Speculation and concerns over Peyton Manning's performance of late are being directed into Dove Valley by the minute. His timing is off with his receivers' routes. Over-doing the run attack is spoiling his rhythm. Is he hurt again?
These are the primary talking points on Denver sports radio these days. It's all speculation, at the end of the day. Manning and the Broncos simply need to play better than they did against the Bengals and all will be fine.
They have many areas to improve on before the playoffs, but will look to have an all around team victory in week 17 against the Oakland Raiders and secure a first-round bye.
Oakland sits at 3-12 and are an (im)perfect 0-7 on the road. They come into Denver as the winners of three of their last five games, looking to play the role of a spoiler.
If Denver were to lose this game and Cincinnati goes on the road and beats the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati would receive the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while Denver would fall to the No. 3 seed and be forced to host a Wildcard game next weekend.
Oakland’s quarterback, Derek Carr, has definitely come into his own as of late. Although Oakland is win-less on the road, the Broncos know they can’t take Carr, or the resurgent defense, for granted.
When cornerback, Chris Harris, Jr., was asked about Carr and how he has changed since the Broncos win in Oakland earlier in the year, he was complimentary.
“He’s gotten a lot more comfortable," Harris said earlier this week. "They are running the ball a lot better than they were earlier in the season to relieve some pressure on him; he’s not making a lot of mistakes. You expect that as a rookie. He’s started all year long so he has to get better. You expect him to get better as the year goes on and I’m sure he’ll be ready for us this week.”
Oakland’s defense comes into week 17 ranked No. 30 in the NFL in points allowed and gives up an average of 117.9 rushing yards per game. One thing fans hope to see this week is the Denver offense back on track, running the ball regularly and with power.
As for the Broncos passing game, more of a concern than Manning is how Julius Thomas can get into playoff shape. Thomas is coming back from an ankle injury and has not looked like his former dominant self.
Denver should use today's game to get him back on track too. Once the offense gets the run and pass game on point, firing on all cylinders within the same game, watch out, NFL.
Oakland can’t be taken lightly today. The Broncos know what is a stake. They could really use the rest that a bye week would bring. The Broncos have already clinched a playoff berth. Today is a must-win because of that bye.
And as we've seen over the years, No. 1 seeds have lost at home. Remember 2012 and the Baltimore Ravens? And the New England Patriots have been known to drop a game at home in the post-season. In the NFL tournament, anything can happen. Securing the No. 2 seed could lead to the opportunity of hosting the AFC Championship game.
Because of what's on the line, I see Denver winning this game 27-13.