FOXBORO -- Brian Waters played football in the AFC West for 11 years. You've got to assume he has some hatred banked for the Broncos, right?
"Not as much as I used to," Waters said Wednesday. "Being where I was before, that just kind of came along with the job. You kind of got accustomed to the fact that there were going to be certain rivalry weeks that things were going to be more emphasized."
Though the rivalry aspect is lacking in New England, Waters is expecting a dogfight Saturday night. He refused to be surprised at Denver's regular season highs and recent Wild Card win over Pittsburgh. And all the pooh-poohing about the Broncos running a college-style option offense? Waters isn't listening. From what this Patriots O-lineman can see, Denver is getting by on something more tangible than Divine Intervention.
"If you watch them and really play close attention to them, they play the type of football that has always been very productive in the NFL," Waters said. "They run the ball well, they move the ball in the run game, they get after the quarterback and they also stop the run. Theyre a very fast defense. They have some really good specialists, with a kicker who is able to kick the ball far and make lots of long field goals. They have a really good returner back there in Eddie Royal. They play the football game the way a lot of teams have played historically that have been productive."
New home team, same old mission of beating the Broncos.
But there's one, big thing about this Denver matchup that escaped him in Kansas City: the chance at a conference championship. Waters has been to the Divisional playoffs before (the Chiefs lost to Indianapolis in 2003) and wants to step forward. He's excited, he's ready.
He hopes the rest of New England can feel it as the Broncos ride into town.
"I expect it to be electric. Its the playoffs. Its a great opportunity for everybody, whoever is touching that field from both sides. I think the energy will be high. I expect it to be as electric as its been. It was electric out there, so I expect it to be even better here."
NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.
As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.
"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.
"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."
Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.
-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.
-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.
-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.
-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.
-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.
-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.
-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.
-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.