Apparently, the Broncos did not make the playoffs
January 3, 2017
Don't you hate it when the local sports writer is right?
Sept. 7, 2015, in this space … "Denver, at best, goes 9-7, which won't make the playoffs.
No, Freud wasn't huffing paint, as one of my favorite members of the peanut gallery said on Facebook on Sept. 8.
This is why winning in September is nice — 4-0 in the Broncos case — but not a serious indicator of what a team or the NFL looks like when the calendar turns.
After the rough quarter pole of the season, the Broncos were invincible, the Cowboys were a question mark — is Romo coming back? Dallas isn't going to start Dak Prescott all season, right? — the Raiders and Chiefs weren't in the discussion of the NFL's or AFC's elite and the Falcons started 2015 4-0 and tanked, so they were irrelevant. The Steelers? Le'Veon Bell didn't play a game in September because he was suspended.
OK, the Patriots were 2-1 with a bye after Week 4, but Tom Brady hadn't dropped back for a pass, so we knew they were going to be fine.
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As wonderful as the Broncos defense was, it couldn't carry the team to the playoffs because the NFL is ever evolving. As much as blue-and-orange partisans will point to the first Kansas City game as the turning point — to kick or not to kick the field goal in overtime and how did that ball doink off the left upright and go in? — the culprit was the Raiders at the Coliseum with a 2-by-4, if we were playing Clue.
In Week 9, Oakland used a muscle formation with a six offensive-lineman formation and ran all over the Broncos. While you can't take the brilliant Von Miller out of a game completely, by running the ball effectively, which not only Oakland did, but also future opponents, you can minimize his havoc.
The Broncos were 6-2 before that game and 3-5 after.
Of course, the offensive line was a disaster, a condition exacerbated by the injury to C.J. Anderson's injury, but injuries happen. They're a part of ever-changing kaleidoscope that is the NFL from week to week.
That left quarterback Trevor Siemian, already limited by a lack of experience, running for his life because the Broncos were one-dimensional with the ball. In fairness to the kid, he played pretty well for being essentially a rookie.
We will address the Broncos' offseason in Thursday's paper, but first, a look at wild-card weekend.
Raiders at Texans
Call it the Hatred Bowl for Broncos fans — the most-evil team in the universe against Brock Osweiler, and, yes, after his benching, he's starting. Truthfully, it doesn't matter who wins this game because its survivor will be cannon fodder for the Patriots.
Go with the Texans on home-field advantage and that the Raiders look absolutely anemic without Derek Carr. Also, Osweiler might finally figure out that it's a good idea to throw the damn ball to DeAndre Hopkins, said the bitter fantasy owner.
Lions at Seahawks
The Lions backed into the playoffs because the Redskins squandered their opportunities down the stretch. Erghwgh. Our Redskins fan copy editor just inserted that into my column out of frustration. The Seahawks also have not played well, surrendering the No. 2 seed to the Falcons.
Take Seattle because it's in Seattle and Seattle is a terrible place for any opponent, much less the staggering Lions to play. (Plus, since fantasy season is over, Russell Wilson will likely throw for seven touchdowns, since I'm not debating whether to play him or not, said the bitter fantasy owner.)
Dolphins at Steelers
This is intriguing as the Steelers are the only team playing this weekend that has a shot at the Patriots in the AFC. I feel better about the Steelers against New England than I do K.C.
Pittsburgh can run the ball, and its defense has improved in the second half. The Steelers will send the Dolphins packing.
Giants at Packers
This is the headliner of the weekend. The winner here has a real shot of taking down the Cowboys in the Divisional Round. Both teams are an illustration of why you don't get too excited over the early season.
The Giants defense took a little while to come together. The Packers went through their traditional "Is Aaron Rodgers done?" panic.
The G-Men squeak out a win behind their ground game and defense.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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