Broncos need new level to reach playoffs
Clinton Portis’ ankle bone’s connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone’s connected to the Broncos’ playoff hopes.Unfortunately, coach Mike Shanahan’s brain bone was connected to the stupid bone when he decided to risk fumbles and injuries instead of having kicker Jason Elam put the Cleveland game away on the second-to-last third down of the overtime game in Week 15.He could have had a 96 percent chance of victory if he had let Elam kick anywhere inside the 30-yard-line.Instead, he and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak have an injured all-star running back.So the Donkeys head into a huge game against Indianapolis, on the road, perhaps on the verge of losing their chance at a playoff run.And things aren’t looking good. The Colt’s will be attacking Denver with Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning the first QB in history to throw 25 touchdowns or more in six consecutive seasons.And the Broncos’ defense has one weakness: the big, downfield pass play. They’re going to need some interceptions to counteract Manning’s inevitable 3-touchdown-minimum night. Too bad Denver is the worst team in the league when it comes to INTs.Even if Portis doesn’t play, they’ll need some yards on the ground from Mike Anderson (behind injured backup fullback Reuben Droughns).But even more than that, they’ll need Jake Plummer to step up and become the quarterback he always had the “potential” to be. He showed huge mettle against Cleveland, but now Denver (especially Plummer) needs to get to a new level to become a real playoff contender. Otherwise they’ll be out in the first round anyway. Denver: 26-24.Atlanta at Tampa Bay: Tampa is in the playoff hunt, and Atlanta is one-dimensional (meaning they’re all Michael Vick). If they execute their game plan, they’ll come away with a victory: Tampa Bay 17-14.Kansas City at Minnesota: Minnesota is strong at home and Kansas City has a weak defense. Problem is, Minnesota’s D is even weaker: Kansas City 32-28.New England at N.Y. Jets: The road to the playoffs is paved with Jets. New England’s on a roll: Patriots 27-10.Baltimore at Cleveland: A loss against the Raiders made Baltimore look weak. But a few completed passes made all the difference, and Cleveland can’t stop a pounding running back like Jamal Lewis especially when he’s knockin’ on the playoff door. Baltimore 20-17.Cincinnati at St. Louis: St. Louis proved they can play smashmouth football but only if they have to. Cincinnati can make Denver playoff bound if they lose and Denver wins: St. Louis 32-30.Detroit at Carolina: Carolina barely came away with a win against Arizona and they’ll struggle again against Detroit. But even a stumbling Carolina team can’t lost to the silver and blue: Panthers 10-6.Miami at Buffalo: The weather will be freezing on Sunday when these two teams meet literally. And the boys from Florida will suffer yet another loss: Buffalo 13-7.New Orleans at Jacksonville: The New Orleans team that won this past Sunday night should be in the playoffs. The question is: will that team be the one to show up? New Orleans 16-14.N.Y. Giants at Dallas: Jim Fassel is hitting the road, but not before Dallas deals him one more loss: Dallas 24-10.Tennessee at Houston: Tennessee needs to get back on track, but a victory over Houston won’t be enough to make this team feel ready for the playoffs: Tennessee 21-16.Washington at Chicago: Washington is playing like a team that doesn’t care anymore; Chicago is playing like the team everyone thought they were going to be at the beginning of the season: Chicago 20-14.San Diego at Pittsburgh: Beware the power of the AFC West. Drew Brees and LaDanian Tomlinson are the most underrated duo in the NFL: San Diego 26-14.Arizona at Seattle: Seattle is undefeated at home, and Arizona is terrible on the road. No brainer: Seattle 27-10.San Francisco at Philadelphia: OK, it’s clear that the NFC’s best hope for a Super Bowl victory is with Philly. San Fran could give them trouble, but the boys in green will prevail in the end because they like to win, winning is fun, and they love football a lot more than San Francisco does right now: Philadelphia 28-25.Green Bay at Oakland: Could this be Jerry Rice’s last Monday night? Let’s hope not, but he should play well either way. So will Brett Favre and Ahman Green: Green Bay 29-24.