The Denver Broncos (11-3) look to extend their winning streak to 10 with a victory over the Cleveland Browns (5-9) on Sunday.
A win for the Broncos would certainly help set up a deep run in the playoffs—getting win No. 12 would mean that Denver is still in the driver's seat for the No. 2 seed and would stay within striking distance of Houston for home-field advantage.
The Broncos have shown that focus won't be an issue against an inferior Browns team. The Broncos have played plenty of bad teams during their current streak of wins and they have yet to play down to any of them.
Cleveland will be looking to regain momentum after one of the season's worst performances against the Washington Redskins last week. After winning three games in a row, back up quarterback Kirk Cousins led the 'Skins to a 17-point win against the Browns in Cleveland last week.
Here's everything you need to know about this important game for the Broncos.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo.
When: Sunday, Dec. 23 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 137 or online at Audio Pass
Spread: Denver -13 (via Bovada)
The Broncos have the lengthy win streak and the playoff implications, so there's no surprise that they come in as the heavy favorite against the Browns.
Had this game happened last week, the Browns would have commanded more respect as they've played in a lot of close games, but the Broncos are much better than the Redskins. This will be a blowout.
The Browns are a young team that are still struggling to find their identity. The Broncos have had no problem with putting away inferior teams and they should put that characteristic on display once again. Denver covers the spread.
Over/Under: 44 (via Bovada)
The Broncos possess one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. After the Redskins scored 38 points on the defense last week, one has to believe that the Broncos will be able to exploit holes just as well.
Denver's defense is elite—its ranked in the Top 10 against both the run and pass. However, the Browns offense has shown promise all season and should be able to put a scoring drive or two together.
Denver is a lock to go over 30 with its offense matched up against the Browns defense so the Browns don't need to do much for this to get over the total of 44. Take the over.
Injury Report (via CBS Sports as of Dec. 21)
|RB||Trent Richardson||Chest, rib, finger||Probable|
|DE||Frostee Rucker||Shoulder, hip||Questionable|
|CB||Champ Bailey||Not injury related||Questionable|
Fantasy Big Plays
Cleveland: Josh Gordon, WR
If you haven't heard of Gordon, he should be on your radar for next fantasy football season. He's been one of the few bright spots for this Cleveland team.
Gordon's stock has been hurt by the inconsistent play of quarterback Brandon Weeden, but he's the first truly relevant Browns fantasy wide receiver in years. He has four games with more than 10 points and scored 17 two weeks ago against Oakland.
With Cleveland likely to fall behind early and forsake the run, Gordon should see plenty of targets and has great potential to find the end zone once the game gets out of hand.
Projected Stats: five receptions, 50 yards, one TD
Denver: Knowshon Moreno, RB
In the wake of the Willis McGahee injury, Knowshon Moreno has become a legitimate RB2 option in all fantasy formats.
Despite the reputation as a passing offense, Moreno is averaging 27 carries per game since taking over the starting position. With the Browns defense seemingly regressing against the run as the season wears on, he could be in for a big game.
With Peyton Manning likely to get this team ahead early, Moreno should rack up yards and fantasy points as he'll be called on to close out the game.
Projected Stats: 27 carries, 125 yards, one TD
Key to Victory
Browns Running Game
Ultimately, if the Browns want to win this game, it will come down to their ability (or inability) to run the ball.
Trent Richardson was drafted by the team to become the featured back and he has been just that all season, but it hasn't come easy. The explosive back has been great around the goal line (he has 11 touchdowns on the year), but he has struggled to consistently gain yardage. He's averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
If the Broncos can stop the Browns from running the ball, then Cleveland will be forced to win the game by throwing the ball. Given Denver's fierce pass rush, led by Von Miller, that's a losing proposition for Cleveland.
The only way Cleveland stands a chance is if Richardson goes off and the Browns can keep Manning and the Denver offense off the field.
The Broncos are just too focused to slip up against the Browns at this point.
They've dominated nearly everyone they've faced during this nine-game winning streak. They have a great defense to go along with a very dangerous offense and could very well be the NFL's most complete team.
Manning should have a field day as Cleveland will be licking its wounds after a rough performance against the Redskins. Expect the Broncos to overwhelm the Browns and get another win.
Final Score: Denver 31, Cleveland 13