If the playoffs started today, the 6-5 Bucs would be left out of the party, as they would lose the tiebreaker to Seattle based on their record in conference games. While a win over the AFC West powerhouse wouldn't boost their tiebreaker chances, it would put Tampa Bay in prime position heading into their last four games.
The Bucs face the hapless Eagles in Week 14, then close out the regular season with winnable games against New Orleans, St. Louis and Atlanta, who will likely be resting their starters in the last game of the season.
Of course, before the Bucs can look ahead, they must go through the red-hot Broncos, who have won six straight and seven of their last eight. Manning is playing at an MVP level, their defense has allowed just 15.3 points per game the last three weeks and Knowshon Moreno has stepped up in the absence of Willis McGahee.
Add in the fact that the Broncos are 4-1 at home this season, and it's clear that the Bucs face an uphill battle on Sunday.
When: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4:05 p.m. ET
What's the safest bet?
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High - Denver, CO
TV: FOX (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Broncos -7
Injury Report - As of 11/29 (via ESPN)
Cody Grimm - S, injured reserve
Eric Wright - CB, suspension
Brandon Stokley - WR, questionable
Fantasy Big Plays
Buccaneers: Doug Martin - RB
Martin has burst onto the scene this season, racking up 1,050 yards (fourth in NFL) and nine touchdowns (tied for second in the NFL). So even though Denver has a stout run defense, Martin is a must-start this week.
The powerful back proved last Sunday that he can put up fantasy points even when there's not much room to run, as he found the end zone twice against Atlanta despite rushing for just 50 yards.
Look for Martin to at least double that yardage total this week, while also reaching paydirt a couple times.
Projected stats: 22 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns; three catches for 25 yards
Broncos: Demaryius Thomas - WR
Thomas is seventh in the NFL in receiving yards (1,015), and with the Bucs' secondary missing a couple key players, you can expect him to put up more big numbers on Sunday.
Thomas has found the end zone each of the last two weeks. He's also been targeted at least eight times in his last five games, so he'll get plenty of opportunities this week.
Even if you're stacked at receiver, you should make some room in your starting lineup for Thomas.
Projected stats: seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown
Key to Victory: Turnovers
The Bucs have only committed 11 turnovers this season, which is second best in the NFC. They'll have to continue taking care of the ball in Denver if they want to escape with the victory.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense is on a roll lately, and if they are given extra opportunities, they will annihilate the depleted Bucs' D. That means Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and company will have to make smart decisions and hold onto the rock.
This game means more to the Bucs than the Broncos, but I'm riding the home team here.
Who ya got?
You can look at all the stats you want, but at the end of the day, the most important equation is Peyton Manning + shorthanded secondary = Broncos victory. It's that simple.
The Bucs will hang around, and Martin will have a few incredible runs. But unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the Broncos just have too much firepower.
Final Score: Broncos 34 - Buccaneers 20