Shanoff WUC: Broncos, Florida, LDS

Today's Calls: Josh McDaniels vs. Bill Belichick, Jonathan Papelbon vs. Brad Lidge, Yankees vs. Angels, Donovan McNabb vs. Tim Tebow, Alabama vs. Texas and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Why are the Denver Broncos and Florida Gators the best teams in their sports right now? ↵

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↵They both have charismatic young (or young-ish) head coaches, raised in Ohio. They both have "game-manager" QBs outperforming expectations (yes, I just called Tim Tebow a "game manager QB"). ↵

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↵And they play the nastiest defense you will find in football today. ↵

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↵For all the talk about Kyle Orton's Elway-ish heroics on that late game-tying drive, the Broncos are winning because new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was the hire of the year. Tom Brady was wrong: The Pats didn't "squander" a chance to win -- they were stopped. ↵

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↵And for all the distraction of Tim Tebow's return to Florida's lineup in the Gators' toughest game of the year, the story of the game was the way that Florida's defense manhandled LSU's offense. It's not too early to wonder if this is one of the best CFB defenses of all time. ↵

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↵It could have been Tebow under center -- or John Brantley ... or, me, for that matter. Because when a team's defense is that good, their offense only has to be good enough. That's why even though Florida would beat LSU with Tebow, they could have won without him. ↵

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↵Pay no attention to the shiny QB-looking objects getting all the attention -- the secret to the success of the teams playing the best football right now is defense. ↵

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↵No mojo for Boston sports fans: Was yesterday the worst day ever for Boston sports fans? Probably not: The Super Bowl in Feb. 2008 had to have been way worse. ↵

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↵But yesterday WAS a double-whammy: Their Pats -- supposed to be the team to beat in the AFC this season -- were beaten (no, worse: caught from behind) by a 30-something former Belichick protege with no head-coaching experience. And the Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs, also caught from behind. Pats fans might say "Wait 'til January" and Red Sox fans might protest that they had low expectations anyway, but both teams are built to be champs -- and neither looks like it right now. ↵

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↵NFL Talking Points: ↵

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↵• Denver's yellow throwback jerseys looked foolish -- right up until they confidently beat the Patriots in them. Now, they might consider leaving them on for a few more weeks. With the best list of quality wins in the league, I would rank Denver No. 1 in this week's NFL Power Ratings. ↵

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↵(I love that Josh McDaniels was openly celebrating -- a quick wave to his mentor Belichick, then fist-pumping and crowd-inciting -- the Broncos' win. He established that although he might be a Belichick protege, that doesn't mean he can't showcase youthful enthusiasm.) ↵

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↵• Unexpected Result of the Day, Part 2: Bengals over Ravens in Baltimore. Guess Cincy's record wasn't a fluke -- and if it wasn't for that Week 1 ridiculousness against Denver, it would be the Bengals that are undefeated. ↵

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↵• So: Are the Titans ready to call it a season yet? How many primetime shellackings do they have to suffer before they recognize that 2009 is a lost cause and that they need to start prepping for 2010? ↵

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↵• Are the 49ers really this season's Falcons? Well, they got stomped by this season's Falcons, so: No. ↵

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↵• Donovan McNabb: Like he never left. This reminds me of the moment last season when there was talk about benching McNabb, only to see him go on a sick tear the rest of the season. Only this time, he's got Jeremy Maclin to make him look even better. ↵

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↵• Happy 40th, Favre: The Rams are so bad that if Favre was given assurances that he could play them every week, he could celebrate his 50th birthday while still playing in the NFL. ↵

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↵• Coaching Hot Seat: Jim Zorn. Another week, another chance for the Redskins to bail out another winless team with a stimulus package. Dan Snyder is not living up to his rep by not axing Zorn already. I guess he figures that if the team is terrible enough, the Redskins can get a Top 5 pick and draft Sam Bradford -- to go with that new coach. ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Miles Austin (10 rec, 250 yds, 2 TDs). ↵

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↵• Fantasy Dud: Maurice Jones-Drew (12 car, 34 yds, 0 TDs). ↵

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↵• Moral Victory of the Day: The oh-for-2008 Lions giving the 2008 champion Steelers a decent game. (Of course, it wouldn't be a hard-luck franchise without their biggest star getting injured.) ↵

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↵• Greatest Stat Line Ever: 2-of-17 for 23 yards and 0 TDs. This was the "rubbernecking" moment of the day, as fans passed the info around of Derek Anderson's winning -- winning -- stats from the Browns-Bills game. ↵

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↵MLB Playoffs: Here's how boring these playoffs have been -- the biggest story line is how many missed calls there have been by the umps (although no one really seems to care or to think that they really altered the fate of the various series). ↵

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↵Still: It has never been more clear -- or nationally televised, including last night -- that baseball needs to expand its replay review system to include things besides clarifying home-run calls. I even like the NFL-style "challenge" system. ↵

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↵All I keep reading about is how the umps who blow the calls feel SO bad about it -- if they feel so bad, why not support some kind of modification to the system that will help them get the call right? ↵

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↵Yankees cruise into ALCS: When was the last time that the Yankees felt so unstoppable that their winning the World Series seemed like an inevitability? Probably 2000, but that feels like a couple baseball generations ago. And yet, here we are: 3 down, 8 to go. ↵

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↵Phillies close: Hey, it's Brad Lidge! And he's not imploding! I felt the equivalent of giving an underachiever a pat on the head -- for someone who tries hard and, as a bonus, even manages to get the result he intended. (Cliff Lee goes for the close-out win today.) ↵

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↵Red Sox, Cards swept out: When a good team -- a team that expected to do well in the playoffs, and not just make them -- is swept out of the LDS round, it is worth wondering whether it was worth the season of rooting interest, if this was the flaccid ending. ↵

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↵Metrodome baseball finale: They dug up home plate for the new place while the Yankees were still celebrating on the field. That's how quickly they wanted to start the demolition of the memory of the dome. ↵

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↵CFB Polling: Sometimes -- well, rarely -- the pollsters will pleasantly surprise you, such as this week, when they saw the value of Alabama's desication of Ole Miss in Oxford as capping a better resume than the one currently sported by the previous No. 2, Texas. ↵

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↵(Texas fans shouldn't be too upset: Because Florida and Alabama ultimately shake themselves out, Texas still controls its own destiny -- if they keep winning, they will be in the BCS title game. Speaking of BCS, think the Horns will be motivated to crush Oklahoma next week?) ↵

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↵My BlogPoll ballot Top 10: (1) Florida, (2) Alabama, (3) Texas, (4) Cincinnati, (5) VA Tech, (6) LSU, (7) Boise St, (8) Oregon, (9) TCU, (10) USC. (See the complete ballot here.) ↵

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↵SN NBA Countdown: No. 17 Heat. Well, needless to say, the Heat better finish better than 17th -- or else Dwyane Wade is as good as gone next summer. He might be as good as gone anyway. Be sure to see Shoals' take: "Watch Wade [play] once a week." ↵

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↵The Last Word: "Toronto Oilers?" Maybe if that had happened, Wayne Gretzky never would have left Canada. (Doubt it: If Peter Pocklington was greedy enough to move his entire franchise to Toronto, he would have still exported Gretzky to the Kings.) ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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