When the Denver Broncos (3-7) take the field against the St. Louis Rams (4-6), fans will see several connections and story lines shared among both teams. Both teams have head coaches who are in their second year at the helm, and both guys interviewed with both teams in early 2009 before being hired by their current teams. The Broncos went with Josh McDaniels and the Rams went with Steve Spagnuolo.
While Josh McDaniels led the Broncos to an 8-8 record in his first season on the sidelines, Spagnuolo had a rough go of it with the Rams by finishing dead last in the NFL with a 1-15 record. As a result, the Rams had the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010 and selected Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford has done well in changing the atmosphere around St. Louis, and his numbers aren't bad either. He's a nearly 61 percent passer with 2,158 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Given Bradford's quick adaption to the league, Steve Spagnuolo is benefiting nicely with a 4-6 record and a possible run at winning a weak NFC West. The same cannot be said for Josh McDaniels. McDaniels also drafted a quarterback in the first round, Tim Tebow. Tebow has been used as a gimmick during the regular season and has a total of one passing touchdown and three rushing touchdowns in the first 10 games of his career. For such a highly prized acquisition, Tebow is used sparingly by McDaniels.
Now: Kyle Orton's presence under center is one large reason we have yet to see Tebow lead the Broncos on drives down the field. Orton is on pace to throw for just under 5,000 yards, which is one tough feat to accomplish. However, Orton's critics are quick to point out, the team just isn't winning with Orton. "Would starting the mostly untested rookie be any better?" seems to be the rejoinder Orton's supporters respond with quickly. It's a tough situation for the Broncos right now, and Josh McDaniels appears damned if he does start Tebow and damned if he doesn't.
But that doesn't bother him. Right now, Josh McDaniels appears ready to stick with Kyle Orton throughout the rest of the season.
Josh McDaniels is no stranger to Steve Spagnuolo's coaching, having gone up against it when both were coordinators for the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, respectively, in 2007. The two teams clashed during the 2007 regular season and then in the Super Bowl in 2008. In the end, Spagnuolo's Giants came out on top in the Super Bowl.
The St. Louis Rams are 15th in total defense, but the Broncos are all the way down at 26th (second to last in rush defense). Rams running back Steven Jackson must be licking his lips, hoping he can find his way into the end zone several times.
The Denver Broncos, while still showing lapses on offense, have witnessed better output from running back Knowshon Moreno, who was heavily involved in both the rushing and passing game last Monday. He had 120 total yards and one touchdown. As Moreno gets more involved in the game, opposing defenses will need to worry about both dimensions on offense. However, 1-of-12 on 3rd down conversions, as the Broncos were on Monday night, will not cut it. Punter Britton Colquitt should not be on the field for nine punt attempts.
A loss will basically put an end to the Broncos' already faint chance at winning the AFC West, but even a win will do little to help the Broncos all that much. With only six games left, the Broncos are unable to reach 10 wins, which seems likely for either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Oakland Raiders.