Little was expected of the Buffalo Bills entering the season, but they find themselves on the fringe of the playoff picture. A surprise win over the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos could spur a December run.
The narrative of Buffalo's season is dominated by quarterback questions. E.J. Manuel, the team's first round pick only a year ago, played himself out of the starting job, allowing veteran Kyle Orton to take over. Orton started well, but he, too, faced questions after the team's disappointing loss to the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.
Yet Head coach Doug Marrone stuck with Orton and the team rebounded, winning each of the last two weeks. As for this Sunday, the Bills wait to find out whether they'll have rookie sensation Sammy Watkins at wide receiver. Watkins is their best player on offense and already one of the NFL's best deep threats.
The Broncos have battled through injuries along the offensive line and appear to have righted the ship. Peyton Manning continues to perform like an MVP candidate despite nearing his 39th birthday. Last week against a capable opponent, Denver forced its will with a run game led by undrafted second-year tailback C.J. Anderson. With Ronnie Hillman on the mend and perhaps rejoining the team Sunday, Denver could have the most balanced offense since its Super Bowl run last season.
With eight starts under his belt for Buffalo, Orton has passed for exactly 2,000 yards while throwing almost three touchdowns for every interception and completing 64.3 percent of his passes. Watkins leads the team in receiving, catching 51 passes for 675 yards and five touchdowns. His nine plays of 20 or more yards are tied with Robert Woods for tops on the Bills. On defense, Mario Williams has notched 12.5 sacks. Jerry Hughes follows close behind with 9.5. Hughes registered 10 sacks a year ago.
For Denver, Anderson leads all players with 536 yards rushing. Part of his success is due to opponents placing more defenders in coverage against the Broncoss multiple deadly targets. Newcomer Emmanuel Sanders has amassed 1,152 receiving yards, topped by only Demaryius Thomas' 1,255. Yet it's tight end Julius Thomas who leads the team in touchdown receptions with 12.
The Bills enter Sunday's game with a record of 7-5. The Broncos come in at 9-3.
How to watch
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
When: 4:05 p.m. ET
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Radio: Bills Radio Network, Broncos Radio Network
Online streaming: Verizon NFL Mobile
The Broncos are 9-point favorites according to OddsShark.