Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) at Denver Broncos (4-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)
SERIES: Seventh game. The series is tied 3-3 in the regular season although they also split two playoff games. The Jaguars won, 30-27, in 1996 in probably the biggest win in franchise history that propelled them to the AFC title game in just their second season and lost 42-17 the following season when Denver went on to win the Super Bowl. The Jaguars won the last meeting, 23-14, in Denver last year. The Jaguars took control of the game with 17 points in the second period.
PREDICTION: Broncos 30-27
KEYS TO THE GAME: The question for the Jaguars is which Broncos defense will show up. Denver's much-maligned unit held Tampa Bay to 307 total yards last Sunday, although 139 came on the ground. That's promising for Jacksonville, whose offense has yet to hit its stride with RBs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew struggling to find running room behind the beat up offensive line. ... Even with a subpar outing against the Bucs, the Broncos still rank second in the NFL with 415 yards of total offense and 296.8 passing yards per game. That's a major red flag for the Jaguars, whose biggest weakness is their inability to get to the quarterback -- just eight sacks through five games. However, the Broncos will be minus two important players in starters RB Selvin Young and TE Tony Scheffler, and electrifying rookie WR Eddie Royal is also a question mark.
KEY INJURIES: Jaguars: CB Drayton Florence (groin) hopes to return while FS Reggie Nelson (knee) appears likely to miss a third straight game. Broncos: Young and Scheffler are out with groin injuries; Royal (ankle) is day-to-day; WR Darrell Jackson (calf) is practicing and might play.
FAST FACTS: All five Jaguars opponents have scored on their final drives this season. ... A Broncos win would be the 400th in franchise history.
--CB Drayton Florence, who missed last week's game with a groin injury, saw limited duty for the second consecutive day Thursday and it remains to be seen if he'll be able to play in Denver. If he can't, Brian Williams will probably remain at cornerback. He was moved there from safety after William James was pulled in the second period.
--G Chris Naeole returned to full-time duty for the first time since being re-signed on Sept. 17, a sign he could play in Denver.
--C Brad Meester returned to full-time duty for the first time since undergoing biceps surgery in training camp although the Jaguars may hold him out until after the bye week.
--KR Brian Witherspoon (thigh) saw limited duty Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's practice.
--LB Clint Ingram (thigh) saw full-time duty Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
--RB Fred Taylor has gained over 100 yards against 24 teams. He tries to make Denver the 25th Sunday.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban had a limited practice on Thursday. If he continues to improve from his groin injury, he could play this week.
--TE Tony Scheffler hasn't been ruled out of Denver's Oct. 20 game against New England, but the Broncos have their bye week after that. The coaches have a lot of confidence in Nate Jackson, so it's possible they could let Scheffler's injured groin have an extra week of rest by sitting him next week.
--DT Dewayne Robertson said his knee is fine, and he has been a full participant in practice this week. Robertson has a chronic knee condition but he has played through it for most of his NFL career and has missed very few games.
--S Vernon Fox played special teams for the Broncos last week. If the veteran continues to learn the defensive scheme, he could push for playing time on defense as well.
--P Brett Kern is off to a solid start. He is a bit inconsistent but his numbers are good. He is averaging 47.9 yards per punt, with a net average of 41.6 yards.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Guard Chris Naeole saw full duty in practice Thursday for the first time since he was signed by the team on Sept. 17 after being cut last March.
That could be a sign that Naeole has a chance to return to the lineup in Denver Sunday, although the club could wait until after the bye week to bring him back.
Naeole's presence could make a major difference because both their starting guards, Vince Manuwai and Mo Williams, have been lost for the season with injuries.
Journeyman Milford Brown has been playing right guard and he's struggled at times. Naeole would be an upgrade if they can plug him in there.
The injuries in the line are one of the reasons why the running game has struggled. The Jaguars rank just 19th in rushing the ball although Denver's rush defense is ranked 25th so Fred Taylor and Maurice Drew could have big games.
Last year, they dominated Denver as Taylor, who has never rushed for 100 yards against Denver, rushed 17 times for 84 yards and Drew had 15 rushes although he only gained 37 yards. But the 32 rushes for the two runners showed they were controlling the ball as they had an 18-play, 80-yard drive.
Taylor has rushed for 100 yards against 24 teams and Denver would be the 25th if he does it.
Center Brad Meester also practiced for the first time on a full-time basis since undergoing biceps surgery but coach Jack Del Rio has indicated they'll probably wait until after the bye week to bring him back.
In the other two changes on the injury report, kick returner Brian Witherspoon saw limited duty with a thigh injury after sitting out Wednesday's practice. And linebacker Clint Ingram returned to full-time duty after being limited Wednesday.
Eddie Royal returned to practice Thursday, but was limited and is no sure bet to play this week against Jacksonville.
The Broncos' rookie receiver has an ankle injury, which was described as a bone bruise. He suffered the injury returning punts last Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Royal couldn't say if he would play after practice, but said he's improving.
"I'm feeling all right, feeling good," Royal said. "Better than yesterday, so that's a good thing. I feel like it's getting better."
If Royal doesn't play, he'll be replaced in the starting lineup by Darrell Jackson, who looks ready to return from a calf injury after two full practices this week, or Brandon Stokley. The Broncos have said they want to avoid playing Stokley every down so they can keep him fresh.
Royal still has a few days to recover before the Broncos have to make a decision on his status.
"I'm just trying to get better every day," Royal said. "The rehab is helping out a lot, we'll just have to wait and see."
Broncos v. Jaguars Game Preview
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