Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos (-10, 41.5)
If the Buffalo Bills want to end their 14-year playoff drought, they are going to have to do it the hard way.
At 7-5, the Bills are tied with five other teams for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. With many solid teams in the hunt, Buffalo may have to win-out to separate itself from the pack. The first step in winning-out is beating the Denver Broncos at Mile High this afternoon (4:05 p.m. Eastern).
Buffalo has won the last two in the series, including one in Denver, but those were back in the pre-Manning days. Denver is a perfect 6-0 at home this year, and are ten-point favorites for today’s game.
With Manning under center – and seemingly endless weapons out wide – the Broncos have the second-best passing offense in the league, averaging 304.4 yards per game. But, in their last two games, the running game has been the key to victory. Running back C.J. Anderson has rushed for 335 yards combined over the last two weeks, taking some pressure off of Manning and the receivers.
Today’s game promises an epic battle in the trenches. Denver will want to ride Anderson’s hot streak, but the Bills are seventh in the league against the run. Moreover, when Peyton drops back to pass, the best pass rush in the league will be slugging it out with the stingiest O-line. (The Bills lead the league in sacks with 48, while the Broncos have allowed a league-low 13.)
When Buffalo has the ball, QB Kyle Orton will be trying to score on his former team. Orton, a Bronco from 2009-2011, has been serviceable since replacing E.J. Manuel as the Bills’ starter; in his last five games, he has thrown eight touchdowns and three interceptions, leading the Bills to three wins (including two straight in weeks 12 and 13).
With Green Bay and New England still left on Buffalo’s schedule, Orton and company need to come up with an upset win this weekend to keep their playoff hopes alive.
What Buffalo needs, though, and what will actually transpire are very different things. (There is a reason the Broncos are third in the Super Bowl futures odds.) Look for the Broncos to stay undefeated at home and tied with the Patriots for top spot in the AFC.
(Photo credit: Henry D19 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)