Broncos Update Insider - 12/17

Going into their rematch against the Raiders, Denver's playoff picture is pretty clear. Check out what's in store for the Broncos in today's edition of Broncos Update Insider.

Going into their rematch against the Raiders, Denver's playoff picture is pretty clear.

If the Broncos just beat the 4-9 Raiders and the 3-10 Chiefs in the season finale -- they've already scored one win against each of those teams -- they will have at least 10 wins. The worst they could do in that scenario is tie for a wild-card berth -- and they would need at least two of the four 7-6 teams to go undefeated and lose tiebreakers.

The AFC West will be tougher to win. The Broncos trail the Chargers by two games. The good news for Denver is if it does finish tied for the AFC West lead, the Broncos would own almost every possible tiebreaker against the Chargers.

While the Broncos are in pretty good shape for a playoff berth going into the final stretch of the season, they don't want to discuss it. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels deflected a question about the team's playoff situation, obviously not wanting to lose focus with three games left (Denver also plays at Philadelphia).

"I think we have a lot of room to improve," McDaniels said. "(Sunday's loss at Indianapolis) was an opportunity to learn what it's like to play against the very best at this time of the year and see what happens when you make too many errors."

The Broncos are a good bet to make the playoffs because they have been very good against losing teams. Denver has played four games against losing teams and has a 3-1 record in those games. The only loss was at Washington, and the Broncos led that game at halftime. Quarterback Kyle Orton was knocked out of the game on the final play of the first half.

The manner in which the Broncos beat those teams is a good sign for the two remaining games against losing teams. Denver's three wins over losing teams came by a combined score of 94-22.

"In this league, if you're not prepared on Sunday, you can lose no matter who you play," running back Correll Buckhalter said.

Safety Brian Dawkins said he doesn't care about a team's record. The Broncos' veteran leadership has been credited as one reason the Broncos have not played down to the competition this season.

"A guy like Dawkins is never going to let down," linebacker Darrell Reid said. "The leaders of this team and the coaches, it trickles down."

SERIES HISTORY: 99th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 55-41-2, but Broncos won the first meeting this season. Oakland did score a surprising 31-10 win at Denver late last season, which helped keep the Broncos out of the playoffs.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos will have an interesting offseason. WR Brandon Marshall, DE Elvis Dumervil, QB Kyle Orton and OG Chris Kuper are among the players whose contracts are expiring. Although many people are starting to wonder how the Broncos will handle their free agents, especially NFL sack leader Dumervil and Marshall, who is coming off a 21-catch game, the team won't discuss the scenarios.

"I'm not going to talk about contracts," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.

--The Broncos have some shuffling to do at safety this week. Renaldo Hill missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury, and his status is up in the air. The team hasn't ruled him out but he would need to make a quick recovery. Rookie David Bruton worked with the starters during the open period of practice, but coach Josh McDaniels said Bruton, Josh Barrett and newly-signed veteran Vernon Fox will all get practice reps.

Hill's injury is tough for the Broncos because he calls many of the signals for the defense. That will fall on either a young player like Bruton or Barrett, or Fox, who signed only a couple days ago.

--The Broncos don't have much film on QB Charlie Frye, who will start for the Raiders on Sunday. Frye hasn't played this season. Coach Josh McDaniels said the coaching staff will put together some film of Frye, but said he doesn't think the Raiders' approach will change much, no matter who plays at quarterback.

"It's about what they do as a team," said S Brian Dawkins. "They're going to try to run the ball and take shots when they get opportunities. You prepare for what they do best."

BY THE NUMBERS: 19-3 -- Kyle Orton's home record as a starting quarterback. That's the best winning percentage for a quarterback since the 1970 merger.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is a one-game attitude. You can't try and crop them together and say, 'If we do this ...' 'If' will get you beat every week, so we've got to go out and make sure we concentrate on this team, which is a very talented team." -- Broncos safety Brian Dawkins.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Although the Broncos seem to believe in a rotation at tailback, it seems they only believe in that approach if Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno are healthy. In the games Buckhalter has gone out, Moreno has gotten almost every carry.

That trend should continue this week against the Raiders, who have the 30th-ranked defense in the NFL. Buckhalter will be questionable, at best, with an ankle injury. Moreno is still chasing his first 100-yard game in the NFL, and this could be the week. He should get plenty of carries if Buckhalter doesn't play. LaMont Jordan and Peyton Hillis are Denver's other tailback options. One situation that bears watching is if Moreno holds onto the short-yardage job, after struggling in that role last week.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Knowshon Moreno is on pace for 1,000 yards this season. If he reaches that mark, he would be the sixth rookie in Broncos history to have 1,000 rushing yards. He was limited Wednesday with an ankle injury but should be ready to play on Sunday.

--C Casey Wiegmann has played 8,871 consecutive snaps. That is the longest streak in the NFL. The ironman center has been an anchor for the Broncos' offensive line.

--P Mitch Berger started slow but has played better lately. Since he signed, the Broncos' net punting average has shown the second-most improvement in the NFL, plus-4.8 yards.

--WR Brandon Marshall has eight games with at least 10 catches in his career. That is the most of any player in NFL history through his first four seasons.

--LB Elvis Dumervil is one sack away from breaking the team's single-season record of 16, set in 1992 by Simon Fletcher. Dumervil has a toe injury and didn't practice Wednesday. There have been no indications the injury will keep him out of Sunday's game.





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