Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Demetrius Bell vs. Elvis Dumervil –Bell will have his stiffest test this season after missing eight games with a fractured collar bone in Dumervil. Von Miller gets a ton of hype, but Dumervil might have the more well-rounded pass rush game.
2 – Stevie Johnson vs. Champ Bailey –The veteran corner is still capable of taking a top wideout out of the game, but Johnson is an unconventional route runner and has had success against some of the best cover men in the game.
3 – Erik Pears vs. Von Miller –Pears will be eager to bounce back after a lackluster performance last week, but he draws the Broncos sack leader as an assignment (11.5 sacks). Miller's speed off the edge will demand some assistance from tight ends and backs.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Pass defense –The Broncos only average 27 passes per game, which is the lowest in the league. Buffalo has 12 interceptions in their seven home games this season.
Best advantage – Run game –Buffalo doesn't rely on the run game all that much, but it might serve their passing game well if they do. The Bills are a very respectable 13th in the league in rushing, and Denver's defense allows over 125 rushing yards per game. If they can get C.J. Spiller rolling it'll take the pressure off Fitzpatrick and the passing game.
Bills Number 1 Must
Manageable down and distance –Buffalo's aforementioned run game doesn't have to be explosive, but it must provide manageable down and distance situations. When the Bills have been behind the sticks, especially on third down, their offense has struggled mightily of late. In a game against a pass rush the caliber of Denver's getting in long down and distance is a recipe for disaster.
Sack packThe Broncos have a formidable pass rush led by their two edge rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. Denver as a team ranks tied for fourth in the league in sacks with 39 in 14 games. Miller leads the team with 11.5 quarterback takedowns, while Dumervil is second with 8.5. Quick timing offenses however, have had some success against Denver.
McGahee motoringThough he is fighting a minor hamstring strain, former Bills first-round pick Willis McGahee looks trimmer and faster than his early days in Buffalo. McGahee is just 10 yards shy of his third fourth career 1,000-yard season as he leads the league's number one rushing attack. Denver has averaged better than 160 yards on the ground per game this season, and they've only gotten better in the second half of the year. In their last 10 games the Broncos have averaged better than 190 yards rushing per game.
Road warriorsWhile the Bills have had big time struggles on the road (1-6 record) the Broncos have excelled away from home. Denver has won their last five road games including a pair of overtime decisions at Miami (18-15) and at San Diego (16-13). In their first two road losses of the season they allowed an average of 33 points per game. In their five road wins they've allowed an average of less than 19 points per game (18.8).
Tebow road showTim Tebow's play on the road has been a big part of the recent success. Since being inserted into the starting lineup Tebow has won all five road starts that he's been a part of and thrown for eight touchdown passes with no interceptions and a 106 passer rating. Known for his late game heroics it's not surprising to see that Tebow leads all AFC passers with a 106.3 quarterback rating.
Coughing it upAs successful as the Broncos have been running the ball they've also shown a propensity to fumble it away to the opposition. Denver is tied for the league lead in lost fumbles with 15. Part of that is born from the fact that they have the second most rushes in the league this season (464). Both Tebow and Lance Ball lost fumbles in last week's loss to New England.
Tebow has four lost fumbles, McGahee has three and Ball has a pair of lost fumbles on the year. Buffalo forced three fumbles in last week's game against Miami recovering all three.
New threatMired by injury early in his career, Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas has become a potent target for the Denver passing game. In the last three games Thomas has registered a pair of 100-plus yard receiving efforts (144, 116). He currently leads the NFL in receiving yards in the month of December with 338. Thomas has 18 of his 25 receptions and three of his four touchdowns this season in the last three games.
Quote of the Week"He's just wired differently. There's something different about him. He believes no matter what happens, no matter what the situation is that he can get the job done. He thrives on people telling him what he can't do. He believes in himself differently than anybody I've ever seen. He approaches the game of football differently than anybody I've ever seen."
--WR David Nelson on former college teammate Tim Tebow
Stat of the WeekThe Broncos have won their last three games in Buffalo (1997, 2005, 2007). They have not lost at Ralph Wilson Stadium since 1994.
Milestones in reachRyan Fitzpatrick (54) needs two touchdown passes to pass Drew Bledsoe (55) for fourth most in franchise history.
Stevie Johnson needs 128 receiving yards to become the first receiver in Bills history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
George Wilson needs 10 tackles to post his first 100 tackle season.
Buffalo's defense has forced three field goals and a turnover on their last four red zone stands. Denver ranks 23rd in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (48.4%; 15-31).