The Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos will have an opportunity to wrap up the AFC West division title with a win at home on Sunday, but it won’t be easy as they host a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that has won 5 of their last 7 games. NFL handicappers opened the line for this game at the Broncos -7, however the line has jumped to 7.5 following heavy action on Denver. With so much at stake for each of these teams, the focus is only on winning and not by how much.
Football experts have known all along that Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, but coming back from 4 neck surgeries had everyone speculating about how effective he’d be. All of those questions have been answered and then some as Peyton has put together a season worthy of MVP consideration. He ranks in the top 5 in completion percentage, passer rating, touchdowns thrown and yards per attempt. He has been put into a situation where he could succeed by having numerous weapons to help move this offense.
Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have been on the same page as Manning right from the start, and are both putting up career seasons. They have combined for 1700 yards and 14 touchdowns, and are a nightmare for opposing defenses. Much of the reason why this passing attack has been successful is due to running back Willis McGahee. McGahee may be one of the most under-valued backs in the league as has consistently put up solid numbers since entering the league out of Miami. Unfortunately, McGahee went down with an MCL tear in last Sunday’s contest against the Chargers, and will not be eligible to come back unless the Broncos can make it to the AFC Championship game. Only time will tell, but Denver is hoping Knowshon Moreno can sustain the rush attack while McGahee is out.
Moreno may have a much tougher time moving the ball this week against a hard-nosed Buccaneers run defense. Tampa allows just over 80 yards per game on the ground, but have had more than their share of trouble against the pass. This could make for a long afternoon against Manning and company, but the Bucs do have plenty of fire-power of their own to keep pace.
QB Josh Freeman began the year slowly with just 491 yards through his first 3 games. A breakout performance against the Redskins in week 4 may be what got Freeman back on track. Although the Bucs lost to the Saints in week 7, Freeman put together the best game of his young career as he threw for 420 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has slowed down since that game, but that has been by design. The emergence of rookie running back Doug Martin has been a blessing for this team. He has proven to be an elite runner despite only having 11 games under his belt. Much like last week versus the Falcons, Martin will have to earn every yard against Von Miller and the stifling Broncos “D”.
Tampa Bay is 5 games behind the incredible 11-1 Falcons in the NFC South, but are just 1 game back of the Green Bay Packers for the top wildcard spot. Both of these squads have something to play for, and will do all they can to get the win. NFL experts are giving the edge to the Broncos at home due to their record and pre-season expectations, but we have seen that that doesn’t necessarily equate to a win. Tune in Sunday as the Bucs and Broncos battle in what should be a very competitive and entertaining match-up.