Peyton Manning is the clear choice for NFL MVP.
No player has had a bigger impact on his team's success in the NFL this season. Despite having virtually the same weapons that Tim Tebow had in Denver in 2011, Manning and the Broncos have already eclipsed the win-total from last season.
It isn't all Manning, though.
That Broncos' defense is stout and nasty. They are third in total yards allowed, 10th in points allowed and second in sacks. Von Miller has 15 sacks on his own; the Oakland Raiders have 14 as a team.
With Manning leading the offense and Miller pacing the defense; Broncos' fans are thinking Super Bowl, and with good reason.
Then there's the Raiders.
The fans of the Silver and Black aren't thinking playoffs at all. While the Broncos have already surpassed their win-total from 2011, the Raiders have ensured themselves of a worse record already.
The 9-3 and 3-9 records aren't the only ways these two teams are polar opposites. The Broncos blasted the Raiders in the first meeting, 37-6 and now they are looking for the season sweep.
The Broncos' defense is among the top 10 against the run and the pass. The Raiders are ranked no higher than 25th in either category. The Raiders are at home, but this one could get ugly.
Here's how you can catch the action.
When: Thursday, December 6, 8:20 p.m. ET
Where: O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif.
TV: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Broncos (-11.5) per Oddsshark.com
No official injuries have been reported for either team, but here a few notes about the players with varying injury concerns.
Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post had some good news on Brandon Stokley, but the Broncos underrated linebacker Wesley Woodyard wasn't available.
Stokley taking part in #Broncos practice. Wesley Woodyard not on the field.— Jeff Legwold(@Jeff_Legwold) December 4, 2012
#Raiders running backs coach Kelly Skipper said of Darren McFadden: "He looked good today. You could see him cut and bursting off the foot."— Steve Corkran (@CorkOnTheNFL) December 4, 2012
Predicting Fantasy Studs and Duds
I don't need to tell you that Manning is a smart choice to start, but I've got a great feeling about Knowshon Moreno this week. The Broncos have given him 20 rushes in each of the last two games.
Expect them to take an early lead which should lead to more touches for Moreno. In addition to the touches, you have to consider that the Raiders' run defense has been porous all season.
They are allowing 130.4 yards per game on the ground and that is 28th in the NFL. Start Moreno at a flex position—or even a main spot—if you don't have a stud available.
While Moreno is the man for this week, fantasy owners should stay away from Taiwan Jones.
The Raiders struggled to get anything going on the ground in the team's first meeting, and if they fall behind, the game situation will likely keep his carries low. If the Broncos jump out to a big lead, the Raiders will have to throw the ball a lot.
Jones is a bad play in this game.
Stories Surrounding the Teams
Dennis Allen Coaching With Family on His Mind
Tragedy struck the Raiders' organization on Tuesday as Grady Allen, former NFL player and the father of head coach Dennis Allen passed away from a heart attack, per ESPN.
Allen will be coaching with a ton of emotion, and it's hard to imagine how that'll affect him or his team on Thursday night.
Staying Focused, Despite Having the Division Wrapped Up
The Broncos have already won the AFC West for the second year in a row, but head coach John Fox wants to make sure the team knows they still have something to play for. Via the Denver Broncos website:
We always say people remember what you do in December. So that's what we have ahead of us. We've got a division game coming up. Hopefully, we get to 5-0 in the division. There's a lot to play for. We'll see where that leads us.
With a leader like Manning, Fox will have plenty of help keeping his team focused. Manning has been through tons of successful regular seasons, but he's only won one Super Bowl.
He knows the team still has a lot of work to do.
Broncos: Danny Trevathan
With Woodyard ailing, the Broncos may need Trevathan to step up in his absence on the weak side.
Defenses generally try to run away from Miller and Elvis Dumervill, and that's part of the reason Woodyard is having such a huge season.
He leads the team in tackles and interceptions.
How Trevathan plays in his place could be a key to the Raiders' success running the ball to the right side.
Raiders: Taiwan Jones and Brandon Myers
The Raiders need both of these guys to play well if they hope to have a shot. They were one-of-12 on third-down conversions in the first game against the Broncos.
They didn't get anything on the ground on first or second down, and that created too many third and long situations. On the obvious passing third downs, the Raiders need Myers to beat linebackers to provide an option up the seam for Carson Palmer.
The Raiders will likely play a spirited game against their division rivals, but the Broncos are on a mission. They will move to 5-0 against AFC West opponents with a 28-17 win.
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