Bronco A-Go Go

Will the newly retooled Crushmobile have the horsepower to reach New Orleans?

Do Run Run: Here's a problem every team would love to solve -- three major horses in a backfield built for two. Ex-MVP Terrell Davis is still regarded as the best of the bunch, despite having played in only nine games over the last two seasons, running for a paltry 493 yards and scoring just four touchdowns. But if his 1999 knee injury and his 2000 stress fracture are healed (don't even whisper that word "hamstring") and he can stop getting tackled by the bimbos working the Gold Club, Denver's beloved T.D. could return to the form that racked up 6,400 yards and 56 scores in his first four years in the league. Meanwhile, another 1,100-yard man from the University of Georgia, Olandis Gary, makes his own return from injury, while last year's leading rusher, Mike Anderson, fills out the trifecta. Shanahan's embarrassment of riches in the rushing department could be a chimera, though, if the Broncos' offensive line -- once the best in the NFL -- misfires in the absence of longtime magician/coach Alex Gibbs. Left tackle Tony Jones and left guard Mark Schlereth (29 surgeries in twelve years) are both gone. So, for the most part, is Gibbs, who's listed as a kind of consultant to new, full-time O-line coach Rick Dennison. If the new guys can still open holes, T.D.'s yardage (and Griese's passing numbers) could go off the charts.

Kick Ball, Win Game: They still call it football, but most teams pay far too little attention to the kicking game. Not this year's Broncos, who spent a pretty valuable fourth-round draft choice to get punter Nick Harris, late of the University of California. Long as well as accurate, Harris will likely supplant mediocre veteran Tom Rouen and, in tight spots, pin opposing offenses deep in their own end. Meanwhile, solid placekicker Jason Elam has the chance to put a nightmarish 2000 behind him. Plagued by a bad back, he spent three games on the shelf and looked uncertain thereafter. Look for a return to his old form. This is, after all, the guy who kicked a league-record 63-yard field goal in 1999 and has generally been money in the bank since joining Denver eight years ago.

If these elements, and others -- some unforeseen, some unanticipated --come together, the Broncos could be eating jambalaya and drinking Dixie in late January. If Griese and Beuerlein fail or the defense rests, they could wind up smelling like Greeley. In any event, that Monday Night opener at Invesco Field should be a lot more fun than, say, Dan O'Dowd Bobblehead Day at that half-empty ballpark across town.

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