Posted Thu Sep 23rd by Monty
Once upon a time — 2008 — the Mike Shanahan-led Denver Broncos were 8-5, boasted Pro Bowlers Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, and were apparently playoff-bound. The future was bright. Then, in three horrific weeks, the wheels fell off. Shanahan was fired. Cutler was traded. And Marshall pretended to be a punter.
For better or worse, this series of posts is intended to keep tabs on those who, at the time, looked to be key cogs in the Broncos’ future. Our goal isn’t to stir the pot; it’s to assess these franchise-shaking moves week-to-week in 2010 as objectively as possible, draw some conclusions, then let you draw your own. This is a look at a Broncos team in an alternate reality — The Alt Broncos.
Streak: Lost 1
Stat Line: Offense: 335.5 ypg. Defense: 453 ypg
Shanahan and his star pupil, Gary Kubiak, put on a show in Week 2, with the student out-coaching the teacher for the second competitive meeting in a row. Kubiak’s icing of Redskins kicker Graham Gano came straight from Shanahan’s playbook, while his Texans offense had a field day with the Skins’ supposed much-improved defense. As a result, Shanahan’s Skins are now ranked 32nd defensively in the league.
Reality Check: Josh McDaniels — McDaniels is 1-1 after his Broncos posted an impressive bounce-back win against the Seattle Seahawks at home.
Streak: Won 2
Stat Line: 277 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INT
Jay Cutler is currently the NFL’s highest-rated passer. He’s 3rd in passing yards but has the league’s highest yards per attempt (10.1). But Cutler did that against Dallas and Detroit, who have yet to show much in 2010 in the way of pass defenses. We’ll see how well Cutler does against the aggressive Packers (and Clay Matthews) Monday night.
Reality Check: Kyle Orton — Orton is quietly coming into his own. He is the NFL’s 6th-ranked quarterback in passer rating, yards, and yards per attempt, to virtually no national media recognition. He’s been particularly magical on third down, where he leads the league in efficiency.
Streak: Won 2
Stat Line: 4 rec, 71 yds
Marshall has yet to find the end zone in 2010, but his Fins keep on winning, thanks to a stingy Mike Nolan-led defense. We’ll see if Nolan can keep that defense stout beyond eight weeks this year.
Reality Check: Demaryius Thomas — “Brandon Marshall who?” — It seems there were at least a dozen different game recaps, columns, or fan posts discussing the Broncos’ win over Seattle that included that tell-all sentence. Thomas’ pro debut was stronger than anyone could have hoped — eight catches, 97 yards, and a touchdown.
The Edge: McDaniels and Thomas best their counterparts statistically this week, while no one in the league can make that claim over Cutler. But the Alt Broncos are 5-1, with the only loss coming in dramatic overtime fashion. We’ll give the edge to those formerly of Denver, acknowledging that a current-Broncos win against Indy would go a long way.