Hillis led the Broncos in rushing last year after being forced into the lineup at halfback because of injuries. Hillis has played mostly fullback this year, although he is among the team's options at tailback. He has been fourth most of the year behind LaMont Jordan, but recently he moved up to third.
Hillis became a fan favorite, but he hasn't played much under a new coaching regime. Last week after Correll Buckhalter got hurt in the first quarter, Hillis got only one carry despite Knowshon Moreno having a tough game.
"He's not in the doghouse," coach Josh McDaniels said.
McDaniels pointed out that Moreno and Buckhalter have played well this season, so he has no desire to change the formula on normal downs. But many have wondered why Hillis hasn't been the short-yardage back.
Moreno was stopped on a third-and-1 and a pair of fourth-and-1 situations against Indianapolis, and the 240-pound Hillis never got a chance to run the ball in a short-yardage situation. McDaniels explained that after Spencer Larsen, the normal short-yardage fullback, got hurt on the opening kickoff, Hillis was the only fullback remaining.
McDaniels also didn't place much blame on Moreno for the failed conversions.
"They've gotten short-yardage and goal-line conversions this year before, and I know this -- the back is the last thing I'm concerned about on short yardage," McDaniels said. "If you don't stop the penetration, which killed us (Sunday) in every single one of those situations, you can give the ball to Franco Harris or anybody else, they're not getting a yard."
--QB Kyle Orton had a pretty quiet game the first time the Broncos faced the Raiders, completing 13 passes for 157 yards. The Broncos rushed the ball 45 times for 215 yards in that game. The plan might not be much different, especially with Denver running the ball more often as the weather gets cold.
--RB Knowshon Moreno had 90 yards and a touchdown in a Week 3 game against Oakland. He is set up for many carries on Sunday, with Correll Buckhalter dealing with an ankle injury and Peyton Hillis rarely seeing the ball. Moreno could get his first 100-yard game.
--RB Correll Buckhalter had a great game against Oakland earlier this season, with 108 yards. However, he has an ankle injury that could keep him sidelined at least this week. Even if he plays, he could be limited.
--RB LaMont Jordan could be active for the first time since mid-November if Correll Buckhalter can't play. With Peyton Hillis' playing time on offense limited, Jordan could see a few carries behind Knowshon Moreno this week if he plays.
--WR Brandon Marshall will get plenty of attention from defenses the rest of the season. Indianapolis was fine allowing him to catch 21 passes, because none was a big gain. Other teams likely will try to force the Broncos to spread the ball more.
--WR Eddie Royal has played in every game this year and has been the Broncos' starting receiver, but he has five games in which he had 10 or fewer yards receiving. If teams start to focus on taking Brandon Marshall away, Royal will have to be more productive if the offense is to be successful.
--TE Tony Scheffler caught one pass for 14 yards against the Raiders in the first meeting this year. With Denver likely to employ a run-heavy attack, Scheffler is unlikely to see many passes this week.
--K Matt Prater missed a field goal against Indianapolis. The Broncos have no complaints about Prater's work this season, considering that was his first miss since Oct. 19. He hit 10 field goals in a row after Denver's Week 7 bye.
--LB Elvis Dumervil had two sacks the first time he played the Raiders this season. Oakland has given up the third-most sacks in the NFL this season, so Dumervil could be in for a big game as he chases a 20-sack season.
--S Josh Barrett has been used in certain packages by the Broncos, but he could be on the spot the rest of the season. Denver is beat up at safety, with Renaldo Hill dealing with an ankle injury and Darcel McBath out for the season. The Broncos' other options at safety after Brian Dawkins and Hill are rookie David Bruton and newly signed Vernon Fox.
--LB D.J. Williams leads the Broncos in tackles and should add to his total this week. Williams had seven solo tackles in the first meeting against the Raiders, a team that relies heavily on its rushing offense to gain yards.
Broncos Update Community Forums