Denver Broncos (6-2) at Washington Redskins (2-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)
PREDICTION: Broncos 17-9
KEYS TO THE GAME: The blueprint for breaking down Denver's offense is becoming clear - stuff the running game and then take advantage of QB Kyle Orton when he's forced to stretch the field. The Broncos prefer to rely on the underneath passing game and let their receivers make plays after the catch. Washington's offense will start yet another offensive line combination. Even more concerning is the expected absence of RB Clinton Portis (concussion). Backup Ladell Betts must establish the run so QB Jason Campbell doesn't suffer another physical beating against Denver's strong pass rush.
Need to know: Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno leads all rookies with 423 rushing yards. ... The Redskins are averaging 12.0 points through four home games and have yet to score more than 17 in any game.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said the change on the offensive line wasn't directly related to Ben Hamilton's play. He might have taken a fall for the entire offense's struggles recently.
Hamilton has been benched in favor of Russ Hochstein at left guard. That comes after the Broncos have gained less than 100 rushing yards combined in their last two games.
"We're going to see how that goes and evaluate it ongoing," McDaniels said. "This isn't an anointment of anybody, or anything tremendously negative about Ben Hamilton. We're just going to see if this makes the situation any better."
Hochstein isn't coming in cold off the bench. He has a pair of starts this year because of injuries to right guard Chris Kuper and Hamilton. He has also been used often in situational work. He played some tight end against Pittsburgh on Monday, and has been the lead blocker in the Broncos' goal-line package.
"Overall, I'm just excited to get out and help my team," Hochstein said. "Whatever capacity they use me, I'm happy with."
He has a tough matchup right away. Hochstein will spend plenty of time against Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. He will get some help, but it'll be a tough individual test.
"This guy is a great player," Hochstein said.
As is always the case in sports, one man's injury is another's opportunity. So while Reed Doughty isn't happy that his pal, Chris Horton, had season-ending toe surgery Wednesday, the fourth-year safety is looking at his most extended chance to show that he's a legitimate NFL starter.
Doughty, a sixth-round selection in the 2006 draft, started the final seven games of 2007 after star Sean Taylor was injured and then was killed after he was shot in the upper thigh by a home intruder.
Doughty opened 2008 as the starter before a back injury that required surgery ended his season in October. Horton replaced him and became the first player in 21 years to intercept two passes and recover a fumble in his first start en route to a solid year.
So Doughty, who re-signed as a restricted free agent in March, figured he would return to the special teams role he had when Taylor was starting. However, Doughty and Horton have basically split time, with Doughty starting three games and Horton five.
"Coming back, I really thought I would just be special teams," said Doughty, who has recorded his first full sack and whose 43 tackles are just 10 shy of his career high.
"I've taken a lot of snaps already. (But) there's no guarantee I get to start (the next) eight games. There are injuries and maybe they'll switch things up. I just try to take care of what I can and play well."
Doughty has done that, helping the Redskins rank first against the pass and fifth overall on defense while having his best season. "All around, special teams and defense this has been a solid year for me," Doughty said. "Some of it's experience. Some of it's confidence. A lot of it is just how I feel (physically)."
And Doughty feels for Horton. After all, he was in the same place a year ago.
"When something like this happens, you think, 'Oh, it might be one or two weeks,' but then it's like, 'OK, I'm done,'" Doughty said. "It's hard to take there for a little bit. But Chris is young. He'll make a full recovery."
--WR Brandon Marshall returned to practice on Thursday. He was held out Wednesday with a back injury, but should be fine to play this week.
--OT Ryan Harris missed his second straight day of practice with a toe injury, which isn't surprising. Harris has very little chance of returning to the lineup this week.
--DE Ryan McBean had his second straight limited practice this week. He sat out last week with a knee injury. He might be held out again to make sure he is 100 percent when he returns, but he is getting closer.
--S Josh Barrett has missed two straight practice days with a hamstring injury. Unless he makes a rapid recovery, Barrett could be out this week. That would hurt Denver's special teams.
--G Ben Hamilton could be gone from the team after this season. He has been benched from his starting spot, and he is 32 years old. Hamilton's contract runs out after this season and it appears he is unlikely to be re-signed.
--RB Clinton Portis, who suffered a concussion during the first quarter at Atlanta, didn't practice Thursday and has been ruled out of Sunday's game with Denver.
--RB Ladell Betts was limited Thursday with a mild sprained ankle but is expected to start against the Broncos in Portis' place. Betts' last start was in the 2006 finale.
--G Chad Rinehart has won the RG job back that he lost to Mike Williams and then to Will Montgomery after making his first career starts in Weeks 3-4.
--OT Stephon Heyer (knee) didn't practice Thursday. If Heyer can't play Sunday, D'Anthony Batiste will make his first career start at tackle and hasn't started a game at any spot since December 2007.
--P Hunter Smith (groin) will try to punt Friday to see if he can return Sunday after missing three of the past four games. P Sam Paulescu, who filled in last week, remains on the roster, and will punt against the Broncos if Smith isn't ready.
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