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One Team, One Jersey: Denver Broncos

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 50 is the obvious choice for this list. Texas A&M’s Von Miller is one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. As we saw in that historic game, Miller has tremendous speed off the edge. In that spectacle, he was on another gear, it seemed. He could not be stopped. It was one of the most impressive postseason performances I’d ever seen. The game was in his hands and everyone else was just a piece in what seemed destined to happen.

Not to be cliché, but Miller was a man amongst boys. Carolina boasted what analysts were calling a supreme offense and the Denver defense, despite being excellent for much of the season, was not given much respect going into the game. That quickly changed. Cam Newton wasn’t just flustered. He was a man in a box for most of the game and Von Miller made the box, glued the box and supervised the box to make sure it stayed shut.

I started watching Super Bowls when I was 7. The event that was watching Tom Brady and the Patriots upset the 14-point favorite St. Louis Rams was the first one I got to witness. Since then, I’ve seen offensive studs take over games and I’ve witnessed defensive units save games but up until Super Bowl 50, I never saw a defensive player manipulate a contest to such an absurd extent. Von Miller seemed to have the game under lock and key. That’s not to say the game was out of reach for Carolina from the start, but as the game progressed, a simple fact became more and more apparent: Von Miller was too fast. Von Miller was more super than anyone else on that field and he was coming for his ring.

Following a surreal experience like that, Miller signed a long-term deal that handed him $70 million guaranteed, a deal he more than earned. In 2018, Miller would have had a cap hit of $22.4, the second-highest cap hit among defensive players (Suh had the third overall highest cap hit in the league at $26.1 before getting cut by the Dolphins) and the ninth-highest in the league (The Broncos and Miller agreed to restructure his contract and backload his deal, dropping his cap hit to a more manageable 9.7). He has the talent level to make even this mammoth deal look team friendly but he hasn’t shown it the last two years. The Broncos haven’t been the same since that Lombardi ceremony and Miller has been unable to make many highlight reel plays to take over games the way I’ve seen he can. That stutter in production leaves me a tad concerned with how much of an overall impact he can consistently make.

Still, Miller is a six-time Pro Bowler and has 83.5 sacks only seven years into his career. In the history of the NFL, only 32 players have 100 career sacks and Miller should join the exclusive list sooner rather than later.

Denver sports perhaps the best corner duo in the league in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Talib isn’t eligible for One Team, One Jersey, as he has played most of his career with Tampa Bay. He’s made a career of being a corner for hire and while certainly talented, off the field issues leave me distancing myself from him anyway. I have a hard time putting on a jersey of a man who found a way to accidentally shoot himself, among other things.

Chris Harris Jr. is the other half of the equation and is good enough to be a number one corner himself. For a span of over two seasons, Harris didn’t allow a touchdown. Talk about a shutdown corner. In my eyes, he’s one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. I don’t think people realize how good he is. A lot of that is the defensive bubble he’s in. As long as Denver sports a significant pass rush and employs Talib, people will overlook Chris Harris Jr. I’d gladly start him as a number one corner without any hesitation and maybe in the future we’ll get to see his resume expand to being “the guy” for an NFL franchise. Until then, Chris Harris Jr. is the best number two corner in professional football. (Talib was traded to the Rams in free agency, meaning Harris Jr. will get his shot.)

Since we’re talking about the Broncos, we need to talk about Tim Tebow. Tebowmania took the world by storm in 2011, creating the Tebowing gesture and an incredibly loyal fan base. Was Tebow a great quarterback? No. Tebow’s throwing motion had been severely maligned by his baseball career. His ability to read defenses was average at best. Compared to the other guys on the field, Tebow sometimes looked out of place, like a regular joe trying to hold it together next to professionals.

There was some otherworldly element that seemed to surround him though, something that couldn’t be quantified by science or rationalized by statistics. He could be dreadful for most of the game but when the game came down to the wire, something magical would happen. You never felt out of it with Tebow. He was an underdog despite two college championships and a Heisman at Florida. He was doubted despite his passion, criticized without attention paid to his will to win. He had an aura about him that simply made him mesmerizing, almost magnetic to the sport’s followers. Even those who weren’t devoted to the sport of football began to follow the quest of Tebow.

It was so easy to buy in, to root for the underdog. Tebow had six fourth quarter comebacks that year. Despite all the evidence that told you it shouldn’t, you knew it was gonna happen again. You could feel the momentum swing and man, was it strong.

Tebow wasn’t a prima donna, nor was he an exceptional athlete, but he was insanely entertaining to watch without ever doing anything uncharacteristic to become so. It was the way he kept fighting on. Tebow showed the world, more than anything, how far will and heart can get you. Evidently, pretty far.

Every general manager in America would love someone who played an entire game like Tebow played in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t the clutch gene. I still don’t know what it was. It was a mystical force, some element we haven’t discovered perhaps. All the cards just seemed to fall his way.

Truthfully, despite all of the talent still on Denver’s roster, I’d rather have a Tebow jersey than any other, even Von Miller. In addition to his performance on the field, Tebow is a helluva role model, which pretty much seals the deal for me. It would be a rare jersey that would carry nostalgia into my collection.

However, Tebow doesn’t meet the rules so we’re gonna have to pick someone else.

Going off the feel-good story angle, Demaryius Thomas.

Thomas’ mother and grandmother were sent to prison for crack distribution when he was a kid. He was dealt a bad hand. He overcame it. I admire that.

Demaryius Thomas was one of the key contributors to the highest-scoring offense in NFL history and has demonstrated his skillset in the years following that record year. After beginning his career at Georgia Tech, who ran the triple option and never fully realized the talent they had on the outside, Thomas’ first two seasons were beset by injuries. Then Peyton came to town and Demaryius reached his final form. While Demaryius isn’t in the conversation for top five receivers in the NFL, he is an all-around receiver who can play physical at the line or play off the corner and go speed for speed. In that way, Georgia Tech helped mold Thomas’ playing style.

As explosive a player as Von Miller is, he was suspended for violating the substance abuse policy in 2013 for reportedly trying to cheat a drug test. Especially since that was at the beginning of his career, that’s always stuck with me and put a stain on his performance, at least for me. That’s why I’m going Demaryius.

My pick: Demaryius Thomas. My jersey: Bronco Orange.

Image result for demaryius thomas orange jersey free use

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2017-2018 NFL Preview: AFC West

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

GET: DT Bennie Logan, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

LOSE: RB Jamaal Charles, WR Jeremy Maclin, DT Dontari Poe, LB D.J. Alexander

RE-SIGNS: S Eric Berry, G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

DRAFT: 1st round: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech     2nd round: DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova    3rd round: RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo     4th round: WR Jehu Chesson, Michigan     5th round: LB Ukeme Eligwe, Georgia Southern     6th round: S Leon McQuay III, USC

SUMMARY: The Kansas City Chiefs have surprised me each year for a little while now because on paper, they’re simply not explosive on the offensive side of the ball. For a few years, Jamaal Charles was their only playmaker and the offense was fully reliant on both his health and execution. Last year, Kansas City really impressed me because they showed they could function with the ball without Charles. Spencer Ware finished with 921 yards last year, good for 16th, ahead of Todd Gurley, and carried a 4.3 clip (also 16th), better than names like David Johnson, Latavius Murray, Lamar Miller and Melvin Gordon.

Spencer Ware will miss 2017 with a torn PCL, which puts added pressure on third-round selection Kareem Hunt out of Toledo to serve as a backfield cornerstone. He looked pretty good against New England on Thursday, but that type of production, as Jamaal Charles found out, is taxing on one’s body and very hard to duplicate with regularity.

Alex Smith also played perhaps the best game of his career on Thursday, showcasing he can be more than a game manager. He can actually play a part in changing momentum and making key throws. Tyreek Hill last year was a wild card, but looked like a talented receiver in Week 1. The receiving core isn’t deep, but as long as the offense can perform with some continuity, Kansas City should continue to own the rights to a playoff spot. They were 20th in passing last year and 15th in the ground game, but a 24.3 ppg rate will lead to victories when your defense gives up 19.4 per game (7th). They gave up a lot of yards last year (20th), but total yardage is not always an indicator of a defense’s true potential. Kansas City led the league in turnover differential last year with a +16. Turnover differential is a number that fluctuates year to year and is nearly impossible to repeat, but one way to keep it positive is by increasing their pressure rate. Kansas City had 28 sacks last year, ahead of only the Jets, Browns, Lions and Raiders.

The Chiefs personnel on defense is stout and will keep the team in games. Marcus Peters is likely the best young corner soon to be on the market. Eric Berry’s season-ending Achilles injury will hurt, but Kansas City looks poised for another playoff run.

Tyreek Hill could be a capable fantasy asset as could Kareem Hunt, but I’m unwilling to take on that gamble. Kansas City defense, sign me up.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 11-5

Week 1: @NE   Week 2: vs. PHI   Week 3: @LAC   Week 4: vs. WAS   Week 5: @HOU   Week 6: vs. PIT   Week 7: @OAK   Week 8: vs. DEN   Week 9: @DAL   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: @NYG   Week 12: vs. BUF   Week 13: @NYJ   Week 14: vs. OAK   Week 15: vs. LAC   Week 16: vs. MIA   Week 17: @DEN

OAKLAND RAIDERS

GET: RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Jared Cook, OL Marshall Newhouse, QB EJ Manuel, LB Jelani Jenkins, LB IK Enemkpali, WR Cordarrelle Patterson

LOSE: RB Latavius Murray, DT Dan Williams, OT Austin Howard, QB Matt McGloin, CB D.J. Hayden, LB Perry Riley, LB Malcolm Smith, OT Menelik Watson

RE-SIGNS: QB Derek Carr, G Gabe Jackson, WR Seth Roberts

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State     2nd round: S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut     3rd round: DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA     4th round: G David Sharpe, Florida     5th round: LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest     7th round: S Shalom Luani, Washington State     OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State     RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina     DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo

SUMMARY: There were three true MVP candidates last year: Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Derek Carr. He threw for 3,937 yards, led his team to multiple comebacks over the course of the season and was by far the team’s best player. His team’s championship hopes were shot the minute his leg broke.

Carr has the chance for even better numbers this year behind one of the best offensive lines in football and with Marshawn Lynch taking additional pressure off of the young quarterback. General manager Reggie McKenzie has given his young quarterback one of the strongest supporting casts in professional football so any failings Carr encounters, in most cases, are his own doing. The team lives and dies on the shoulders of the 26-year-old, which is why he was given such an enormous contract so early in his career. I expect the Raiders passing attack (13th in 2016) to receive a nice boost with another year of experience under Carr’s belt. A sixth-ranked rushing attack will likely regress, but not enough to be a problem. If the Raiders can mimic their 26.0 points per game from last season, they will see the promise land of playoff football. They, and the Steelers, seem to be the only teams with enough talent to beat the almighty New England Patriots in a playoff game.

The defense of Oakland, on the other hand, is poor. There is only one defensive category that they were good in: turnover differential. They tied Kansas City with a +16, but as I already mentioned, it’s a sporadic number that is based on skill, luck and schedule, and not in even portions.

In more important categories, Oakland was one of seven teams to allow over 6,000 yards of offense (New Orleans, Washington, Miami, Indianapolis, Cleveland, San Francisco.) Coincidentally, none of those teams are likely to make the playoffs this year and Oakland needs to change their setup if they don’t want to join the club (24th pass, 23rd rush, 24.1 ppg (20th)). They must improve from a league-worst 18 sacks last year. They also have a strong enough corner group (David Amerson, TJ Carrie, Sean Smith, Gareon Conley) to outpace 60 passes defended, a stat from last year.

Khalil Mack is sure to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, but there needs to be more of a team impact on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders are also starting rookies Eddie Vanderdoes at defensive tackle and Marquel Lee at middle linebacker.  This won’t be a strong unit. It just needs to be a better one by the end of the season.

Derek Carr is a top-five quarterback for me this year and Amari Cooper, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree are also great selections in fantasy.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:10-6

Week 1: @TEN   Week 2: vs. NYJ   Week 3: @WAS   Week 4: @DEN   Week 5: vs. BAL   Week 6: vs. LAC   Week 7: vs. KC   Week 8: @BUF   Week 9: @MIA   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: vs. NE   Week 12: vs. DEN   Week 13: vs. NYG   Week 14: @KC   Week 15: vs. DAL   Week 16: @PHI   Week 17: @LAC

DENVER BRONCOS

GET: RB Jamaal Charles, G Ronald Leary, OT Menelik Watson, NT Domata Peko, QB Brock Osweiler, OT Menelik Watson, G Allen Barbre

LOSE: LB DeMarcus Ware, S T.J. Ward, LB Danny Trevathan, OT Russell Okung, NT Sylvester Williams, OT Ty Sambrailo, G Michael Schofield, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Marlon Brown, OL Michael Schofield, RB Juwan Thompson

RE-SIGNS: F

DRAFT: 1st round: OT Garett Bolles, Utah     2nd round: DE DeMarcus Walker, Florida State     3rd round: WR Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech     CB Brendan Langley, Lamar     5th round: TE Jake Butt, Michigan     WR Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia     6th round: RB De’Angelo Henderson, Coastal Carolina     7th round: QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

SUMMARY: The Denver Broncos have new faces at the linebacker spots including Shaquil Barrett and Todd Davis, along with second-year safety Justin Simmons taking the spot of hard hitter T.J. Ward. They also lost Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, along with coach Gary Kubiak, who called it a career. In comes Vance Joseph, former DC for the Miami Dolphins. Step one: choose a quarterback and for week one, Joseph has chosen to stick with Trevor Siemian, a short-term solution until someone better comes along. Paxton Lynch has progressed little since being drafted, leaving Siemian, who performed admirably last year (3,401 yards, 18/10 TD/INT, 84.6 passer rating) for a seventh-rounder. With receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders flanking you, Siemian needs to do his best Alex Smith impression for the entirety of 2017 if he wants his team to have a chance. Denver and Kansas City are constructed the same way and will find success in the same manner.

The Broncos offensive line needs to be better this year after allowing 42 sacks (third-worst) and dragging a 27th-ranked ground attack through the mud. Jamaal Charles may very well get one last hoorah in Denver and by mid-season, could own the starting role if C.J. Anderson can’t get the wheels turning.

Conversely, Denver got run over last year (28th, 130.3 ypg), a stat that must change in a ground-and-pound division. If they sure up up front, Denver will be nearly unstoppable. They were first against the pass with the best corner duo in football (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.) and their 18.6 points per game was fourth-best. They have the tools to contend for a second wild-card spot. I’m just not sure it happens.

The Denver defense is the top pick from this squad for fantasy football. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should be given WR2 consideration. If Jamaal Charles is available near the end of your draft, I believe he’s worth a selection.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:8-8

Week 1: vs. LAC   Week 2: vs. DAL   Week 3: @BUF   Week 4: vs. OAK   Week 5: BYE   Week 6: vs. NYG   Week 7: @LAC   Week 8: @KC   Week 9: @PHI   Week 10: vs. NE   Week 11: vs. CIN   Week 12: @OAK   Week 13: @MIA   Week 14: vs. NYJ   Week 15: @IND   Week 16: @WAS   Week 17: vs. KC

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

GET: OT Russell Okung, QB Cardale Jones, G Michael Schofield, LB Korey Toomer, S Tre Boston

LOSE: OT King Dunlap, G Orlando Franklin, G D.J. Fluker, LB Manti Te’o, K Josh Lambo, QB Kellen Clemens, RB Kenjon Barner, TE Jeff Cumberland

RE-SIGNS: S Jahleel Addae, RB Brandon Oliver

DRAFT: 1st round: WR Mike Williams, Clemson     2nd round: G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky     3rd round: G Dan Feeney, Indiana     4th round: S Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami     5th round: CB Desmond King, Iowa     6th round: OT Sam Tevi, Utah     7th round: DE Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame

SUMMARY: San Diego is no more. The Chargers are now onto Los Angeles and are likely the lesser of the two LA-based teams this fall. The Bolts carry a strong defensive line featuring Ohio State product Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram (combined 18.5 sacks), but they’re weak at the linebacker spot after the anchor of the unit, Manti Te’0, left for New Orleans. Kyle Toomer, fresh from Oakland, and Kyle Emmanuel are young players who’ve yet to make an impact on the field and Jatavis Brown has done only slightly more than those two. I expect San Diego to fall drastically in the run defense column (10th last year at 97.9) and their points against is unlikely to make a notable improvement from the 26.4 they allowed last year (29th). Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett are capable corners, but Verrett begins the year on the PUP list, which spells bad news for Los Angeles, San Diego edition.

Philip Rivers has top target Keenan Allen back, but for who knows how long given his injury history. Rivers has slowly become one of the better quarterbacks remaining in the league and has aged well, but at 35 is the only player keeping this team above water. He’s done much with little and it’s a shame he couldn’t have been this player about ten years ago during the LaDainian Tomlinson years. He would likely have a ring. Instead, Rivers is likely to end his career without reaching the playoffs again. When his inevitable retirement occurs, this team will find itself stranded at the bottom of the AFC.

Melvin Gordon should break the 1,000 yard mark after falling three yards short last year, but is unlikely to have double-digit touchdowns for the second straight year. All in all, the AFC West, the strongest division in the AFC, is just too strong for Los Angeles.

Rivers has the strongest fantasy upside for the Bolts and Gordon is a RB2.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD:6-10

Week 1: @DEN   Week 2: vs. MIA   Week 3: vs. KC   Week 4: vs. PHI   Week 5: @NYG   Week 6:   @OAK   Week 7: vs. DEN   Week 8: @NE   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: @JAC   Week 11: vs. BUF   Week 12: @DAL   Week 13: vs. CLE   Week 14: vs. WAS   Week 15: @KC   Week 16: @NYJ   Week 17: vs. OAK

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Tim Sports Report for 2016 NFL Week 2

Top 5

  1. Stefon Diggs 9 receptions for 182 yards, TD vs. GB

2. RB Matt Forte 30 carries for 100 yards, 3 TDs vs. BUF

3. WR Jarvis Landry 10 receptions for 135 yards vs. NE

4. LB Von Miller 7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 sacks, forced fumble vs. IND

5. LeGarrette Blount 29 carries for 123 yards, TD vs. MIA

Worst of the Worst

5. Norman switched to cover Dez in the 4th quarter. Just the 4th.

4. Seahawks manage three points versus Rams.

3. Jameis Winston 27/52 for 243, TD, 4 INTs, fumble, 39.2 passer rating vs. ARI

2. Jaguars obliterated 38-14 against San Diego.

  1. Browns surrender 20-0 lead versus Ravens, lose 25-20 and lose Josh McCown, forcing Cody Kessler into the starting role.

Steelers Recap

Pittsburgh didn’t pay their best football on Sunday. Ben wasn’t at his best, Antonio Brown didn’t have a highlight reel day and the defense got just one sack. None of it mattered. Pittsburgh got it done. When their offense wasn’t in rhythm, they still put up 24. That’s scary. Against a rookie quarterback in Philly, I’m taking Pittsburgh. Confidently.

Game of the Week: Broncos at Bengals

Cincinnati can contend in the AFC and Denver remains the best team in the league. Can the Bengals upset the Broncos? I definitely think they’re capable. Jeremy Hill needs to get his engine going and the defense has to exploit Siemian at quarterback. I’m just not sure if any of that is going to happen so I’m taking Denver.

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