Trying to Clinch
Denver, CO - Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall have received their due for keeping the Denver Broncos in playoff contention, earning spots in the Pro Bowl.
They certainly don't have any leeway to let up now.
The Broncos have yet another chance to clinch the AFC West when they face the struggling Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Broncos –7 point spread favorites for Sunday’s game against the Panthers. Current NFL Public Betting Information shows that 65% of more than 4,596 bets for this game have been placed on the Broncos -7.
Denver (8-6) can wrap up the division with a win over Buffalo (6-8), or if San Diego loses to Tampa Bay. If the Broncos lose and the Chargers win, those teams will meet in San Diego for the AFC West championship in the regular-season finale.
"We need to win and take care of business as fast as possible," Denver cornerback Dre' Bly said. "Time is running out. We don't want to go into the last game with the Chargers."
Winning the AFC West would give the Broncos at least one playoff game at Invesco Field. They're 12-3 all-time in home playoff games.
"That's what it's all about," Denver wide receiver Brandon Stokley told the team's official Web site. "Coming down to Week 16 - we win, we're in. Playing at home, it's going to be cold - this is what it's all about. This is why I still play. This gets me going and I'm looking forward to it."
Stokley injured his heel two weeks ago and said he's not at 100 percent, but the Broncos' No. 3 receiver played last Sunday in a 30-10 loss to NFC South-leading Carolina, catching two passes for 20 yards.
With a chance to clinch the division, Cutler had one of his worst games of the season, passing for 172 yards while being sacked a season-high three times. He's been sacked just 10 times all season, getting plenty of time to complete 62.5 percent of his passes for 3,851 yards and 24 TDs against 15 interceptions.
He's 238 yards away from Jake Plummer's single-season franchise record from 2004.
Cutler and Marshall are third-year pros who learned this week they are headed to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
"For both of us to come in the same year, to have the success that we have had and being able to grow together, it means a lot," Cutler said.
Marshall is tied for fifth in the NFL with 88 receptions and ranks seventh with 1,081 yards. He's the seventh Denver wide receiver named to the Pro Bowl and the first since Rod Smith in 2005.
The only time he played against the Bills, Cutler threw for 304 yards and his only TD pass went to Marshall in Denver's 15-14 win at Buffalo on Sept. 9, 2007.
The Broncos have won five straight against the Bills since a 27-20 road loss on Sept. 26, 1994. Denver has averaged 175.4 yards per game on the ground during that run, but it enters this game banged-up at running back.
Tatum Bell, who was selling cell phones last month, started at tailback for the Broncos last Sunday and had 43 yards on seven carries. P.J. Pope, part of the practice squad earlier this season, had seven attempts for 51 yards.
Buffalo, meanwhile, will have quarterback Trent Edwards back in the starting lineup for the first time in three weeks. With Edwards sidelined by a groin injury, J.P. Losman started last Sunday and his fumble was returned for a decisive touchdown with 2:06 left in the Bills' 31-27 loss to the New York Jets.
With Buffalo out of playoff contention after losing seven of eight, Edwards will try to spark a stumbling offense and prove he should get another chance to start next season.
While it appears Losman won't be returning next year, it remains unclear if coach Dick Jauron will be. He was heavily criticized for not running the ball on the play on which Losman fumbled, considering it was second-and-5 and Marshawn Lynch had run for 17 yards on the previous four plays.
Jauron, coming off consecutive 7-9 seasons, anticipates he'll be back despite receiving no public assurances from team management or owner Ralph Wilson. The Bills will miss the playoffs for the ninth straight year.
When asked about Jauron's status following last Sunday's game, Wilson responded by saying: "Did you see that fumble? It was terrible wasn't it?"
The Bills had scored three points in two straight games before facing New York, when they were able to move the ball at times but were done in by four turnovers. They're second in the AFC with 29 turnovers.
Buffalo's defense also struggled last week, giving up 372 total yards, including 165 on the ground. Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell accepted the criticism directed at the team.
"People are going to say what they want to say, and we deserve it," Mitchell said. "We're not winning. So say what you to say until we prove you different."
Top Public Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
BUFFALO is 4-3 against the spread versus DENVER since 1992
DENVER is 5-2 straight up against BUFFALO since 1992
4 of 6 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
BUFFALO is 1-0 against the spread versus DENVER over the last 3 seasons
DENVER is 1-0 straight up against BUFFALO over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at DENVER since 1992
DENVER is 1-1 against the spread versus BUFFALO since 1992
DENVER is 2-0 straight up against BUFFALO since 1992
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries:
[DE] Chris Ellis IR - Ankle - 12/06/08
[WR] James Hardy injured last game, "?" - Knee - 12/14/08
[LB] Alvin Bowen is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Undisclosed - 11/08/08
[LB] John DiGiorgio IR - Knee - 10/20/08
[DT] John McCargo IR - Back - 11/29/08
[DB] Dustin Fox missed last game, "?" - Groin - 12/14/08
[CB] Ashton Youboty IR - Foot - 11/07/08
[DE] Aaron Schobel IR - Foot - 12/07/08
[LB] Angelo Crowell IR - Knee - 09/04/08
(!) [QB] Trent Edwards missed last game, "?" - Groin - 12/14/08
[CB] Jabari Greer missed last game, "?" - Knee - 12/14/08
[LB] Marcus Buggs IR - Ankle - 11/21/08
[RB] Anthony Alridge IR - Hamstring - 08/29/08
[RB] Peyton Hillis IR - Hamstring - 12/08/08
[RB] Ryan Torain IR - Knee - 11/07/08
[DT] Carlton Powell expected to miss at least six weeks. - Knee - 08/27/08
[LB] Spencer Larsen missed last game, "?" - Groin - 12/14/08
[RB] Michael Pittman IR - Neck - 11/03/08
[QB] Patrick Ramsey IR - Elbow - 10/22/08
[RB] Andre Hall IR - Hand - 11/03/08
[TE] Nate Jackson IR - Hamstring - 11/20/08
[CB] Champ Bailey missed last game, "?" - Groin - 12/14/08
[C] Tom Nalen IR - Knee - 09/21/08
[LB] Boss Bailey IR - Knee - 10/22/08
[DT] Josh Shaw IR - Elbow - 12/03/08
[WR] Clifford Russell IR - Neck - 10/01/08
Posted: 12/17/08 9:21PM ET