Rick Jussel Column December 21, 2008

In the cold, Broncos will have to throw the ball to win

I come off the injured reserve list just in time for this?

•  A predicted high of 5 degrees in Denver.

•  A must-win contest that would avoid a much nastier must-win contest next week if the Broncos are to earn a playoff berth in the AFC.

•  No tailbacks to speak of, still.

Yep, that’s what we get today: nasty temperatures and a nasty situation for several reasons.

I do know several people I wouldn’t trade places with today and that would include any and all of Denver’s receivers.

Let’s say the temperature is indeed Arctic-like and let’s say Jay Cutler — Denver’s brand-new Pro Bowl quarterback — can actually grip the football and throw it … hard. You take it; I don’t want it.

That’s what today’s game against the Buffalo Bills, at one point a legitimate playoff contender, but now a team on the skids, should come down to: Can Cutler find anyone to catch his laser-like throws? If Denver wants to win this one, they are going to have to have someone gut it out and catch the football.

You know the Broncos won’t be able to run the ball, not with Selvin Young still trying to get back into the swing of things (and still showing that annoying tendency to fumble the football) and Tatum Bell only a shadow of what he appeared to be four and five years ago when he first stepped onto the field for the Broncos.

No, it’s going to be miserable and Denver is going to have to throw the ball.

This is one reason the Broncos aren’t ready to advance in the playoffs.

Next year, the Broncos will have some serious decisions to make at running back and about the rushing attack itself. But the Broncos will have choices galore: Young, Peyton Hillis, Ryan Torain, Michael Pittman, maybe even Anthony Alridge. All of those backs stood out at some point before the injury plague hit; all should be rarin’ to go next year.
But not this week, and with the exception of Young, not this season.

This is the way it’s going to have to be for the Broncos the rest of the way: Throw the fastball, Jay. Catch it if you can — anyone.

Luckily today, it is the Bills coming to New Mile High.

Last week, the Broncos had the misfortune of watching the Kansas City Chiefs beat up on the
San Diego Chargers for nearly three hours, seemingly handing Denver a playoff spot.

Then, upon heading from locker room to the field to take on what might be the best team in the entirety of the National Football League, the Carolina Panthers, the Broncos faced up to the ultimate downer, seeing on the scoreboard that the Chargers have overcome a 21-3 deficit and rallied to beat the Chiefs 22-21.

Today, coach Mike Shanahan said, he won’t allow his team to watch the early game that has San Diego at Tampa Bay. Today, it’s up to the Broncos to take care of business themselves.

Win and they are in. Lose and it could be the much tougher task of having to beat the Chargers in San Diego the next week.

Although Buffalo has lost three in a row, the Bills are not exactly the Detroit Lions. They have a tough defense and one of the league’s top multiple-threat tailbacks in Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for 1,002 yards and caught 47 passes on the season.

So, let’s hope Cutler & Co. can jump out quickly in the frigid conditions.

I’ll take my 5-6 record picking with or against Denver (5-5-1 against the spread), and say the Broncos, a 7-point favorite, get their playoff spot: Let’s make it Denver 17, Buffalo 14.


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