"Splinters from the Pine" - by Shawn Drotar

AFC Championship Preview: Broncos-Patriots

Posted 1/17/2014 1:00:00 PM

   This is it -- the Broncos' first shot at a Super Bowl since the 2005 season, and against the hated Patriots to boot. Throw out all those trivia bits and factoids that you've read regarding who's beaten whom how many times, what someone's record in on the road when it's foggy in exactly 42-degree weather when they're wearing a certain type of deodorant -- those don't matter. The players will decide this game, so here's what you should be watching:

  

Denver pass offense vs. New England pass defense:

   The Patriots allowed 239 passing yards per game, good for 18th in the league. Peyton Manning, of course, set the all-time passing yards record with 5,477 and the all-time passing touchdown record with 55 -- averages of 342.3 yards and 3.44 touchdowns per game. Against the Patriots in November, Manning only threw for 150 yards and a pair of ...



Week 12 Preview: Broncos at Patriots

Posted 11/22/2013 2:44:00 AM

   The Broncos' biggest game of the season is set for Sunday night -- one week after the previously most important game of the season. It's that time of the year, and the Broncos need to keep their momentum going in the AFC playoff race. They'll do so this week against the hated Patriots and curmudgeonly coach Bill Belichick in Foxboro, Mass. in front of a national television audience (again) and on what's expected to be a wet, frigid Sunday night. Beating the Patriots would have both a tangible effect on the standings and an intangible effect on the Broncos' confidence.

  

Denver pass offense vs. New England pass defense:

   The Patriots' pass defense is rather stingy, surrendering only 229 yards per game and a 78.0 passer rating on average. But Peyton Manning isn't an average quarterback, averaging a league-leading 357 yards per game and possessing the league's best ...



Week 11 Preview: Broncos-Chiefs

Posted 11/15/2013 2:08:00 AM

   The Broncos are 8-1 and re-writing the record books with a high-flying offense that looks almost unstoppable. Yet they're still in second place in their own division; the resurgent Chiefs, under new head coach Andy Reid, have taken every advantage of their schedule and some fortuitous injuries to opponents to become the league's only remaining undefeated team. The Broncos, battling injuries at key positions, need a win on Sunday night or they will fall behind by two games with only six left to play. Here's how the two powerhouse clubs stack up:

  

Denver pass offense vs. Kansas City pass defense:

   Peyton Manning's unprecedented season continues: he's thrown for 3,249 yards (a higher total than six of John Elway's entire seasons!) 33 touchdowns (good for second place on Denver's all-time single-season list behind only Manning's 2012 campaign) and is completing an incredible 71 percent of his passes. Put ...



Hits on Manning have Broncos flirting with disaster

Posted 11/12/2013 3:26:00 PM

   As training camp started, I hosted a show on The Fan in which we asked callers who the most irreplaceable players on the Broncos' roster were.

   Peyton Manning was the obvious No. 1, and Von Miller was an equally obvious No. 2. Sure, the Broncos went 6-0 during Miller's suspension, but since his return, it's clear that he raises the Broncos' defense from "poor" to "good" singlehandedly.

   There was no consensus No. 3. Champ Bailey, Wesley Woodyard, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and many others were mentioned -- all fine choices. But I submitted another name, and in this case, I hate it when I'm right.

   Ryan Clady's season-ending injury has crippled the Broncos' offensive line, and I'll be holding my breath throughout ever game, hoping that Manning can get through another 60 minutes. Manning's been sacked 13 times already, and the trend isn't good -- he ...



Avalanche's hot start obscured by Varlamov's arrest

Posted 11/1/2013 12:15:00 PM

   With a sparkling 10-1-0 record, the Avalanche hold the top spot in the revamped Central Division, only one point ahead of the Stanley Cup favorite Chicago Blackhawks. They play division rival Dallas in Texas Friday night and head back to Colorado for a game against Montreal after Adam Foote's jersey retirement ceremony.

  They should be, along with the Broncos, the talk of the town -- and they are, but for the wrong reasons.

   Goaltender Semyon Varlamov turned himself into police on Wednesday night after a dispute with his girlfriend on Tuesday night eventually led to second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges for the 25-year old in his third season with the Avalanche. The shocking turn of events understandably blindsided coach Patrick Roy and his players.

   While the team is content to let the legal system play things out, they're also content to keep Varlamov on the ...



Avalanche turn the corner as Roy, Allaire get defensive

Posted 10/23/2013 2:54:00 PM

   Ten percent of the way through the NHL season -- and Patrick Roy's first as an NHL coach -- there's good reason for all the excitement and enthusiasm building around the startlingly good Avalanche: they've finally turned the corner.

   Consigned to near-irrelevance since hockey's debut of a salary cap back in 2005, the Avalanche missed the playoffs in five of the last eight seasons -- including the last three -- as they found themselves consistently incapable of navigating the NHL's new waters.

   After a lockout-shortened season that saw the Avalanche finish with their lowest winning percentage ever, ownership decided to delve back into the club's championship history -- landing Roy as coach and Joe Sakic as de facto GM -- in the hopes that great hockey minds could rejuvenate the moribund franchise that they love so dearly.

   Mission accomplished. Yes, it's early. No, the Avs' sterling ...



Week 5 Preview: Broncos-Cowboys

Posted 10/4/2013 3:55:00 PM

   The Denver Broncos, winners of four straight to open the season, are rolling. Their offense is piling up numbers at a historic pace, and quarterback Peyton Manning is the toast of the league. But the 2-2 Cowboys are unbeaten at home and playing with a chip on their shoulder., knowing that the last two times they've played Manning -- then with the Colts -- they've beaten him. 

Denver pass offense vs. Dallas pass defense:

   The Cowboys rank 27th in the league in passing defense, allowing 304.5 yards per game. They're tied with the Giants for worst in the league with 10 touchdown passes allowed and have surrendered two 400-yard passing performances already. Manning must be salivating. The Broncos' offensive line will have to work hard in order to keep talented rushers DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher away from No. 18, but if they can, Manning and his deep ...



Week 4 Preview: Broncos-Eagles

Posted 9/27/2013 1:51:00 PM

   As Peyton Manning and the Broncos look to continue their streak of epic offensive performances, another team that looks to play as quickly as they do rolls into to town. The Philadelphia Eagles and new coach Chip Kelly spread defenses out and use a speedy read-option running game in order to rack up the points, and on Sunday, they'll try to do the same to the Broncos.

  

Denver pass offense vs. Philadelphia pass defense:

   Peyton Manning set a new NFL record for touchdowns thrown in the first three games of a season last week when he hit tight end Julius Thomas in the second quarter against the Raiders. Thomas, who's tied with Wes Welker for the team lead in touchdown receptions with four, isn't even close to the Broncos' main receiving threat. Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have already combined for 749 receiving yards and seven ...



Week 3 Preview: Broncos-Raiders

Posted 9/23/2013 1:25:00 PM

   On paper, this looks like a mismatch. The Broncos and Raiders will meet for the record 17th time on "Monday Night Football" this evening, and the Mile High City's squad looks to have a decisive upper hand. Games aren't won on paper, however, and the Broncos, still reeling from the season-long loss of Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady, will have to take advantage of an opportunity to prove that they can thrive without him.

  

Denver pass offense vs. Oakland pass defense:

   As long as Peyton Manning's taking the snaps, Denver's passing offense has an advantage over every defense in the league. But without Clady to guard his blind side, Manning may have to speed up his already rapid-fire offense. Chris Clark will start in Clady's place, and he'll be tested early and often by the Raiders' blitzing defense -- the Broncos may have to shuffle their ...



Week 1 Preview: Broncos-Ravens

Posted 9/4/2013 9:12:00 PM

   On Thursday, the Broncos have the privilege of hosting the first game of the NFL season, and the privilege of hosting the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, who escaped the jaws of defeat on a frigid January in Denver. That game, a crushing loss in double-overtime, has been on fans' minds all summer long, and tomorrow, the Broncos look to exorcise the demons lurking in their minds from that defeat as they embark on what they hope will be a Super Bowl campaign.

  

Denver pass offense vs. Baltimore pass defense:

   If everyone remains healthy, there won't be a team in the NFL that the Broncos' passing offense won't have a clear advantage over, and the Ravens are no exception. With Peyton Manning as the triggerman, the Broncos' rapid-fire offense can be expected to spray passes all over the field to Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and new ...