The Denver Broncos are undefeated at home and in the mix for the top overall seed in the AFC as they prepare to host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Broncos have rebounded with back-to-back victories following a stunning 22-7 loss at St. Louis and hold a one-game lead over San Diego atop the AFC West while sitting in a tie with New England for the best conference record - although the Patriots hold the tiebreaker. C.J. Anderson has emerged as a force in the backfield to augment an already explosive attack.
Buffalo also has won two straight and is among a cluster of six teams at 7-5 who are battling for the final playoff berth but faces a brutal closing schedule that includes matchups against Green Bay and New England. Kyle Orton, who replaced EJ Manuel as the starter in Week 5 and has guided the Bills to a 5-3 record, returns to face the team that benched him in favor of Tim Tebow three years ago. "We're right there where we need to be with four games to go," Orton said after last week's 26-10 win over Cleveland.
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Broncos -10. O/U: 47.5
ABOUT THE BILLS (7-5): Orton was successful in his return to Denver on New Year's Day 2012, guiding Kansas City to a 7-3 victory, but one touchdown won't cut it against a Peyton Manning-led offense averaging 30.1 points. Orton has thrown for 13 touchdowns versus five interceptions but has failed to pass for 200 yards in two of the past three games, due to part to the struggles of rookie wideout Sammy Watkins, who is battling a hip injury and managed only 13 catches for 105 yards in four games last month. Robert Woods has helped pick up the slack with 13 receptions over the last two games and Fred Jackson provided a spark to the ground game with a season-high 70 yards last week. Buffalo leads the league with 48 sacks and the ability to pressure Manning will be a key to the game.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (9-3): Manning has thrown for a league-high 36 touchdowns, including six the past two weeks, but his overall numbers in the last two wins have been relatively pedestrian due to the emergence of Anderson in the backfield. Anderson, who started the season behind Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, churned out 167 yards in a 39-36 win over Miami on Nov. 30 before amassing 168 yards in last week's 29-16 victory at Kansas City. That provides another weapon to a passing game that features 1,000-yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who have combined for 170 catches and 17 touchdowns. Tight end Julius Thomas has an NFL-best 12 TDs despite missing the last two games, while Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have racked up 12 and 10 sacks, respectively.
1. Manning has thrown a TD pass in 51 straight games, the third-longest streak in history behind Drew Brees (54) and Tom Brady (52).
2. Jackson needs 21 receiving yards to become the third undrafted RB in history to record 5,000 yards rushing and 2,500 yards receiving.
3. Manning has been sacked only 13 times and faces the only defense in the league to feature three players with at least nine sacks apiece.
PREDICTION: Broncos 30, Bills 17
Need more winners Against the Spread? Get $60 in Free Premium Member Only picks from Doc’s Sports – A recognized leader and trusted name in sports handicapping since 1971. Click Here.
News Breaking News
Key Players to Watch
- NeckDoub Thurs | doubtful
Flacco has been activated from the PUP list while recuperating from a disc repair surgery in his neck. He is unlikely to make his season debut Thursday against the Broncos.
- ShinOut indefinitely | I-R
Wilkinson has been ticketed for the injured reserve list due to a shin injury, and it is unknown when he will come back.
- AnkleProb Thurs | probable
Okwuegbunam has missed the past three games due to an ankle injury, but he is likely to make his season debut Thursday versus the Jets.
- HamstringQues Thurs | questionable
Harris sat out the previous game due to a hamstring injury, and it is up in the air if he will take the field against the Jets on Thursday.
- NeckProb Thurs | probable
Harris is nursing injuries to his neck and quad. It is anticipated that he will be available Thursday against the Jets.
- BackProb Thurs | probable
Jackson is battling a back injury, but he is expected to take part in Thursday's contest versus the Jets.
- WristProb Thurs | probable
Marshall is hampered by a wrist injury, but he is projected to be in Thursday's lineup versus the Jets.
- ToeProb Thurs | probable
Lindsay is sidelined due to turf toe, but he is likely to return to action against the Jets on Thursday.
- ShoulderQues Sun | questionable
Dawkins was lifted from the last game with a shoulder injury, and it is unknown if he will line up against the Raiders on Sunday.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Hyde departed the last game due to an ankle injury, and it is uncertain if he will face the Raiders on Sunday.
- ToeProb Sun | probable
Moss sat out the last game with a toe injury, but it is likely that he will suit up against the Raiders on Sunday.
- ConcussionProb Sun | probable
Knox missed the last game with a concussion and is going through the league's protocol. It is likely that he will be cleared in time for Sunday's matchup versus the Raiders.
- Lower BodyQues Sun | questionable
Addison exited the last game with a lower-body injury, and it is unclear if he will play against the Raiders on Sunday.
- CalfQues Sun | questionable
Brown was forced from the previous game with a calf injury, and his availability for Sunday's contest against the Raiders is in question.
- HipProb Sun | probable
Beasley is dealing with injuries to his hip and thumb, but it is expected that he will partake in Sunday's battle with the Rams.
- KneeProb Sun | probable
Oliver is hampered by a knee injury, but it is projected that he will take the field Sunday against the Rams.