The NFL Network introduced itself nationally on Thanksgiving with Denver at Kansas City and late in the fourth quarter practically anointed Jay Cutler the new quarterback for the Broncos.
Now, all Coach Mike Shanahan has to do this week is "second that emotion."
We’ve heard all the talk since preseason, that the first true sign of Jake Plummer being unable to win a big game, he would be yanked in favor of the No. 1 draft pick. That’s the price a grizzled vet like Jake pays for being good, but not great. Elway’s ghost haunts him from the past. Cutler hounds his future at Mile High.
Denver has now lost back-to-back games both straight up and against the spread to San Diego and Kansas City, creating a very interesting shootout for the AFC West title in the final five weeks.
It’s not unprecedented for a coach to pull a veteran starting QB who’s not injured, but 12 weeks into the season is pretty much unchartered territory. The move is not unlike Bill Parcells benching Drew Bledsoe in Dallas for Bono. The apparent success may influence Shanahan to listen to all his newfound experts and sit Plummer down for the young gun from Vanderbilt.
Playing Cutler, who has the far stronger arm, may be the right move. Like Bono, the move would inject immediate energy into a Denver offense that has suddenly forgotten how to run the ball and stop the other team from doing the same.
Denver’s defense, the best in the NFL statistically a month ago, is now allowing leaking oil. Granted San Diego and KC are quality teams, but Champ Bailey can’t do it all.
In Las Vegas, the Broncos are falling back slightly in the overall picture. Caesars Palace lists Denver at 5-1 to win the AFC, now behind New England, San Diego and Baltimore for the runnerup spot. Indianapolis still leads at even money.
The Super Bowl is a bit more drastic, with Denver sliding back to 12-1 after an opening line of 8-1. That puts the Broncos tenth best. Indy and the Chicago Bears lead the way at 8-5 and 5-2 respectively. San Diego is closing fast at 3-1.
The Broncos host Seattle this Sunday in a game that may see both Shaun Alexander and Mike Hasselbeck return to the Seahawks lineup. Not good news considering what L.T. and L.J. did to the Broncos D-line.
The following week is the rematch with San Diego on the road. Shanahan has a decision to make and the point spreads are sure to reflect which QB he chooses.