One nugget that got discussed was who are the difference makers on both teams. I think it's fairly easy to identify the Colts' difference makers: Manning, Harrison, Wayne, Saturday, Freeney, Sanders, and Vinatieri. A difference maker is someone who is not just good or even great but someone who, because of some special quality, makes a significant difference in the game. It doesn't necessarily have to do with talent. While Manning, Harrison, Wayne, and Freeney are are first round picks, Jeff Saturday was an undrafted rookie in 1999. Bob Sanders was a second round pick, and Adam Vinatieri played in NFL Europe before coming to the Patriots in the early 1990s. Speaking of Patriots, Tom Brady is certainly a difference maker. He was a 6th round pick because many people, including the Patriots themselves, did not think he was that talented. Truth be told, he isn't. But what he does have is that special something, that difference maker quality. Brady isn't as talented as Vince Young, Donovan McNabb, or even Rex Grossman (yes, I said Rex Grossman). But Tom Brady does have a special quality (confidence, sixth sense, intelligence, focus, etc.) that makes him a truly great player. Talent doesn't always equal greatness.
That said, TheSportsGuru and I talked about the difference makers for the Broncos. Jason Elam is certainly a difference maker. Champ Bailey, no question. Jay Cutler certainly has shown potential as a difference maker. The Broncos have won two very close game this year already, and Cutler has shown a confidence the seems very Brady-like. I don't know if that's true, or if I'm biased because ole Jay is a Hoosier boy from Santa Claus, IN.
TheSportsGuru said John Lynch is also a difference maker, and I disagreed with him somewhat. Lynch used to be a difference maker, but I think age and time have worn him down. I'm actually amazed he has lasted this long and played consistently this well. TheSportsGuru stated that Lynch's injury last week against the Jaguars was a major reason why Jacksonville found their running game. With Lynch, Denver is good at stopping the run. Without him, they resemble the regular season Colts from last year.
Ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the point.
I'm not sure I agree with TheSportsGuru's take, but there's no logical reason to doubt it. He knows his Broncos better than I do. If he's right, and if John Lynch doesn't play, then expect a healthy dose of Joseph Addai, Kenton Keith, and maybe Clifton Dawson. I don't know if Denver's new defensive coordinator, Jim Bates, is improving Denver's defense or not. Last year, I thought their defense was good but seemed to lack any pass rushing threats. This year, they have some new players that appear to have good pass rushing skills; guys like Jarvis Moss, Elvis Dumervil, and Simeon Rice. Both Dumervil and Moss are listed second and third on the depth chart though. So, I don't know what that is about. Polian raved about Dumervil on his radio show Monday.
It's actually very hard to get a good read on the Broncos now because, like many teams, they are still trying to figure out what kind of team they are. The dynamic of things is very different in Denver now. With Jake Plummer and Al Wilson gone, there seems to be a void in leadership and identity. Yet, despite this void, they are 2-1. So, Denver is a bit of an enigma now both to us and to their fans.