Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Stephon Gilmore vs. Demaryius Thomas** – Gilmore has been pretty consistent in the second half of the season drawing the opponent's best wideout. He'll face another big target in Thomas, who is second in the league in receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns so far this season.
2 – Mario Williams vs. Louis Vasquez – The AFC Defensive Player of the Month has a very favorable matchup Sunday against a right tackle in Vasquez who was drafted to play guard. Vasquez will need help on the edge with as hot as Williams' motor has been running.
3 – Cordy Glenn vs. DeMarcus Ware – Ware is one of the Broncos' bookend pass rushers, who have wreaked havoc on opposing passers this season. Glenn has been more consistent in the second half of the season.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Third down defense – The Bills are facing one of the smartest quarterbacks in the game, who converts at a high level on third down. Denver ranks fifth in third down conversion percentage, but this week they face the best defense in the league on third down. This could be where much of Sunday's game will be decided.
Best advantage – Coverage teams – Buffalo's punt and kick coverage are both ranked in the top 10 this season and have helped to provide some of the best field position in the league to the Bills offense. Knowing Denver's return units are in the bottom third of the NFL, Buffalo's specialty units should be able to provide a field position edge.
Bills Number 1 Must
Third down success – Kyle Orton and the Bills offense have to convert at a rate of near 50 percent if they want to pull off the upset in Denver. Buffalo has to keep drives alive to not only finish them with points, but more importantly to keep the ball out of the hands of Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense.
He was buried on Denver's depth chart, but with injuries to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson has made the most of his opportunity in the second half of the season. In the month of November, Anderson led all NFL players with 709 yards from scrimmage (472 rushing, 237 receiving). He's coming off back-to-back games of 160-yard plush rushing performances in wins over Miami and Kansas City.
The Broncos employed an offensive front with six linemen on run downs and it worked well in opening up holes last week against the league's worst run defense in the Chiefs.
As well as Anderson has been on the ground for Denver of late, the Broncos run defense has made life difficult for their opponents. Ranking second against the run in the NFL, Denver is surrendering just under 73 yards per game (72.7). They have yet to allow an individual 100-yard rusher this season. Their success in stopping the run is a big reason why the Broncos defense has the second highest success rate in forcing opposing offenses three-and-out (30.6%).
The Broncos passing attack has a handful of weapons, but none has been more prolific than TE Julius Thomas when it comes to scoring. Thomas leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 12. This despite the fact that he's missed each of the last two games with an ankle injury. At this point it appears that he will return to the Broncos lineup this week. Thomas had 12 touchdown receptions last season.
Peyton Manning is still one of the premier quarterback talents in the NFL, but entering the final stretch of the season the veteran signal caller has missed on some throws he normally makes. In his last two games the pinpoint accurate Manning has not connected with some wide open targets, including a couple of potential touchdown throws. His completion percentage last week against the Chiefs was just 50 percent (17-34) and he had a season low 5.26 yards per attempt.
The last time Manning only completed 50 percent of his pass attempts in a game was in September of the 2012 season. In his 252 career games his completion percentage has been 50 percent or lower 12 times.
There's no debating that Denver scores points with a great degree of frequency. They also get called for an awful lot of penalties. Through 12 games the Broncos have been flagged for more than 100 accepted penalties (101). That's third-most in the NFL as they average better than eight penalties a game (8.42).
Rocky in the red zone
As talented as the Broncos defense is ranking in the top 10 in total defense (3rd), run defense (2nd), pass defense (10th), third down defense (5th) and points allowed (9th) there is one area where they tend to struggle. Denver's defense in the red zone ranks a subpar 27th in the league as opponents are scoring touchdowns after they reach the Broncos' 20-yard line better than 64 percent of the time (64.1%).
In fact inside Denver's 30-yard line opponents score touchdowns better than 58 percent of the time (58.7%), which is third worst in the NFL. Opposing passers have the best rating in the league against the Broncos inside the Denver 30-yard line with a figure of 120.7.
Quote of the Week
"It's going to be a great challenge. These are the type of games you live for. You got the big dogs, the AFC Champions, going into their house, the crowd is going to be against you. It's just so much motivation that goes into it. It's one of those moments where you just sit back and say, ok, it's here. And then when its time on Sunday you go out there and let it go, lay out for your teammates, play hard until the end and see what happens."
-RB Boobie Dixon
Stat of the Week
The Bills are holding opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 78.6, good for fourth best in the NFL.
Milestones in reach
-Preston Brown needs 11 tackles to record 100 in his rookie season.
-Kyle Orton needs four touchdown passes to reach 100 for his career.
-Sammy Watkins needs two receptions to set the team record for catches by a Bills rookie (Joe Cribbs, 52).
Kyle Orton's teams are 13-3 when he starts and posts a passer rating of 100 or better.