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31 January, 2014

Super Bowl preview podcast

went on with Rich Grisham and Seahawks fan Bryan Wiedey to talk SB XLVIII and our respective heritages with our teams.

28 January, 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII


   It's good to be back. It's been fifteen years since the Broncos last played in a Super Bowl. Fifteen years is a long time. I know there are plenty of teams who have never been or haven't been in a much longer period of time, but those teams aren't my team. The last time the Broncos were in a Super Bowl I didn't have any kids. I have three now. Fifteen years ago I lived in a condo and watched the game on a Sony "flat screen" that looked like an ATM machine and weighed almost as much as Terrance Knighton. Sly Stallone has made 19 films since the last Broncos title!
   When the Broncos won their first Super Bowl I created the 5 Year Rule, which stated after your team won a title you weren't allowed to bitch about them for five years. Given the joy winning that title gave me, it seemed reasonable. When Denver won back-to-back titles I added the addendum that when that happens, it's seven years. Well, it's now been 7 years since my No Bitching Window expired. I'm ready for another ring.


   I've navigated the superstitious waters of the playoffs pretty well so far. I've worn an article of Broncos clothing every day since the playoffs started. I haven't shaved my goatee either. I'm no Daniel Bryan but there are small cookies in my beard.
   After working early the day of the divisional game against the Chargers I broke out my new Broncos hoodie, nestled on the couch in my basement under my Broncos throw blanket and found the appropriate poses in which to watch the game. I decided to eat dinner during the second half. When the Chargers rallied I stopped eating halfway through my meal to put an end to the comeback.
   I had to work during the AFC title game. I opted to wear the clothes I wore to work the previous Sunday. Khaki pants, black long sleeve shirt, black socks, gray boxer briefs. Not a stitch of Broncos colors on me (except the jacket I wore to and from work). During the game I worked my office magnificently, finding the right spots to be when the Broncos had the ball and changing to a different locale when they were on defense. Every commercial break I left the office to fill up my cup with water and then took sips when Denver was on D.
   About six weeks ago I requested Super Bowl Sunday off, just in case (Karma Gods be damned, it was worth the risk).
   So I'll be back in the basement on Sunday, under the blanket wearing my hoodie.
   Oh, and when the Chinese New Year rings in on Friday it'll be the Year of the Horse. So we've got that going for us... which is nice.


   Let's get these out of the way. Yes, the two teams from the states where marijuana is legal are playing in the "Super Bowl." And yes, on Friday the two head coaches are having a "joint" news conference.
Moving on...


   I have always said the best part of your team being the in Super Bowl is the two week wait for the game. Everyone is talking about your team. You get extra time to enjoy the fact that they even got there. You walk around for an extra week with people congratulating you on your team being there. It's all good.
   For some reason this time around the wait seems much longer. It may be because you can't get away from the game at all. Every radio and TV commercial break there is a mention of the "Big Game."
All the sports channels are devoting 50% or more of their programming to it. And thanks to Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman and the weather, mainstream shows are talking a lot about it too.
   The good part is the extra time has allowed me to digest all the columns on-line, check out all the videos and really appreciate the great season the Broncos have had.


   If Peyton Manning had gone to the 49ers or Titans, I don't know where I would stand on the "Peyton needs to win another Super Bowl for his legacy" discussion. I probably would say it doesn't matter, he's been great, he's done amazing things, will own all the records and he has won a Super Bowl already.  Working at ESPN, you can imagine how often the conversation comes up in the news room. But Peyton is a Denver Bronco. He chose us. So it's been a weird dynamic defending a guy who has only been on my team for two years. But if Peyton and the Broncos pull this one out, I will be glad for him and I will be glad a large number of people will have to shut up. And consider this, a Super Bowl win and maybe two more seasons of huge numbers from Peyton and he will earn himself a place in the Broncos Ring of Fame. How weird does that seem?


  I'm thrilled for Champ Bailey. He has represented the Broncos for ten years with class and performed at an elite level. He took Darrent Williams under his wing when Darrent came into the league, and he took the team under his wing when Darrent was slain. There are a great number of "good guys" in a league that often gets attention for all the bad guys, but for Broncos fans it doesn't get better than Champ.
   Bailey hasn't had a pick since their 8th game of last season in Cincinnati. It would be awesome if he could get one in this game.
   Let's hope after Sunday when people see him and say "Hey Champ!" it'll have a whole new meaning.


   I truly have no clue what to expect from this game. Every time I hear an argument on why Seattle will win it seems to make sense. Then when I hear arguments for the Broncos I think, "yeah, that's true."
   I know this, Denver hasn't played a defense like Seattle's this year and Seattle hasn't played an offense like Denver's.
   The weather looks pretty good right now, but I would much rather the game was being played somewhere warm or indoors. Cold conditions benefit the Seahawks and their slugging defense. I do think the tandem of Moreno and Ball could have success running the ball, but clearly Denver's first choice is to put the ball in Peyton's hands.
   The weather is also going to bring special teams back into play, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Denver's kick coverage was the worst in the league, but with their first two playoff games in Denver they haven't had to tackle anyone since week 17. On the plus side, Trindon Holliday will get a chance to make a difference for Denver.
   On offense I expect Denver will do what they've done all year, using bunch routes and man beaters to create space. I would expect a lot of the formations we've seen lately, with Decker, Welker and D.T. all on the same side. I do think the preseason game means something in so much as Peyton will have a sense of the speed of the Seahawks and how they will disrupt the timing.
   Denver has had great success in the playoffs with extended drives, something that will be a great challenge against Seattle. While their points per game are down in the playoffs, their time of possession is up 5 minutes. Their average yards per drive is up almost 20 yards. Their two longest drives of the season were in the playoffs. But it'll be really hard to put together 10-12 play drives against the Seahawks.
   Seattle has totally eliminated good tight ends this year, so I would expect they'll do the same to Julius Thomas. If I had to bet right now on the guys to lead the team in receptions on Sunday, I would say Decker, Welker and Moreno.
   On defense the Broncos need to stay away from the big play. I'm sure the focus will be on Lynch and Seattle pounding the ball and chewing up the clock, but Seattle beat San Francisco on the strength of two huge pass plays. The Broncos linebackers are fast and can run sideline to sideline, which should help limit long scrambles by Wilson, but when he is on the move Wilson is still looking to throw. It's those extended plays where the secondary has to cover for a long time that lead to the back-breaking completions.
   The Broncos two Super Bowl victories removed the pain from their four prior losses, but those losses molded my expectations for a Broncos Super Bowl.
   Super Bowl 12- Denver loses 27-10 as I watch in my kitchen as an 11-year old boy thrilled that his team is in their first Super Bowl and crushed when the Dallas D crushed Craig Morton all day long.
   Super Bowl 21- Denver loses 39-20 as I watch at my college roommate's family condo in Orlando. A close first half turns into a blowout.
   Super Bowl 22- Denver loses 42-10 as I watch with my friend Dominique and her two friends while visiting her at college in Boston. What started out as joke turns into a disaster as Denver took the early lead and then allowed 35 points in the second quarter. The girls couldn't understand why it bothered me so much that Denver was losing. I couldn't understand why they couldn't understand.

   Super Bowl 24- Denver loses 55-10 as I watch from my condo in Orlando. As Joe Montana was completing pass after pass and scoring TD after TD I screamed at my television, "STOP THROWING THE BALL. YOU ARE WINNING BY 30 F#*@ING POINTS!!!"
   Those experiences, each one worse than the prior, created deep, deep, Grand Canyon deep wounds. That's why the victory in Super Bowl 32 meant so much. That's why I jumped out of my chair 15 feet in the air when Elway helicoptered. That's why I cried Knowshon tears when Mobley knocked down the 4th down pass from Favre. All the pain from the first four Super Bowls washed away... but not forgotten. That's the underlying fear for a Broncos fan old enough to remember. The pain of those losses still lingers somewhere down inside and you fear it could come back.
   The journey of this season has been exciting and painful. What a joy it's been to watch them light up the scoreboard to the tune of an NFL record 606 points. Watching this machine of an offense move the ball up and down the field has been a treat. This season felt a lot like the '97 season, with an aging quarterback leading an unstoppable offense but knowing that the window was closing. There is a sense of urgency to get it done now.
   The pain of losing so many key players, guys who you thought Denver could never do without, took away some of the joy for me and added to the worry. But here they are now, in the Super Bowl. Seattle is healthier, but Denver has more than enough to win the game.
   How I'll feel if they should lose will probably depend on how it happens. I do think a #1 defense is more likely to beat a #1 offense. I do think the elements favor Seattle. So I'm kind of braced for a loss (it's that lingering feeling, ya; know?).  I'm also 15 years older and I understand that there is value in getting here, in having a great season that gave you four months of joy. The 2006 Mets season ended in a brutal game 7 loss in the NLCS, but it's one of my favorite seasons they ever had. The journey of that season was everything a fan could want. So I appreciate the 2013 Broncos and the week-after-week excitement they gave their fans.
   Is there something about "Peyton is on a mission" and "This is a team of destiny"? Maybe, but maybe their destiny is to lose in the Super Bowl. Who knows? All I know is if you told me five years ago that the Broncos were going to be in Super Bowl 48 and Peyton Manning was going to be their quarterback, I'd have been pretty damn excited.
   What I am truly most excited about is watching the game with my 11-year old son, who has been all-in on the Broncos for 3 years now. If Denver should win it'll be a lifetime memory for the two of us, sharing that moment like we shared the Mets first no-hitter two years ago. And yes, I have passed on my superstitious ways to him. He knows his spot to be in the basement. He has his jersey to wear. He knows to only go to the bathroom during commercials. It's a curse I have passed down. #FatherOfTheYear
   I recently heard a Broncos fan say "If you don't expect your team to win, what kind of fan are you?" As Mike Francesa would say, "that's uh a fair point." So I'm going into Sunday confident Denver will play well, confident that my basement will have the proper mojo and confident that in the middle of the 4th quarter it's going to be a one-possession game.

   Denver 24 Seattle 20

24 January, 2014

2014 Royal Rumble Pool Entrants

Here you go, the luck 30 for this years pool. You get the wrestler who enters at the number next to your name. Good luck!


13 January, 2014

Royal Rumble 2014 Contest

Here we go again. It's back for the 3rd year in a row, the Royal Rumble Pool!

Here's how it works. Leave your name and twitter handle in the comments section of this post. SENDING ME A TWEET DOES NOT ENTER YOU.
(Your name will not appear in the comments box until I approve the comment, so don't panic. It may take a while.)


  I will randomly select 30 people on 1/25 from the comments section.
  I will use a random number generator to match up entrance spots with the 30 contestants to determine who gets each entrance number.
  If your number matches the entrance number of the superstar who wins the Rumble, you win.
Two years ago I used the hypothetical example "if Sheamus comes in at #22, wins and you have that number, you win." And I was exactly right. Last year I used Cena at #18 for my example and he came in at 19 and won. So I'll try and stay hot and say it'll be Batista this year at #14. 

   I will post the names of the entrants and the number they've been assigned here on the blog on 1/25.
   Prizes will include a Jim Ross barbecue sauce prize pack and a signed item from him as well as a choice of WWE DVD.  

  Please only submit your name once. Good luck to all.

AFC Title Game Podcast

went on the B.S. report with my pal Bill Simmons to talk about the Broncos/Pats game this Sunday and it's historic place in our relationship.

01 January, 2014

Peyton and the playoffs

   In 1985, at the age of 18, I had the pleasure of Dwight Gooden delivering me the greatest sports fan viewing experience of my young life. It was a powerful and explosive 6-month journey that mesmerized me and the entire baseball world. A 24-4 record, 268 Ks and an absurd 1.53 ERA. While in a pennant race he pitched 31 consecutive scoreless innings. 16 of his 35 starts were complete games, 8 were shutouts and he struck out at least 10 batters in 11 of them. His curveball bit hard and sharp like a crocodile and his fastball exploded and rose like a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier. It was breathtaking, it was jaw-dropping and it was the most incredible season I had ever cheered for.
   The list of other great FVEs (fan viewing experience) of my life is pretty short. Terrell Davis 2,000 yard rushing season makes the list. Jose Reyes 2006 season (a slight notch below) when he electrified the Mets into the playoffs. And Peyton Manning in 2013.
   Davis and Reyes were similar to Gooden in that watching them was captivating. When they were running you couldn't take your eyes off them. Half the fun of the FVE with those two was the anticipation. The moment waiting for T.D. to be handed the ball, take his few steps left or right and then BOOM! explode past Nalen or Schlereth or whoever created the slightest crease for him to blast through. The threat of a TD for T.D. every time he touched the ball was legit.
   With Reyes, you waited for him to hit a pitch in the gap or down the line and BOOM! around the bases he went. 30 doubles, 17 triples 19 homers, 122 runs, 64 stolen bases. Every time he walked to the box you expected him to eventually score. When he made contact, once my eye recognized the ball would fall, it would dart to Jose to watch him sprint around the bases with that awkward but blazing stride.
   What Peyton Manning did this year was a completely different kind of FVE. He doesn't throw or run like Elway, or even Cutler or Plummer for that matter. His passes rarely light up the radar gun. There are no tales of broken fingers or "Elway Crosses" embedded into receivers chests during practice. His one rushing TD this season was such a surprise there wasn't a Cowboy defender within 15 yards of him as he loped into the endzone. Watching Peyton Manning this season was like watching surgery. With preparation, patience and precision Manning picked defenses apart. It felt like before each game he scooped up the defense like a frog in science class and pithed them before beginning the dissection. The  only explosive thing about Peyton is the way he blows up the record books.
   I saw the NFL Network's plays of the year recently. You know what there wasn't a lot of? Great plays by the Broncos offense. They didn't have the "down by 10 or more in the 4th quarter" signature win. They didn't have the "running back breaks 7 tackles and go 60 yards for a score" play. The signature plays from the Broncos season were Prater's NFL record 64-yard field goal, Trevathan's pick of Romo, Adam's pick against the Texans and a slew of record breaking offensive moments. That's what happens when all but 2 of your victories are by more than 7 points.
   What was really different about Manning's FVE from the others was it wasn't breathtaking it was breath-holding. I spent the entire season holding my breath in hopes Manning wouldn't get hurt because the Broncos championship hopes start and end with #18. When the first half of the week 17 game against the Raiders ended, and Big Brock took over, I finally exhaled. The Broncos were going to the playoffs this year. Everyone knew it. The only way it wasn't happening was if Manning went down. When Ryan Clady was lost for the season in week 2, I took a deeper breath and my face grew a deeper shade of purple. A blind side hit to our aged QB, he of the "more metal in his neck than the Tin Man" status, and you could Osweiler away the hours watching the Super Bowl dreams crumble. There were some scary moments against Indy and San Diego but Manning is smart and when he feels pressure he drops to the ground faster than a zombie hit by one of Daryl's arrows. The Broncos lost Clady, they lost Miller (the 2 most important players on the team after Peyton) they lost their coach for a month, they lost Moore and Bailey and Welker and Vickerson and others, but they never lost hope because #18 made it through the season. So now it's time for the actual season to start. The one Bronco fans have been waiting for since Justin Tucker split the uprights and our hearts.
   That's the tricky part of watching a season like Manning had. History will only shine on it brightly if there is a Super Bowl ring dangling from the gold chain of records he crafted this year. 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards? Those end up just being cubic zirconia if the Lombardi isn't raised in Denver. So while it was fun to watch him orchestrate the highest scoring offense in history, to put up Madden video game numbers and to make it look like flag football, it was all just something to do until we got to January. And now we're here.
   The AFC playoff field features 3 teams that beat the Broncos this year. The Colts and Chargers had the most success. After the Indy fans showered Peyton with love, the Colts showered him with hits. He was sacked 4 times, threw a pick and fumbled. The 33-14 halftime deficit was too much to overcome. The Chargers split with Denver but held them under 30 points both games and beat them in time of possession 38:00-22:00 each time. The common denominator with Indy and SD is the Pagano brothers. They seem to have a good idea how to handle the Broncos and likely share thoughts with each other on how to do it. Throw in Mike McCoy's knowledge of Peyton from last year and the Chargers are a scary team to me. As for Indy, they beat Denver, Seattle, S.F. and K.C., and with not much of a running game, Luck will put it up 50 times against a shaky Denver pass defense.
   Beating a team three times in a season is never easy, but K.C. is the team I would like Denver to play first. They finished the season 2-5 with their wins coming against Oakland and Washington and their 5 losses coming against playoff teams Denver, SD and Indy. Also, Denver protected Manning perfectly in each game against KC. Yes, Jamal Charles terrifies me, but I think Peyton would have the most success against that defense.
   If they move on to the AFC title game, it'll be the Pats. Andy Dalton isn't winning in New England.
What would a rematch with New England bring? Probably something along the lines of a 41-38 game. Both defenses are banged up. Both QBs are too good. Much like the first game, it'll come down to the very end. With the game in Denver, I'll take my chances.
   At the start of the year I noted that all things being equal, Denver's o-line health and ability to hang onto the football would be paramount to their success. After losing two centers and Clady, the line has been pretty healthy for the last 6 to 8 weeks. The Broncos turned the ball over 25 times in their first 12 games but only once in their last 4. So those are good signs. Getting back Welker and Rahim Moore will help too.
    I've said to a few of my friends that this season is the first I can remember where injuries really took a lot of the fun out of it for me. The thought of what this Broncos team could have been with Clady and Bailey and Moore and Miller and so on... it's a shame we didn't get to see it. The '98 Broncos starters combined to miss 11 games, 5 by Mark Schlereth. This years team has missed well into 60 games for the starters. And it's not just Denver. So many teams lost so many key players, 2013 has been a game of survivor.
   After last years loss to Baltimore all Broncos fans compared the loss to the '97 loss to Jacksonville. That loss actually served as a ray of hope this year. The '98 team had a pushing 40, has something to prove QB running a high-powered offense, home field advantage and a stomach-punch playoff loss for motivation. Sound familiar? That Broncos team won the next two Super Bowls. It makes for a nice story. But look at the Cowboys. How many week 17 losses can they have? Flipping the script makes for a nice script, but not always a realistic one.
   At this moment, my The Broncos Are Going To The Super Bowl Confidence Meter is at a 7.5 on a 1-10 scale. We'll worry about if they can win it if they actually get there. It's time for Manning to set post season records and ring in the new year with the only ring that matters. It would be a great ending to one of the great FVEs of my life. I'll be watching... and holding my breath.