Here in Bronco country, this is no regular week. You hardly notice at first – maybe a few folks wearing their #26 jerseys out at night, or a few mini Bronco flags flying from the windows of cars. Then a few days later you have lunch at your local deli, and there’s a special called the “Raider Hater”. By Friday, the whole thing is in full swing, and you can practically feel the tension in the air. Every man, woman, and child in the Mile High City knows what’s going down Monday night. This is not an eggs and toast kind of a week in Denver. This is a huevos rancheros with a little extra Tabasco, gimme a side of green chile, and some hot black coffee too, kinda week. This, my orange and blue foam horse head wearing friends, is Raiders week.
Let me make this simple: Bronco fans want the Raiders to DIE. We have seen the pure embodiment of evil, and it’s wearing silver pants. We loathe their every score with the bitterness and rage of 76,125 broken hearts. Because the Raiders have broken our hearts, dear reader, many times. And we, in turn, have broken theirs. When one of these teams loses, it puts an entire city in a bad mood.
So you can imagine how excited I was to get tickets to Monday night’s game.
I’ll tell you how you would plan the perfect coming out party for your team: Bring your most hated rival into town, pack 75,000 in the house, and then spank that team like the overrated sissies they are! And Denver did exactly that to the Raiders. It probably didn’t help that they were handing out copies of the Raiders’ playbook at the gates .. (rimshot please!) Watching a blowout is actually fun when it’s live, against the Raiders, on a beautiful Colorado night. And the house was ROCKING. That is by far the loudest the new stadium has been any of the three times I’ve been there. The crowd was full of the usual orange-wigged crazies and a few tributes to Barrel Man who is getting old and unable to attend the games now. I was impressed by how intense the crowd stayed, even into the fourth quarter and leading 31-10, it was always loud when Gannon was calling the snap. Beware, all ye who approach Mile High: the home-field advantage is back.
Now here’s how you would not plan that coming out party: Have your two top running backs leave the game because of injuries. Trot your team out in the fourth quarter with rookie Quentin Griffin and 3rd-stringer Reuben Droughns powering the running game. There are lots of fantasy teams out there, including mine, who had one of those guys leave the game. From what I saw there live, Portis still looks fine and able to play. He seems to be having some sort of chest or rib problem, but he was running around on the sidelines and the trainers were stretching him out. He also ran a few plays in the fourth quarter but quickly exited. As for Anderson, it didn’t look good on the field. I saw his knee twist when he went down, then he tried to get up a few times and couldn’t, they had to help him walk off the field. Doctors said tests on the knee were “encouraging” but don’t look for Anderson to come back right away. And how about this kid Griffin? Blink and you’ll miss him – he’s tiny by NFL standards at 5’7″, 195. But he is a similar runner to Portis, with elusive moves and quick acceleration. He received a few carries and looked good, I guess, if you can look good cleaning up the garbage in the fourth quarter of a total blowout.
Now for the real question – who’s starting next week? As of this writing, I can’t say for sure. Definitely watch the news wire this week to see what the severity of Portis and Anderson’s injuries are. Keep in mind that Mike Shanahan will bend the truth about an injury to his advantage. He may dangle the idea that Portis could be ready to start. Hear me now and believe me later, Shanahan doesn’t care what the media says or how much the NFL fines him, he will throw up a smokescreen on injury news for his team. Don’t believe the hype – Shanny knows that against the Lions, Griffin will be good enough to get him through the game. In the last two games, the passing game and defense have been good enough to carry the team anyway. There’s no reason to risk further injury to Portis or Anderson by putting them in against Detroit. Get ready for another rough ride on the RB carousel in Denver this season.
And how about the losers of this oh-so-not-competitive football game? What’s going on there? I felt confident the Broncos would win, but I did not expect to see Oakland looking so weak and slow on the field. The Raiders’ drive chart in this one is an embarrassing string of incomplete-penalty-oops-punt sequences that shows just how predictable their offense has become. Last year Gannon had 21 consecutive completions against the Broncos. This year there were 0 consecutive completions through the first 7 minutes, and then he broke through with one consecutive two-yard loss to Charlie Garner. It was one of the Raiders’ better plays of the half. And it was 7 more minutes before he completed another. I don’t know what’s wrong with this team right now, and I don’t know when they will come out of it, but I do expect them to eventually. However, it may be too late in a crowded AFC West – they can’t fall much farther behind in this division and expect to keep pace.
I leave you with this pleasant thought and hope you can think the same thing this week, wherever your team and city may be – “The Broncos won, both my fantasy teams won, and life is good in the Mile High City. How sweet it is.” ‘Til next time, Sharks…