Game of the Week: Chargers at Broncos
Say what you will about Simms (whose last start, in 2006, ended with a splenectomy followed by a year of recovery) but he may be the right play against the Chargers, even if a loss means giving up first place in the AFC West. I'll give you two reasons, starting with Orton's bum ankle.
Just short of 12 months ago, Orton was in the exact same situation with the Bears: After getting chased down from behind by the Lions'
The rest of the season was a near wash. Orton lacked confidence in his still-healing ankle, and in Weeks 11 through 17 his touchdown-interception ratio flatlined to an even 8:8. He failed to top 250 yards passing in a single game (after doing so four times early on), and his passer rating plummeted by over 10 points.
Orton made the point earlier this week that nobody on his or any other team is 100 percent healthy by Week 10, everyone has some nicks and bruises, but I'd argue that Orton's case is different. The guy needs a solid three weeks off of his feet. He'll be more harm than help playing at half-strength.
Reason Two: Kyle Orton very well may not be the quarterback of the future in Denver. Yes, the guy has performed admirably in McDaniels' system (he had nine interceptions against one pick through six games), but so did
If Orton's not at full strength, and if your team is in the midst of an 0-3 swoon, and if you're not 100% sold on paying Orton the big bucks at year's end, McDaniels, why not find out what else you have on your bench? If Orton has even a hitch in his step on Sunday morning, Simms should get the nod. Short term, it tips the scale in San Diego's favor. But in every sense it's the smart long-term play.
After 12 days of rest, however, Denver returned against Baltimore in Week 8 and something was different. Since then teams have averaged nearly 160 ground yards per game against a defensive front that has no injury scapegoat to offer. None of those three latest opponents boasted even a Top 10 running game; and Washington played with a backup,
Re-enter San Diego, which picked itself up off the very bottom of the NFL's rushing offense list with a 96-yard, two-touchdown effort by Tomlinson last week against Philadelphia, whose run-stoppers rank ninth in the league. L.T.'s 4.0 yards per carry were his highest since Week 1. So maybe the guy's not done yet. And that's good news for the entire offense, including quarterback
If Denver lets up big ground gains early on it could be cause for some re-jiggering on Nolan's part, and that can only take away from Denver's vaunted pass rush, which has accounted for 29 sacks to date. Rivers has been sacked 20 times, eight-most in the league, and his best games naturally come when he stays on his feet (i.e. 268 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 sacks against K.C.). If Tomlinson can establish the run early, Denver's in for a long afternoon.
You do realize that in games played after Nov. 20, Denver has gone 2-4 each of the past three years. (Repeat: Two and four. Past. Three. Years.) And that San Diego is 17-2 cumulatively in the same games. Seventeen and two! And that Kyle Orton is just 9-6 in that timeframe despite having played on playoff-caliber Bears teams. Last year alone the guy threw 10 picks in his last five games. And yet you still like Denver to bounce back? Realllly?!?"
Every week, I lend my thoughts on a few particularly startable or sit-worthy players. Here's who's I like in this Week 11 matchup:
Mark this AFC West race down as one to watch, with each of these teams facing, in my opinion, three pushover opponents and three toughies in Weeks 12-17. I can' imagine more than one game separating the pair by the time San Diego hosts Washington and Denver hosts K.C. in Week 17. And that makes this one all the more crucial for
In San Diego this would be a runaway home team win, but Mile High levels the playing field some. Orton could keep it close, but Denver's going down with -- my guess -- Simms behind the wheel. Maybe Simms surprises us all, but I don't see it.