Broncos v. Lions Game Preview

The Denver Broncos have played -- and lost -- just two road games this season. They are seeking more consistency on offense, which begins with improved play inside the red zone, where they have scored just 11 touchdowns in 23 possessions.

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Denver Broncos (3-4) at Detroit Lions (5-2)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF:
Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/4/07
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
SERIES: 10th meeting. Broncos lead series, 6-3. These teams haven't met since 2003, when the Lions lost at Denver, 20-16. The Broncos have won five of the last six, dating to 1981.

PREDICTION: Lions 27-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos have played -- and lost -- just two road games this season. They are seeking more consistency on offense, which begins with improved play inside the red zone, where they have scored just 11 touchdowns in 23 possessions. RB Travis Henry is expected back in the lineup, and must carry a heavy load to help keep the defense fresh against the Lions' explosive offense. Detroit gives up 367.1 yards per game, and the key could be whether they are able to stiffen enough to limit Denver to field goals. ... The Lions have been able to hold on to fourth-quarter leads the past two weeks in large part because RB Kevin Jones has become more involved in the offense. The Broncos have a quandary -- because they have to dedicate so much attention to their league-worst run defense (166.0 yards per game) it has left their corners more exposed, and CBs Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly were each burned for big plays Monday. That's music to the ears of the Lions, who are due to open up the passing game at home, where they are averaging 26.7 points.

KEY INJURIES:
Broncos: RB Travis Henry (ribs) is expected to start; S John Lynch (neck stinger) is uncertain and would be replaced by Domonique Foxworth; WR Javon Walker (knee) is out at least a few more weeks.

Lions: WR Calvin Johnson (back) continues to be a bit limited; RT George Foster (ankle sprain) and DE Kalimba Edwards (ankle sprain) are day-to-day.

FAST FACTS: The Broncos play six road games in the next eight weeks. ... The Lions are 5-2 for the first time since 2000.

PERSONNEL NEWS:
Broncos:

--S John Lynch has no structural damage in his neck and can play as soon as the symptoms from a stinger he suffered against Green Bay subside. Lynch was a limited participant in practice Thursday.

--DT Sam Adams returned to practice Thursday. Adams has been getting every Wednesday off during the season to keep his knees healthy.

--RB Travis Henry was a full participant in practice for the second straight day. He has injured ribs but should be able to play this week.

--LB D.J. Williams has practiced all week despite a shoulder injury. He suffered the injury against Green Bay but stayed in the game.

--CB Champ Bailey was limited most of last week with a quadriceps injury, but has been a full participant all week in practice. Bailey gave up a long touchdown against Green Bay last week.

Lions:
--WR Calvin Johnson, who aggravated a back injury Sunday at Chicago, was gimpy in practice Wednesday, according to offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The Lions hope Johnson will improve as the week goes on. He should play Sunday against Denver, but he might not be able to handle a full load.

--DE Kalimba Edwards, who missed the Chicago game with a knee injury, was officially limited in practice Wednesday. But defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Edwards looked good and said he had no soreness Thursday. Edwards should be ready to return to the lineup and start at right end.

--RT George Foster is struggling with an ankle injury and his status is uncertain for Sunday's game against his former team, the Broncos. He was not with the starters during team drills Thursday.

--RB Tatum Bell, another former Bronco, could be inactive for the second straight game. Kevin Jones and T.J. Duckett are the one-two punch at running back, and Aveion Cason has special teams value.

--CB Travis Fisher, who suffered a back injury Sunday at Chicago, has practiced fully this week and appears to be fine for Sunday's game against Denver.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Broncos:

Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan brought bad news with him after practice Thursday. He announced receiver Rod Smith would miss the rest of the season because his hip isn't recovering, and rookie defensive end Jarvis Moss fractured his right fibula in practice and would also miss the rest of the season.

Smith had returned to practice last week. He had hip surgery in February. The Broncos had until Nov. 14 to activate him off the physically unable to perform list, but Shanahan said Smith wasn't going to be ready so they shut him down.

As for Smith's future, Shanahan said he wasn't sure what the 37-year-old receiver would do.

"I think it all depends on the progress he makes in the next three months and how he feels," Shanahan said. "Right now he's not in position to practice. You can see he's too far away."

Moss, Denver's first-round pick in April, was inactive last week but the Broncos still thought he could be an impact player for them later this season. Shanahan said Moss also tore ligaments in his ankle, and will need surgery. His recovery time will be three-to-four months, so he will go on injured reserve.

Moss' injury happened during a drill, where he fell awkwardly trying to break free from an offensive lineman.

"Kind of a freak accident," Shanahan said.

Lions:
People have been talking a lot about the past with cornerback Dre' Bly returning to Detroit for Sunday's Broncos-Lions game. Bly went to two Pro Bowls in four years with the Lions. He also ignited a firestorm by blaming coach Steve Mariucci's firing on quarterback Joey Harrington, and he probably will be booed for it by the Ford Field fans.

But the present is a lot of fun to talk about, too. The Lions have 13 interceptions this season -- one more than they had all of last season -- even though they traded Bly, who led them in interceptions each of the last four years. Now Bly will have to go up against the Lions' receiving corps of Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald.

"There's going to be trash talking all day," Williams said. "That's what Dre' does. He's gonna talk trash to the fans. He's gonna talk trash to us. He'll talk trash to the refs. That's just the way Dre' plays. He's a Pro Bowler. He's won a Super Bowl."

The trash talk will go beyond football.

"We're both competitors," Williams said. "We both make stupid bets: who could spell their name the fastest, Dre' or Roy. We're real competitive. We want to be the best at everything we do, so it's going to be a great matchup this week."

Why did the Lions get rid of Bly? The official reason was that he didn't fit the system. Translation: He wasn't physical enough. The Tampa-2 defense requires corners to play zone, stick their noses in there and tackle well. Bly prefers man-to-man coverage.

"Of course, he's not the best tackler in the world," Williams said, smiling. "That's why we let him go, because we need corners that can tackle. ... Dre' is not a hitter, period. Dre' is a no-hitter. Isn't that term in baseball, a no-hitter? He's a no-hitter. ...

"If I was to run 10 routes on Dre', it'd probably be 60-40, advantage me. But as far as if (running back) Kevin Jones ran at him, 10 out of 10 times Dre is going to miss the tackle."

Told Bly might be offended by those remarks, Williams smiled and said he wouldn't be.

"He knows it's true," Williams said.



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