Denver is trying to clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs, and can do so with a win. The Broncos would earn the No. 1 seed for the second consecutive season, going 13-3. It will be interesting to watch how much coach John Fox plays his starters if Denver can get up by a few scores.
Oakland is simply taking the field for pride, and because the NFL mandates the Raiders show up. This might be the last game for head coach Dennis Allen, who is finishing up his second lackluster campaign in Oakland. At 4-11, things have once again gone wrong by the bay.
Meet the Broncos
It's only about Peyton Manning. Well, not quite but pretty close. Manning has been nothing short of incredible, putting together arguably the best season a quarterback has ever played. The former No. 1 overall pick in 1998 has thrown for 5,211 yards and a record 51 touchdowns, with only 10 interceptions.
Manning does have a nice stable of receivers to play with. Despite Wes Welker being out this week due to a concussion, Manning still has Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and tight end Julius Thomas. All four of the aforementioned receivers have 10+ touchdown catches, something that has never happened before in NFL history.
Defensively, the Broncos are a mess. Von Miller tore his ACL last Sunday and is out for the year, only making the unit even weaker. Denver ranks 28th against the pass and now will struggle even more to get pressure on the quarterback. Outside of Shaun Phillips who has 10 sacks, nobody else has six.
Meet the Raiders
Oakland is going to start Terrelle Pryor at quarterback in this contest after giving Matt McGloin the start each of the past six games. Pryor has been very inconsistent, throwing for 1,591 yards but only five touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Pryor has also rushed for 527 yards, more than Darren McFadden's 373.
The weapons around the quarterbacks have been underwhelming. Rod Streater has been the best of the bunch, catching 55 balls for 848 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Denarius Moore is a deep threat, hauling in five touchdowns this year.
Nick Roach has been one of the few steady performers for the Raiders defense. After coming over from the Chicago Bears this offseason, he has amassed 106 tackles and 5.5 sacks, leading Oakland in both categories. Kevin Burnett has also been solid, racking up 101 tackles.
Local take: Denver
Over at Mile High Report, there is not much panic in some corners about the loss of Von Miller:
The truth is, even with Von Miller this defense has struggled. This is a unit that surrendered 39 points to Indianapolis in Von's first game back. Three weeks later it allowed Tom Brady and New England to score 31 points in two quarters of work. A week later it allowed Alex Smith and the Chiefs to put up 28, and the same a week later against Ryan Kirkpatrick and the Tennessee Titans. At home against San Diego it gave up 27. This defense has struggled Von or no Von.
Local take: Oakland
Last week, Jason Tarver said the last two games would go a long way to players on this team earning a new contract next season. And if that's true, they should probably start writing up that contract for Sims. Dude had 15 tackles (10 solo). Think about that for a moment. Middle linebackers rarely put up as many as 15 tackles in a game. Sims is not a middle linebacker, he is a defensive tackle - a position which typically has the fewest tackles on the team. He was in the game for 60 snaps which means he had a tackle on average once every four plays. Among those tackles, he had four tackles for loss and sack. The player he tackled had an average of 1.6 yards with eight of his tackles for two yards or less. It is important to point out Sims has played more snaps this season than in any season of his career and it's week 16. Looks like he's proven he can be a full time starter.
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Denver only needs to win this contest to earn the top seed in the AFC, the goal the Broncos have been striving for since this summer. It's tough to envision any scenario where this game is even close, let alone competitive in the second half. Oakland isn't good enough to stick with Denver, let alone most solid teams in the NFL. The Raiders are going to need big plays and turnovers to make this interesting.
Pick: Denver 38, Oakland 20
The Broncos are favored by 13 points on the road against the Raiders, according to Oddsshark.com.
Oakland will be done for the season while Denver has a bye week.