Gameday Tipsheet: Week 16

Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Brandon Marshall vs. Leodis McKelvin – Buffalo's rookie cornerback has really matured this season, but he hasn't faced anyone quite like Marshall. Sure he's seen tall receivers like Randy Moss, but Marshall has 25 pounds on the Patriots receiver. Marshall is physical and can run. It'll be a big test.

  1. Eddie Royal vs. Terrence McGee – On the other side the matchup will be just as intriguing. Royal is a polished route runner, who is excellent at gaining separation. McGee should be able to keep him in check with all the snaps he gets against Roscoe Parrish.
  1. Casey Wiegmann vs. Marcus Stroud – Wiegmann will likely get help from his guards, but Stroud should have success pushing the pocket in this matchup and might be able to find cracks in Denver's zone blocking scheme against the run.

Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Run game – Buffalo's ground game has been producing of late with four of their best rushing games over the past five weeks. If Marshawn Lynch's bruised shoulder is okay, the Bills should have success on the ground against Denver's run front which allows over 140 rushing yards a game (140.1).

Best advantage – Return game – Roscoe Parrish leads the league for the second straight season in punt  return average (15.3) and the unit ranks first in the league as well. The Broncos are a mere 28th in punt coverage.

Leodis McKelvin leads the AFC in kick return average (29.3) and as a team Buffalo's return unit ranks third. Buffalo also leads the league in average drive start at better than the 32-yard line, due mainly to their kick return success. Denver's kickoff coverage is nothing to write home about as it ranks 27th in the NFL.

Bills #1 must
Control the clock – The Bills need to run the ball successfully much like they have four of the last five games, and then they need to finish those drives by pounding it into the end zone. A consistent run game will allow Trent Edwards to get his legs back under him after missing two games and more importantly will keep the ball out of Jay Cutler's hands.

Scouting eye
Clinchers? The Broncos will certainly be motivated on Sunday as a win would give them the AFC West division title. They can also clinch the division with a San Diego loss at Tampa and the Chargers play at 1pm, but Denver head coach Mike Shanahan said there will be no TVs on in the Denver locker room and no mention of that game in the stadium.

Youth movement: Much like the Bills, the Broncos have one of the youngest rosters in the league. Denver's squad includes a total of 12 rookies, six of which have played in all 14 games this season, an NFL high. Rookie left tackle Ryan Clady and receiver Eddie Royal have been the first-year standouts. Clady has started all 14 games and given up just a half sack all season. Royal meanwhile ranks sixth in the NFL in combined yards (1,623) including 847 yards receiving and five touchdowns. He also serves as the team's punt and kick returner.

Cutting up defenses: Denver has re-invented its offense relying far more on the arm of Jay Cutler instead of their well-recognized rushing attack. And Cutler hasn't disappointed as the Broncos have the second-ranked offense in football. The Pro Bowl signal caller leads the AFC in passing yards (3,851) and has six 300-yard passing games. He's also fourth in the NFL in completions and fourth in touchdowns passes with 24. Cutler is just 239 passing yards away from setting a franchise record for passing yards in a season.

The Broncos staff likes to get Cutler out on the move with a lot of designed rollouts and bootlegs. The third-year quarterback is very effective making plays on the run, and has led to very few sacks. Denver has given up just 11 sacks in 14 games. Only Tennessee has given up fewer (8).

Big targets: Cutler tends to look for his big targets when he gets in the red zone. Top wideout Brandon Marshall (6'5" 230) and tight ends Tony Scheffler (6'5" 250) and Daniel Graham (6'3" 257) have caught half of Cutler's touchdown passes this season. Marshall leads the teams with six, with Scheffler (4) and Graham (2) accounting for the rest of the 12 scores.

And surprisingly, Scheffler is more than a red zone target. The tight end leads the NFL in yards per reception with a rare 15.6 mark. In fact Scheffler's receiving average leads the Broncos receiving corps as well.

Mash unit: This time of year every NFL team is dealing with injuries, but you'd be hard pressed to find another team in the league that has put five running backs on injured reserve. Anthony Alridge, Andre Hall, Peyton Hillis, Michael Pittman and Ryan Torain have all had their seasons end prematurely due to injury.

Back from injury is Selvin Young and back for a second tour with the Broncos is Tatum Bell, who was re-signed. Denver also called P.J. Pope up from the practice squad to help carry the load. Despite all the personnel changes the Broncos still average better than 113 yards per game on the ground.

Starters back? Not only have the Broncos been without a host of running backs this season, but at one time all three of their starting linebackers were out of the lineup. Boss Bailey was lost for the season, but MLB Nate Webster is back and fellow starter D.J. Williams just returned to the lineup after missing five games.

The starters have made a difference. Over the last seven games Denver's run defense has shaved 29 yards off the average number of rushing yards they surrender per game in comparison to their first seven contests.

Cornerback Champ Bailey may also return to the lineup from a groin injury that has forced him to miss the last seven games.
Prater pounding the ball
Denver kicker Matt Prater benefits from the thin air in the mile high city when it comes to getting distance on his kicks, but he's proven he's got some leg strength with some long kicks on the road.

In fact Prater hit two 50-yarders in one game at Kansas City from 51 and 56 yards. He was the first Broncos kicker in team history to do that on the road.

As strong as his leg is he's also accurate. Prater is 5-for-5 on field goal attempts of 50 yards or more this season. His five successful 50-yarders have him tied for third in the league this season behind only a pair of dome kickers in Detroit's Jason Hanson and St. Louis' Josh Brown.

Buffalo Chips
Quote of the week
"We don't consider ourselves spoilers.  It is still one football game and one football game that we are trying to win. So regardless of what other teams have on the line, we still come out here to win and that is really the bottom line."
--WR Lee Evans

Stat of the week
Denver has won their last five meetings against the Bills. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan has a career record of 5-1 against Buffalo.

Milestones in reach
Trent Edwards is 122 passing yards from 2,500 for the season.

Lee Evans is 65 receiving yards from posting his second career 1,000-yard season.

Leodis McKelvin needs 17 kick return yards to break Terrence McGee's club record of 1,391 yards in a single season (2005).

Josh Reed needs five receptions for the third 50-catch season of his career.

Final note
Buffalo is 5-1 against teams with 4-3 defensive fronts this season.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Advertising