End of the year and end of a very disappointing season. I imagine you and the team have received a lot of unsavory communications and I want to thank for your hard work. I also want to thank you for every single time you have answered my questions, even though I use this method (don't have Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, so I have to use this). It really makes my day and I brag to all my friends here in Panama and I am 32 years old -- a grown man.
With that being said:
Any chance we see DeMarcus Walker on the final game? He played well vs the Cardinals and some live reps can only help at this point, right?
-- Jose Borrero
First, thank you.
Second, there's a chance, but at the same time, the health of the defensive line works against him. The Broncos typically activate only five defensive linemen, and none of their top five up front -- Domata Peko Sr., Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis, Shelby Harris and Zach Kerr -- have missed any games this year. Somehow, on a team wrecked by injuries, the line has emerged relatively unscathed to this point (knock on wood that it doesn't change Sunday).
"He's worked hard. He's been giving a great look for those guys over there," said Gotsis, referring to Walker's practice work on the scout team against the offensive line. "He's been practicing hard all year. It's been tough when you've got five guys that have been playing well up front. Hopefully he can get in and get a couple of [pass] rushes, as well."
That said, with the Broncos replacing running back Phillip Lindsay and wide receiver Andre Holmes with two players plucked off other practice squads who are not expected to play Sunday, that presumably creates two spots that can be used anywhere, as the Broncos did not promote a running back or wide receiver -- and they activated every wide receiver and running back last week. Of course, those two spots might go to cornerback Brendan Langley and tight end Matt LaCosse, both of whom are expected to return from injury this week.
So, as Ring of Famer Steve Atwater likes to tell me on the radio every weekday, "We'll see."
How do you explain Case Keenum saying the players are giving it all they've got when they are playing arguably the worst football in the NFL?
-- John Magnuson
First, in any athletic endeavor, sometimes the best effort of a team and its players isn't good enough to win. As is often said in the NFL, "The other guys get paid, too." And presumably those "other guys" are giving it their all.
As for the other part of your question, one thing I've learned over the years of covering football -- while still being a fan of other sports -- is that fans of their teams tend to perceive the negatives as worse than they actually are, and the positive aspects as better than they are.
Thus, a three-game losing streak that includes a loss to a decimated team, a defeat to a team that went 0-16 last year -- but is radically transformed and playing above .500 for a half-season now -- and a struggling rival can lead one to abandon the glass-is-half-full/glass-is-half-empty dilemma to observe that the glass is simply shattered on the floor.
This isn't to say that the Broncos are playing well. They aren't. In the last three weeks, they rank 26th in point differential (minus-20), 28th in points scored, 28th in passer rating and 31st in yards gained per play (4.16). However, you can look at teams such as Carolina and Arizona that are worse in at least two of those categories, and three others (Tampa Bay, Washington and Miami) that are worse in point differential because of ailing defenses that have allowed at least 3.7 more points per game than the Broncos.
But you have to look at what they have to work with at this point. The Broncos have more first-teamers on injured reserve (eight) heading into Week 17 than any season since at least 2003. Just two offensive players have started every game this season -- quarterback Case Keenum and left tackle Garett Bolles. Assuming they start Sunday, that will give the Broncos their fewest 16-game offensive starters since 2009. (From 2011-17, the Broncos averaged five 16-game offensive starters per year, and never had fewer than four.)
There may be little to cheer about at this moment beyond the growth of a young core that could pay dividends in the future. But playing "the worst football in the NFL"? No. Not with the aforementioned factors. Not when 14 teams have more losses by at least two scores this season -- and 18 teams have more multi-score defeats in the last 10 weeks than the Broncos, whose 13-point loss to Oakland, aided by the unusual 99-yard punt return, is their only defeat by more than seven points in the last 10 weeks, a stretch in which the Broncos are a respectable 4-5.
What are your New Year's resolutions?
-- Becky Benjamin
There are the usual resolutions about exercising more, eating better, cleaning out my home office, spending my time only on constructive endeavors that help my family and my career, blah blah blah.
But the one that is unique to this year is my resolution to ignore people who pollute our radio station's text line with blatant lies about things I say, and not get dragged into pointless debates with social-media trolls. Life is too short and too precious to waste on things that do not result in personal or professional growth.