Welcome to the 83rd edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where tonight might be the most unique single day on the sports calender. When the NBA tips off its regular season tonight, all four major American sports will be in full swing. That will only last until the end of the World Series tonight or tomorrow, but still, it’s a good week to be a sports fan. Let’s get into it…
I’ll mix it up this week and start with the Broncos, who moved to 6-1 with yet another convincing victory over a good team. I think it’s time we all acknowledge that the Broncos are the best team in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE!. And right now, it doesn’t seem like anyone else is particularly close.
The Broncos have played seven games. They’ve played six teams with winning records. They’re only loss is in overtime in Seattle. Five of their six wins have come against teams that have legitimate playoff aspirations. The resume is pretty impressive.
That said, it may be wise to temper some of this enthusiasm. They’ve only played two road games, and neither has been overly impressive. (The loss in Seattle and the win over the Jets, who are not good at playing football.) The seemingly annual trip to Foxborough awaits on Sunday.
So I’m not thinking the Broncos are going to go 15-1.
But damn, they look awesome right now.
Not long ago, the Chargers were being talked about by some as the best team in the AFC. The Broncos had zero issues beating the Chargers Thursday night. Seriously, like… zero.
The emergence of Ronnie Hillman, be it from either his elevated play or a change in the game plan, makes it difficult to find any holes on the Broncos. They are a very, very complete team. Their defense has emerged as one of the best in the NFL. They shut down the run. They rush the passer. The secondary is filled with ball hawks. Chris Harris is generating some discussion as a top-five cornerback in all of football. Von Miller is one of the most impactful players in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE!.
Oh, and they also have a decent offense.
So these are good times for Broncos fans.
Of course, I’m quick to remind you that looking like the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE!‘s best team in October doesn’t mean a damn thing. The Broncos and their fans have nine more preseason games before we have something to get excited about.
But the ride to the playoffs sure seems like it will be pretty enjoyable.
It’s especially enjoyable when you’re watching Phillip Rivers freak the hell out like a real weirdo.
…Or watching Manning drop dimes like this. How pretty is this?
…Or watching Miller do… whatever the hell this is.
And with another big game and a whole lot of hype on the way Sunday, if you need a little help remembering why you should hate the Patriots, go ahead and read my post from January prior to the AFC Championship game.
I’m pretty over the whole Broncos/Patriots/Manning/Brady rivalry and I think it’s a little absurd that the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE! schedules this game every damn year. But they do. And this year it represents an opportunity for the Broncos to effectively lock up the AFC with nine games to go. Coming out of the San Francisco/San Diego/at New England trio of games 3-0 would be one of the more impressive few weeks I can remember.
The fact that the Broncos are 3.5 point road favorites in Foxborough tells you quite a bit about where these two teams stand. I like the Broncos to win fairly comfortably.
Let’s shift gears to the other football team in Colorado that seems to have forgotten how to lose.
Colorado State pushed their little brothers around like a bully in the schoolyard during the Border War on Saturday night. They took Wyoming’s lunch money, stuffed them in a locker, and sent them home crying in front of their girlfriend. It was 24-3 at the half and 38-10 after three quarters. The Cowboys didn’t belong on the same field as the Rams.
The Colorado State offense is widely recognized as a potent and versatile attack. Several Rams have had breakout games that have garnered some national recognition, most notably Dee Hart and Rashard Higgins. But Saturday belonged to Garrett Grayson. He had himself a damn night.
Grayson’s performance against the Cowboys earned him the Mountain West’s offensive player of the week award. All he did was throw for 390 yards and five (!) touchdowns, completing 18 of 21 passes (!) without an interception. He started the game 13-13 with two touchdowns. So yeah, Garrett Grayson was almost perfect on Saturday night. He has also broken several career Colorado State passing records over the past two weeks, including touchdown passes, passing yards and completions.
Two years ago, as we watched Grayson lead the Rams to a 4-8 record with decidedly average play as a sophomore, I never thought I’d write (or read) that last paragraph. His progression has been remarkable. His quarterback rating in three plus games as a true freshman was 108. His sophomore year it was 126.5. Last season it was 138.4. And this year he’s sitting at 167.8.
It’s worth mentioning that Grayson was redshirting his freshman season until Steve Fairchild pulled his redshirt and inserted him into a game when Pete Thomas hurt his knee. At the time some thought it looked like Fairchild was trying to showcase one of his recruits as a desperate attempt to save his job. That experience as a true freshman certainly helped Grayson develop into the quarterback he is today, but I can’t help but wonder what this team would look like in 2015 if Grayson was returning for another year. Burning a year of his eligibility for 3 starts as a freshman sure seems like a waste. Nothing we can do about now, I guess.
Anyway, right now Garrett Grayson is completely in control of a complex offense. He’s locked the hell in and it’s fun to watch.
Of course, part of the reason for Grayson’s development has been an increase in the talent at skill positions around him, most obviously seen in receiver Rashard Higgins, who if he stays healthy, will almost certainly hold every CSU receiving record by the time he’s done in FoCo.
Every week, I’m expecting Hollywood to come back to earth a little bit, and every week he puts up crazy numbers. On Saturday he had five catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He now leads the nation in both touchdowns and receiving yards. He is just on a different level than anyone that is trying to cover him. Against Wyoming, both of his touchdowns came when he broke open simple bubble screens, which can be seen in this highlight video. It just doesn’t look fair right now.
Time for your weekly record update! Colorado State is now 7-1 in 2014. They’ve won six in a row. They’re 11-2 in their last 13 games going back to last season. 13-3 in their last 16; 14-4 in their last 18.
Things are good for Rams fans right now.
After the Rams beat Boston College, I mentioned the possibility of Colorado State finishing the regular season 11-1. It seemed a little crazy at the time. At this point it’s starting to seem a whole lot less crazy. Four games remain. Two on the road (San Jose State on Saturday, Air Force to close the regular season on November 28th) and two at home (Hawaii and New Mexico). None of those teams are any good. The Rams will be favored in each game. That said, conference road wins do not come easy so I’m not counting any chickens that are still in the egg (or however that phase goes).
But as the season rolls on, it’s time for fans to start shifting one eye towards where the Rams will end up in the postseason. Some attention has been given to CSU perhaps playing in a New Year’s Bowl against a traditional power. This remains a possibility, but I have to play Captain Bringdown for moment.
The highest ranked team from a non-power conference receives an automatic bid to either the Fiesta Bowl or the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl. This would be huge for the Rams. However, the way I look at it, for CSU to receive this spot: 1) The Rams would have to finish the regular season 11-1. 2) Marshall would have to lose. 3) East Carolina would have to lose. (Those are the two non-power conference teams currently ranked). 4) The Rams would have to win the Mountain West championship game, which means 5) Boise State, who has the tiebreaker over the Rams in the Mountain Division, would have to lose a regular season game. So a whole bunch of moving parts would have to shift in the Rams’ favor. Got all that?
Honestly because Boise State has the edge on CSU in conference, and because of the Mountain West’s bowl affiliations, the Rams could finish 11-1 and head back to Albuquerque to play in the New Mexico Bowl (again) vs. some middle-of-the-road C-USA team. That, my friends, would be a bit of a letdown.
But I’m getting ahead of myself I suppose. Let’s just hope the wins keep coming and worry about the rest later.
Off to the weekly departments…
Douche of the week:
I generally do not root for CU football. But as I watched the Buffs mount a comeback vs. #25 UCLA on Saturday afternoon, I came to an interesting realization.
Now, for the record, I won’t admit to rooting for the Colorado Buffaloes to win a football game. But perhaps I had a thought or two that a victory in Boulder wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Being ranked is a big deal to me for some reason. It carries prestige. It’s gets people talking about a program. It puts the score of your team’s game on the default scoreboard page on ESPN.com. I mean, come on! What more does a guy want in life?!
Sure enough, on Sunday the national rankings were released and the Rams were the first team on the outside of the rankings. If you extend the rankings based on votes received, CSU is #26. The last team in the rankings? UCLA, who remained at #25. All CU had to do was upset UCLA in overtime and Colorado State would be ranked for the first time in more than a decade. Jerks.
In the big picture, this isn’t a huge deal. If CSU beats a pretty bad San Jose State team this weekend, they should sneak into both national polls.
Stud of the week/Tweets of the week:
What Madison Bumgarner has done this postseason has been incredible.
You get the idea.
I don’t really care about Bumgarner one way or the other and I definitely dislike the Giants and their fans, but glimpses of true greatness are rare. I hope y’all recognize what we’ve been watching from Bumgarner.
Vines of the week:
Football players are stubborn.
This dude lowers his shoulder and everything.
This PR guy from last night is a little too hard core:
Honestly, this looks like a lot of fun.
That last one also produced our…
Photo of the Week:
A couple links worth sharing:
- It sounds like John Boyett, a former Bronco who was recently arrested, had himself an interesting night.
- The new “Between Two Ferns” with Brad Pitt and Zach Galifianakis is the funniest thing you’ll watch all month.
- Champ Bailey retired today, which makes me sad. I wrote this when the Broncos released my favorite football player ever.
And finally, the Nuggets begin their 2014 season tomorrow night. Your favorite blog is here with some hard-hitting analysis.
I’m with Wilson Chandler on this one.
But I do think the Nuggets have the chance to be a decent team. They have to stay healthy. They couldn’t do that last year and their season fell apart. Brian Shaw seems to be a good fit and I’m interested to see what he’ll be able to do with a year in Denver under his belt.
But they have to stay healthy. That’s really all the analysis you need.
Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. Enjoy game six tonight and hopefully game seven tomorrow. See ya next week.
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