For the second consecutive week, the Denver Broncos' defense proved incapable of stopping their opponents when it counted, and even when it didn't. Yet the team won 34-32 over the New Orleans Saints thanks to another stroke of luck: Martin Gramatica missed a 43-yard field goal he'd typically hit 99 times out of 100. That makes the Broncos 3-0 -- but if they're going to avoid future defeats with a defense this porous, they're going to need more breaks. A baker's dozen, to be precise. Here are our week-by-week predictions for how they can remain undefeated through season's end:
Sunday, September 28, at Kansas City -- Flesh-eating bacteria:
As Chiefs running back Larry Johnson is racing down the field to score the winning touchdown, he suddenly collapses to the turf, writhing in pain, incapable of holding the ball one second longer. Guess he shouldn't have visited the hospital's infectious ward the day before the game...
Sunday, October 5, vs. Tampa Bay -- Inexplicable clock error:
Old Broncos QB Brian Griese is playing like he seldom did when he was a member of Denver's team, and victory for the Buccaneers seems assured -- at least until the final two minutes of the game tick off in six seconds. Broncos representatives blame an unexpected temporal shift and refer all complaints to NASA.
Sunday, October 12, vs. Jacksonville -- Earthquake:
The Jags line up for a winning field goal -- but before placekicker Josh Scobee's foot reaches the ball, the field rips open, swallowing him whole.
Monday, October 20, at New England -- Trading places:
It's a critical third and three as time is winding down, and the Broncos haven't stopped the Patriots all day. Then, during a time out, the exhausted Denver defenders swap uniforms with the Miami Dolphins, who've agreed to step in for a provisional third-round draft pick and a promise that Brandon Marshall will play for them the following week. The Fish respond by doing to the Pats what they did yesterday -- stonewalling them.
Sunday, November 2, vs. Miami -- Reveral of fortune:
As agreed, Brandon Marshall plays for the Dolphins, and he has an incredible game. But as a pass is about to hit his hands at the back of the end zone, he's arrested and hauled off to jail in Atlanta.
Thursday, November 6, at Cleveland -- Resurrection:
The Browns are on the cusp of victory when their nemesis, John Elway, trots onto the field. The Cleveland crew is so horrified that they run for the tunnel and aren't seen again for several weeks.
Sunday, November 16, at Atlanta -- Courtroom victory:
The defense blows a 42 point lead and the offense is struggling -- until Brandon Marshall is released from custody with half a minute to go in the fourth quarter. Talk about good behavior.
Sunday, November 23, vs. Oakland -- A different kind of sack:
Before the Raiders can complete a comeback drive, Broncos insiders convince Oakland owner Al Davis that all of the players have been saying bad things about him behind his back. He reacts by firing them on the spot.
Sunday, November 30, at New York -- Playing Farrelly:
Brett Favre is about to make another miracle when the Farrelly brothers reveal that they need his services for a new film, There's Something About Mary II. Favre calls a time out and retires again.
Sunday, December 7, vs. Kansas City -- Out of their league:
The Chiefs seem on the cusp of their first win of the season when NFL executives reveal that the franchise has been disbanded for ineptitude. A forfeit never tasted so sweet.
Sunday, December 14, at Carolina -- Divine intervention:
What's that glow at midfield? Is it? No, it can't be. It is! He's back -- and he's wearing orange!
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Sunday, December 21, vs. Buffalo -- Showdown:
Nothing can slow down the Bills -- except Buffalo Bill Cody, who emeges from his foothills grave and shows up at Mile High Stadium with an injunction ordering the team to stop playing until he's given a cut of profits for the use of his name.
Sunday, December 28, at San Diego -- Spontaneous combustion:
Philip Rivers rears back to throw -- and suddenly erupts into flames. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. -- Michael Roberts