We are three weeks into the NFL’s regular season and I have a few observations. However, I must confess that I am in six fantasy leagues this fall. Way too many. I find myself rooting against my own players. Not good.

In this column I will look at my favorite teams — New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams — as well as the Denver Broncos and the handful of District 12 and District 2 high school grads that have gone on to play professionally on gridirons at the highest level.

Let’s address the hallowed four former prep stars from our area who have played in regular-season NFL games, according to Pro Football Reference: Cheyenne Mountain’s Matt Darwin; Sierra’s Aaron Smith and Alex Molden; and Harrison’s Tony Woods.

Darwin started 52 of the 61 games he played in for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1986-90. He was selected by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 1986 draft and played center and tackle. He had two fumble recoveries.

Darwin played in the famous “Fog Bowl” at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Dec. 31, 1988. The Bears won the playoff game, 20-12.

Smith had the best career of anyone from our area. He was part of two Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers teams (2005 and 2008 seasons) and is a member of the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame.

Smith played defensive end for the Steelers from 1999-2011, starting 152 of 160 games while recording 44 quarterback sacks. The University of Northern Colorado grad played in 13 playoff games for the Steelers. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Steelers in 1999.

Molden was selected in the first round by the New Orleans Saints in 1996 out of Oregon. A defensive back, he started 57 of 98 games for the Saints, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions. He had 12 interceptions and played in two playoff games.

Woods played one season (1989) for the Bears as a defensive tackle, He started two of 15 games. Woods was drafted by the Bears in the 8th round out of Oklahoma.

One other former NFL player who lives in our area is Simla High School’s Barry Helton. He is perhaps our area’s most famous former NFL player since the death of Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame tackle Forrest Gregg in April. I interviewed Gregg for the Cheyenne Edition a few years ago at his Broadmoor-area home. He was a prince of a man.

Now back to Helton …

He was a star prep athlete for the small school of Simla before heading to Colorado State University to star for the Rams. A punter, he kicked for the San Francisco 49ers teams that won Super Bowls following the 1988 and 1989 seasons. Helton’s son, Brad, is a junior wide receiver on the Cheyenne Mountain football team this fall.

Now onto the Patriots and Rams …

I am fully aware that the majority of football fans in Colorado dislike the Patriots, most of all quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Most Patriots detractors would also say they appreciate what the team has done over the last two decades, beginning in 2001 when Brady, a 2000 sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan, was installed as the starter after Drew Bledsoe was injured.

The Broncos, along with the other 30 NFL teams, should take note of how the Patriots do things. “The Patriots way,” as it has been called, has yielded six Super Bowl titles during the Brady-Belichick era and found the team as Super Bowl runner-up three other times. The team has played in 13 AFC Championship games since the 2001 season.

It baffles me why the rest of the NFL doesn’t do things the Patriots way. New England’s run is unprecedented in NFL history.

The Rams, the team I grew up with in Southern California, always will be my No. 1. The fact that they played the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl had me happier than a pig in slop.

The Rams have one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL under the guidance of Sean McVay.

By the way, when the Broncos moved on from Gary Kubiak as coach following the 2016 season, many in the organization wanted to interview McVay. But John Elway passed, choosing instead to hire Vance Joseph.

Danny Summers has been covering sports at all levels in the Pikes Peak region since 2001. Send your story ideas and feedback to danny.summers@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

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