an average backfield.

Thomas and Decker are the best Bronco receiver tandem since Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.

Thomas and Decker are the best Bronco receiver tandem since Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.

Receivers: The equivalent of hitting the lottery happened to Demaryius Thomas (94 rec.1,434 yds 10 TDs) and Eric Decker (85 rec. 1,064 yds 13TDs) in 2012. They had career years with a quality passer in Manning with Thomas improving his receptions by 62 and Decker 41. Now they have perennial 100 reception season slot ace Wes Welker to add to the fold. All three will see their reception totals go down as there aren’t enough passes thrown to sustain those numbers.

Now they also add Georgia wideout Tavarres King with a 5th round pick. This team is really stacked before we get to TE Jacob Tamme. Who benefits from being a part of a talented receiving corps more than just his excellent physical gifts.

However defensive coordinators have to ask themselves; Which receiver do you gear your defense  to stop first?? Thomas and Decker with their size can go up and get the football over smaller corners. It’s de ja vu’ as they look like a bigger version of Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, yet like the aforementioned Bronco pair neither are burners. They can get deep in situational scenarios but both of them are big targets in intermediate routes and will continue to produce. This is a playoff caliber group and Thomas should have made the Pro Bowl in 2012.

At 6'6 315lbs., Clady has become the prototypical LT and has made the Pro Bowl 3 times in the past five years. He has a long career ahead of him as the Bronco blind side protector.

At 6’6 315lbs., Clady has become the prototypical LT and has made the Pro Bowl 3 times in the past five years. He has a long career ahead of him as the Bronco blind side protector.

Offensive Line: To underscore the difference between a Hall of Fame quarterback and a couple of substitute teachers… Do you realize in 2012 the Denver Broncos attempted 159 more passes than in 2011 yet had their sack totals drop from 42 to 21?? As we alluded to                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            last year, this offensive line was better than their sack totals showed. Now that they have a pro quarterback in Manning to get rid of the football whether completing the pass or throwing it away, this groups was second in sacks allowed (21) while allowing the fewest hits on the quarterback in the NFL with 46.

Again LT Ryan Clady from Boise St didn’t disappoint, as he garnered 1st team All Pro status and made his 3rd Pro Bowl in a brief 5 year career. He hasn’t missed a game in his career up to this point. One place where the line could use some improvement is in the running game. They had 46 negative rushing plays and on obvious power situations (3rd /4th & 2 or goal) they were only able to power for a first down 69% of the time up the middle, and 62% to the strong side. If they were to run the football more effectively they can rest Manning’s arm during the season’s stretch run. Until we see more out of the running game we have to give them a playoff caliber grade.

If Sylvester Williams shows up in Denver, the rest of the AFC West could be in trouble.

If Sylvester Williams shows up in Denver, the rest of the AFC West could be in trouble.

Defensive Line: Whatever you do, don’t bring up former DE Elvis Dumervil when it comes to the defensive line. The Broncos spent their first round draft pick this year on DT Sylvester Williams who should be in the rotation from day one. Then they drafted DE Quanterus Smith in the 5th round who is going to be given every chance to show that he’s recovered from a knee ligament injury last season. They have signed a DT free agent in Terrence Knightson along with re-signing DT Kevin Vickerson. Keep in mind this is a team that finished #2 in defense overall and #3 against the run.

Vickerson turned in a solid 2012 with 40 total tackles and 2 sacks. He and Justin Bannan (42 tackles /2 passes defensed) were there to keep offensive linemen off the middle linebacker. Adding Williams in the first round will add some explosion to disrupting opposing running games. Second year DE Derek Wolfe quietly contributed 6 sacks last year opposite Dumervil. Have they adequately replaced him?? No… not yet but this team is sitting at  Super Bowl quality against the run without him. Especially if Williams and Smith can come through as rookies.

The AFC's best linebacker will see more double teams unless someone can emerge to replace Elvis Dumervil.

The AFC’s best linebacker will see more double teams unless someone can emerge to replace Elvis Dumervil.

Linebackers: The conversation on who is the best Outside Linebacker in the AFC begins and ends with Von Miller. In 2012 his stat-line was NFL Defensive Player of the Year worthy with 68 tackles, 18 1/2 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and an interception. He’s only 24 years of age and has a lot of productive years left. With Dumervil gone look for teams to slide their protection to him until someone emerges on the other side. He did disappear in last year’s playoff loss to Baltimore and had to live with that all offseason. He will come into 2013 motivated to show he can play without Dumervil on the other side, but his production will go down.

One glaring hole is at Inside Linebacker where Joe Mays stands to inherit Keith Brooking’s spot. On many occasions he misdiagnosed plays and couldn’t disengage from blocks. Play from the line up front masked most of this. If he can’t unseat a 38 year old linebacker in Brooking, the Broncos have to look elsewhere.

Another season like last year and Wesley Woodyard could be on his way to the Pro Bowl as his speedy play from the weakside made up for the lack of production from Inside Linebacker. He led the Broncos with 114 tackles and had 5 1/2 sacks along with 3 interceptions. With this much production we’re not necessarily sure where free agent pickup Shawn Phillips fits in here. This is a playoff caliber group until they can improve more on the inside.

Secondary: This is the Achille’s Heel of this defense. No we’re not just talking about S Rahim Moore, who let Jacoby Jones get behind him with 1 minute left in last year’s playoff loss. With such a strong pass rush (52 sacks) they should have had more interceptions (12) as a secondary. Also exposed in last year’s playoff loss was grey beard Champ Bailey who could not stay with the Ravens Torrey Smith. Twitter and Facebook blew up with fans saying he needs to be moved to safety next year. To which Elway and Broncos brass assured that wouldn’t happen.

S Rahim Moore will be able to excorcise his demons when the Broncos host Jacoby Jones and the Super Bowl champion Ravens in week one.

S Rahim Moore will be able to excorcise his demons when the Broncos host Jacoby Jones and the Super Bowl champion Ravens in week one.

Time to face some facts, by the time we get to the latter stages of the 2013 season, Bailey will be a liability and need safety help. He will be 35 and the season will take it’s toll. The problem is this safety group is anemic against the pass. How does Rahim Moore and Mike Adams only snatch one interception between them on a 13-3 team that always played with a lead?? Behind one of the league’s best pass rushes that had 52 sacks? That’s pathetic. Now the rush may not be as strong without Dumervil and if they have to blitz to make up for it….uh oh.

The Broncos brought in Dominique Rogers -Cromartie to help solidify the corner and drafted  Kayvon Webster in the 3rd round. Many draft pundits considered Webster a reach which underscores how desperate they are to get their secondary together. Rogers-Cromartie’s play has been mixed in the last two seasons. This is a good tackling secondary but bad in coverage. This is a below average secondary.

Overall: Last year the Broncos feasted on patsies while running away with the division. At one point last year, they’re division brethren were mired in a 17 game losing streak late in the year. Fellow AFC West teams have geared themselves toward facing the Broncos offense with Peyton Manning. Expect other teams to be better prepared this year. In all actuality the Broncos let one get away and now will have to face a newcomer in Kansas City and Andy Reid within the division.

This year they finish the regular season with 3 of 5 on the road facing the Chiefs and Texans. That December 1st game with Kansas City will have AFC West title ramifications. Denver also lost to Houston at home last year and many feel the Texans are geared to make it to their first Super Bowl. That will also be a big game. Don’t forget they start by hosting the defending champion Ravens then travel to New York to face the former champion Giants. This is no easy schedule.


What about Peyton Manning going back to play the resurrected Colts with Andrew Luck in week 7 on Sunday night?? Remember they were a playoff team last year and the Broncos were 1-3 against playoff teams in 2012. The murderous stretch run in December is the reason they will finish 10-6 this year. A possible wildcard could be looming…at least that is where The Chancellor of Football’s crystal ball tells us for 2013.

Next up: Kansas City Chiefs

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

NFL Week 13: AFC West – Both Ends Of The Spectrum

Peyton Manning has had command of the Bronco huddle from the outset.

Peyton Manning has had command of the Bronco huddle from the outset.

At this time last year, the Denver Broncos won the AFC West on the last week of the season, although they staggered to an 8-8 finish. This year with Peyton Manning orchestrating the offense, they have actually scored 349 points in 12 games where last year they scored 309 in 16. Their 9-3 record is good enough to wrap up the AFC West with a month left in the season. Although pundits like Peter King hailed the Broncos from the outset, we here at Taylor Blitz like to see progressive growth during the season. Make no mistake the Broncos are an improved team…but are we witnessing a transcendent team or are they the beneficiary of a weak division??

Before we start…take a look at the standings:

West Division













Denver Broncos y-Broncos 9 3 0 .750 349 244 5-1 4-2 4-0 6-2 W7 5-0
San Diego Chargers Chargers 4 8 0 .333 258 257 2-4 2-4 3-2 4-5 L4 1-4
Oakland Raiders Raiders 3 9 0 .250 235 376 2-4 1-5 1-2 3-6 L5 0-5
Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs 2 10 0 .167 188 322 1-6 1-4 0-4 0-8 W1 1-4

Did you notice the Chargers are in the midst of a 4 game losing streak, the Raiders in a 5 game losing streak, and even though the Chiefs won Sunday, it broke an 8 game losing streak for them?? So what does the crown in the AFC West really mean?? Against a group that had lost 17 straight games…

We need a litmus test that can tell us who the Broncos are and how strong they are. Now that they’re division champs, we have to assess if the Broncos are able to make a Super Bowl run. In actuality there is much in the way of substance but even more in the way of a mirage. Do you realize that aside from Sunday’s game with Tampa, the last time they played a team with a winning record was October 15th?? Even that game was against the backsliding Chargers who have lost 7 of their last 8 games. In their 7 game winning streak, only 2 have come against winning teams. In fact, the Broncos are only 4-3 against teams with winning records. One of the wins came against the Steelers who didn’t have Troy Palamalu, James Harrison, and Ryan Clark. You have to put an asterisk next to that one when assessing strength.

The Broncos are clearly a better team with Manning at the helm.  Denver’s offense is #5 in total offense and #3 in total defense but are they battle-hardened?? That is The Chancellor’s point. You have a team that is feasting on a lot of patsies and padding their record like an old Big 8 Nebraska college football team. They have losses to the Patriots and the Texans who have tie breaker advantages over them and Denver would have to travel to either in the playoffs. They are -3 in the turnover margin and the defense has only forced 10 turnovers on the road. Six of those came against the hapless Chargers.

Peyton Manning should be runaway NFL Comeback Player of the Year and in the thick of NFL’s MVP talks as well. He’s completed 304 of 447 (68%) for 3,502 yards, 29TDs with only 9 interceptions. He’s done this with a moderately talented receiving staff and has been the steadying hand for this year. Especially with the loss of Willis McGahee until the playoffs, teams are still gearing toward Manning. Wideout DeMaryius (what kind of name is that) Thomas is having a career year. His 69 receptions, 1,114 yards, and 8 touchdowns pace Bronco receivers. Thomas has more than doubled his 2011 output and still has 4 games to go.

Von Miller has been everywhere this year.

Von Miller has been everywhere this year.

There are some points of substance at individual positions. Von Miller has catapulted himself into the Taylor Blitz Time’s NFL Defensive Player of The Year award conversation. With 53 total tackles, 15 1/2 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and an interception for a touchdown, this is a force. Those are Lawrence Taylor type stats and his highlights over the last month, no one has been able to match his play.

The secondary hasn’t forced a lot of turnovers and only have 5 interceptions for the year amongst the starters. How will this team fare in the playoffs in a game where they can’t generate a pass rush?? Most of these questions are going to go unanswered until we get into the thick of the NFL playoffs. What Coach John Fox hopes is the team can ride the wonderful wave of confidence once the playoffs start.

One game that now looms important is that week 15 match-up in Baltimore. Now that the Ravens lost to the Steelers, Denver is within striking distance of taking the #3 seed away with a win. If they lose in Baltimore, the Broncos worst fears could surface right before the postseason begins.  They’d have to be on the road for both the divisional playoff and conference championship games if they lose in Baltimore. That could send them to New England and Houston barring any upsets. Don’t forget they lost to both teams already and the nightmare loss to New England in last year’s playoffs could flash in the minds of Bronco players along with this year’s regular season loss. That could sap the confidence of the team if they fall behind early.

In other words…  no game will shape the 2012 AFC playoffs like the week 15 Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens matchup. The winner should at least make the AFC C hampionship…the loser?? Maybe the divisional round. Don’t look now but the Ravens are averaging 34 points per game at home. Buckle your chinstraps boys…the playoffs are coming

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