|11-17-2005, 12:34 PM||#1|
Never say Always
Join Date: Jan 2003
Inside Slant ~ USAToday
If the Denver Broncos have a trap game this season, this is the week for it.
The Broncos are 13-point favorites at home against the 2-7 New York Jets. Denver has won seven of its last eight games, and the only loss came in the final seconds at the New York Giants.
Denver has the additional distraction of a Thanksgiving game at Dallas four days after it plays the Jets, so Broncos coach Mike Shanahan will have to work this week to keep his team focused on New York.
He got some motivational tools last weekend when two huge underdogs won on the road. Minnesota won at the Giants and Green Bay won at Atlanta, and the Broncos took note of those upsets.
"They've been hampered by injuries on offense, which is one of the reasons they haven't been as successful as a team as they've been in the past, but I know we're not going to fall in that trap because I think a couple teams did that last weekend," Shanahan said.
Shanahan has seen enough fast starts lead to disappointing finishes to know the Broncos can't afford to rest yet. He has been very careful to not make too much of his team's strong start this season.
Shanahan said he remembers 1997 and 1998 when Denver lost in Weeks 14 and 15 and was criticized going into the playoffs. The Broncos won the Super Bowl each year.
"We understand we're one game away from being ridiculed," Shanahan said. "People that haven't been around here forget that in our first Super Bowl, we got beat bad two games in a row and people said we shouldn't even be in the playoffs."
The Broncos have plenty of veteran players who should keep the team from thinking ahead or taking the Jets lightly this week. New York has plenty of problems on offense, considering the injuries the Jets have dealt with, but the Broncos respect New York's defense.
"The Jets have always finished hard and well so we have to come out there and be ready to play," safety John Lynch said. "If you've played in this league long enough you realize that injuries, whatever, anybody can beat anybody else on any given Sunday."
SERIES HISTORY: 30th meeting. The series between the Denver Broncos and New York Jets is tied 14-14-1. However, the Broncos have the lone postseason win and it was a big one - Denver beat the Jets in the 1998 AFC Championship game. That turned out to be John Elway's last home game.
óBroncos safety John Lynch and tight end Jeb Putzier were almost members of the Jets. Lynch decided to sign with Denver before last season, turning down an offer from his good friend, Jets coach Herman Edwards.
"I've loved my time here and so I don't spend a lot of time thinking back on what might have been," Lynch said.
When Putzier was a restricted free agent after last season he signed an offer sheet with the Jets, but Denver matched it. Putzier said he hasn't spent any time worrying about the Jets and what might have been.
"Not really," Putzier said. "I see them on TV and that's about it."
óBroncos linebacker D.J. Williams and Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma are close friends from their days at the University of Miami. But their sophomore seasons are turning out much differently.
Vilma has more than 100 tackles already this season and Williams is playing a lot less than he did as a rookie. Williams is not a part of Denver's nickel package and has gone from Denver's leading tackler last year to seventh this season.
Vilma said Williams is happy the Broncos are winning but he would like to play more.
"If you're a ball player and you're not playing, of course you're going to be frustrated," Vilma said. "That's the only thing. He's not a selfish guy or anything like that, he's happy the team's winning, but of course he wants to play. Everyone wants to play."
BY THE NUMBERS: 29-14 - Since Mike Shanahan took over as Denver's head coach in 1995, the Broncos are 29-14 in regular-season games against NFC teams including a 18-4 home record.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You know us. We are looking at the Jets and that is it. We don't have any reason to look forward after that." - QB Jake Plummer on having to play two games in five days.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Tight end Wesley Duke isn't close to making a major contribution, but the Broncos like his long-term potential. That's the main reason the team signed Duke from the practice squad to the active roster this week.
Duke played basketball in college at Mercer and hadn't played football since his senior year of high school. But Duke has good size and is a great athlete. He also is a hard worker and the Broncos see good things in his future.
Denver cut safety Marques Anderson to promote Duke. Once Sam Brandon got healthy, and with Curome Cox playing well, there wasn't any room for Anderson.
óCB Curome Cox can play safety and showed enough promise at that position that the team figured Marques Anderson was expendable. Cox has good cover skills and decent size.
óCB Champ Bailey stayed in his left cornerback spot against the Raiders. The Broncos simply chose not to match him up and move him around the field against any of Oakland's receivers, not as a concession to his hurting left hamstring.
óK Jason Elam became the fastest player to reach 1,500 career points when he hit a second-quarter field goal against the Raiders. He reached 1,500 points in 179 games. The old record was held by Nick Lowery, who reached 1,500 points in 220 games.
óS Hamza Abdullah was kept on the Broncos instead of Marques Anderson when the team needed a roster spot to sign Wesley Duke off the practice squad. Abdullah was added off of Tampa Bay's practice squad and he is tall and athletic.
GAME PLAN: If the Broncos lose this game, they will be vilified in Colorado. The Jets are 2-7 and don't match up well against the Broncos. New York has had problems stopping the run and Denver is one of the best running teams in the NFL. The Jets can't pass the ball well, and the Broncos' weakness on defense might be that it will give up passing yards.
Even worse for the Jets would be if Denver can get an early lead. Then the Broncos could run the ball and let the defense put pressure on Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Broncos RTs George Foster and Cornell Green vs. Jets LDE John Abraham. Foster and Green are rotating. Foster hasn't played that well since suffering a knee injury earlier this season. Both players will have their hands full with Abraham, who is a top pass rusher. He leads the Jets with 5.5 sacks.
Broncos WR Rod Smith vs. Jets CB Ty Law. A battle between a couple of 30-year-old players who are still playing well. Smith and Law aren't the fastest players anymore but know all the tricks. It will be interesting to watch the two veterans go against each other.
Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer vs. Jets QB Brooks Bollinger. The Broncos sent as many as nine players at Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb. Coyer has to decide if he wants to force the issue with the inexperienced Bollinger or just sit back and see if Bollinger will make mistakes on his own.
INJURY IMPACT: CB Champ Bailey was listed as probable with a hamstring injury and is back to full speed.
WR Ashley Lelie has a sore knee but he practiced Wednesday and shouldn't be limited this week.
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