Denver general manager and executive vice president John Elway is going all in this year to win the team’s first Super Bowl title since 1998.
First, he traded for 49ers tight end Vernon Davis two days before the trade deadline. Then he tried hard to pry Pro Bowler and former Wisconsin Badgers standout left tackle Joe Thomas from the Cleveland Browns in a late push to make up ground on the defending champion New England Patriots.
The Browns reportedly wanted much more than just a first round draft pick, however. Although Elway failed to land Thomas to bolster his struggling offensive line, you have to hand it to him. He knows his undefeated team isn’t perfect. But even more important, he refused to mortgage the Broncos’ future to make one last run with Peyton Manning as his quarterback.
In today’s NFL, making the big splash doesn’t guarantee you anything, but it’s nice to see Elway at least try to improve his club until the very end without damaging his future rosters.
Cleveland at Cincinnati: The Bengals are unbeaten and have all but put the AFC North trophy in their case as they lead the second-place Steelers by 3½ games. Johnny Manziel is expected to get the start and could make this game at least interesting. Bengals 27, Browns 21.
Green Bay at Carolina: The Packers came out of their bye week and laid a big egg in Denver. Unless their receivers can learn to create some space, even Aaron Rodgers won’t be able to carry this team this week. Cam Newton is doing just enough to get the job done as the Panthers look to remain perfect. Panthers 23, Packers 17.
Washington at New England: At 3-4, even Washington is alive in the downtrodden NFC East. That’s about the only good news Redskins fans can expect this week as Washington takes a trip to Foxborough. Tom Brady keeps rolling along. Patriots 45, Redskins 16.
Tennessee at New Orleans: Three weeks ago, the Saints were left for dead. After winning three straight, an NFC wildcard spot is there for the taking. Tennessee has lost six in a row and just fired its coach. Saints 27, Titans 14.
Miami at Buffalo: This was supposed to be the year that one of these teams was expected to challenge the Patriots for AFC East supremacy. The only challenge now, however, is which of these teams can escape last place. Bills 17, Dolphins 14.
St. Louis at Minnesota: The Rams are positioned well to make a playoff run. To make that a reality, this is a must win in a rough venue. The young Vikings are starting to reach their potential and can jump right back in the NFC North title chase with a win. Vikings 34, Rams 24.
Jacksonville at New York Jets: The Jets have dropped two in a row and are in desperate need of a win. The Jaguars are coming off an upset win over Buffalo at London. Jets 30, Jaguars 14.
Oakland at Pittsburgh: Once upon a time, this was considered a marquee matchup. Not so much anymore, especially since the Steelers have lost star running back Le’Veon Bell for the season. Even without him, however, Pittsburgh puts up a fight. Steelers 21, Raiders 19.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay: At 4-4, the Giants lead the NFC East, while the 3-4 Bucs are bringing up the rear in the NFC South. After giving up 52 points in a three-point loss at New Orleans, the Giants may be lucky to run up against the offensively-challenged Buccaneers. Giants 23, Buccaneers 20.
Atlanta at San Francisco: The 49ers have traded tight end Vernon Davis to Denver and benched quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an effort to shake up the team. Not sure further limiting a struggling offense is the answer as Atlanta tries to get back on track. Falcons 17, 49ers 3.
Denver at Indianapolis: Peyton Manning has found the going rough against his old team, going 1-2 including splitting a pair of games last season. But the Colts have found the going rough against everyone this year and against one of the NFL’s best defenses, things could get even uglier this week. Broncos 24, Colts 14.
Philadelphia at Dallas: Since routing Dallas on Thanksgiving Day last season, the Eagles haven’t experienced much success since then, but remain in the thick of the NFC East title chase. Dallas is biding its time until it gets starting quarterback Tony Romo back from injury. Eagles 28, Cowboys 24.
Chicago at San Diego: These teams don’t play very frequently, but in the two previous Monday night matchups in San Diego, the Chargers came out on top. Dan Fouts and Ed Luther were San Diego’s winning QBs. Philip Rivers is confident enough he can add his name to the list. Chargers 35, Bears 24.
Byes: Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Seattle.
Last week: 9-5 (.643).
For the season: 71-48 (.597).
Predicting the Packers: 6-1 (.857).
Dan Kohn: 920-993-7173 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @PCDanKohn