Tough test awaits Broncos in Atlanta

Bits ‘n’ pieces:

■ You can continue to revel in the Broncos’ win over Pittsburgh for another few days, but then it’s back to reality and the next tough task at hand: a prime-time Monday night game at Atlanta against the Falcons, certainly as impressive, if not more so, than the Broncos as they destroyed the Chiefs in Kansas City 40-24 in their opener.

Look forward to more pinpoint passing from opposing quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs, and be on the watch for the matchups on the outside as Ryan throws to a pair of the best wideouts in the league in Julio Jones (lightning fast; two TD catches against the Chiefs) and Roddy White (think Brandon Marshall).

Denver’s watchword in this one: Improve.

Peyton Manning’s offense should continue to get better as everyone learns the nuances.

And defensively, this would not be the time to allow the Falcons running game led by Michael Turner to suddenly perk up after a no-show against the Chiefs.

More on this later.

■ Great news for University of Colorado football fans: Dish Network announced last week it had signed a contract with the Pac-12 to provide coverage of that conference’s games.

Hurray!

Pop!

The bubble quickly burst as local Buff fans could only watch in horror as CU lost 30-28 to a Sacramento State team that is accustomed to playing tight games with the likes of Humboldt State.

To pour salt in the wound, all one had to do was look north where Colorado State, a 22-17 winner over the Buffs the previous week, was getting shut down 22-7 by North Dakota State, a squad that will never be confused for the Alabama’s or LSU’s of the world, although it can at least claim the distinction of being Football Championship Subdivision national champion last year — something akin to being voted second-best-looking gal at a 50-year De Beque High School class reunion.

At first glance, there might appear to be a glimmer of hope for fans of both teams this weekend because CU plays at Fresno State, and CSU plays at San Jose State.

Careful though. Fresno State played Oregon tough for three quarters in a 42-25 loss, and San Jose State did the same against Stanford before losing 20-17 in its opener.

When all is said and done this season, it is possible the only win from either the Buffs or the Rams might belong to CSU.

■ Been keeping up with the big-boy Rockies? While the squad certainly can’t hope to match the Rookie League’s just-completed playoff run, there is continued reason to watch: The enforced 75-pitch count for starters that has been put into effect, a tactic that worked better than anything previously tried at Coors Field — signing aces from other teams, signing bottom-of-the-rotation veterans or growing their own staff.

The young starters and the “piggy-back” reliever of choice, for the most part, have been keeping the team in games, and when the Rox hit, they win.

That’s the good news.

Now the big question for down the road: Why in the world would any pitcher worth his salt want to buy into a situation like that?

The youngsters will play out their contracts and head for greener pastures, and the elders won’t consider becoming a Rock unless it is their absolute last option (see Francis, Jeff).

The 75-pitch count will have to morph into something that gives the starters realistic chances to win, and the hope is certainly that the young staff does this on its own, or the concept will die a long, painful death.

■ Food for thought: If you can spend a Sunday afternoon watching hour after hour of golf on TV (I can), you’ll notice this FedExCup thing is starting to work out pretty well.

I found myself watching Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, and, yes, even Tiger, last weekend in the BMW Championship in what had to be one of the best groupings of big names to come down the stretch in a meaningful event. In my often feeble mind, the action rivaled Ryder Cup matches and kept my attention much longer even than the 49ers beating up on the Packers.

If you thought that one was good, you might want to pay attention next week (they don’t play this week) when the Tour Championship is played and the FedExCup champion is crowned and handed a trophy and, oh yes, a $10 million check.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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