Denver Broncos @ Buffalo Bills Preview

Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills walks off the field after a loss to the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Miami won 30-23. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The 8-6 Denver Broncos travel to Buffalo this week for a Christmas Eve meeting with the 5-9 Bills. The Broncos are coming off a mistake laden loss at the hands of the New England Patriots, but still maintain a one-game lead in the AFC West division. The Bills are tied with the Miami Dolphins at the bottom of the AFC East division, even though the Dolphins splashed over them 30-23 last Sunday. Reggie Bush ran through a snow storm for a career high 203 yards on the Bills, who hardly look like the same team that started the season 5-2. Denver is surging toward a playoff berth and a possible Division title after a 4-12 season in 2010.

Weather and Conditions


Game time is set for 11 a.m. MST Saturday December 24th @ at Buffalo Ralph Wilson Stadium. The "Ralph" is an Open air stadium that holds 73,967 freezing individuals. The playing surface is a synthetic known as AstroPlay.

The game will air on CBS with Jim Nance calling the play by play and Phil Simms will have the color commentary. Check the Broadcast map to see if the game will show in your area.

The weather forecast for the game calls for inclement weather.
Rasn
Chance Snow Showers
Temperature: 23/35f

For a current weather report, please go here.

Walt Anderson and his crew will be officiating the game.

Injuries and external factors

Buffalo has lost 14 players to the Injured Reserve List this season. DE Reggie Torbor, RB Bruce Hall, WR Marcus Easley, WR Roscoe Parrish, DB Jon Corto, LB Shawne Merriman, NT Kyle Williams, C Eric Wood, Rookie LB Chris White, WR Donald Jones, CB Terrence McGee, RB Fred Jackson, DT Torell Troup and K Rian Lindell.


OFFENSE

This chart represents the Rankings for the Bills Offense as compared to the Broncos Defense. I have also included last week's rankings for the Broncos so you can see progress or regress. The DVOA stat is taken from Football Outsiders and is explained here.

Bills Broncos
Offense Rank Category Rank Defense Last Week
22.2 17th Points For 24th 24.5 22nd
347.9 14th Total Yds 22nd 363.8 19th
229.7 15th Pass Yds 20th 238.4 16th
118.2 13th Rush Yds 20th 125.4 21st
20 T-1st Sacks T-4th 39 4th
N/A N/A Forced Fumbles T-19th 11 T-14th
21 30th Interceptions 26th 9 T-25th
34.3% 22nd 3rd Downs 7th 34.5% 8th
5.9% 15th Overall DVOA 18th 6.5% 18th
0 17th Turnover Margin 26th -7 T-21st
63 16th QB Hits Allowed N/A N/A N/A

The Quarterback for Buffalo is Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has gone 309/496 for 3,329 yds, a 62.1% Completion Rate, 22 TDs, 19 INTs and an 80.8 Passer Rating. Tyler Thigpen (3/8 for 25 yds and 1 INT) is the backup and the all-purpose player Brad Smith (20 car, 87 yds, 1 TD) is the emergency Quarterback, but has many roles on this team.

The Running Backs are led by C.J. Spiller (78 car, 390 yds, 5.0 avg, 3 TDs and 33 Rec, 202 yds, 1 TD) after Fred Jackson went on IR. Halloween arrival Tashard Choice (13 car, 39 yds and 5 Rec, 50 yds) was picked up to take Jackson's place on the roster, but Spiller has been the workhorse. The 3rd option is Johnny White (12 car, 38 yds) and the lead blocker is Fullback Corey McIntyre (1 Rec, 4 yds).
The Wide Receivers are Steve Johnson (68 Rec, 872 yds, 6 TDs), Brad Smith (22 Rec, 232 yds, 1 TD), David Nelson (56 Rec, 594 yds, 5 TDs), Naaman Roosevelt (13 Rec, 228 yds, 1 TD) and Derek Hagan (4 Rec, 40 yds, 1 TD). Ruvell Martin (3 Rec, 40 yds) and Kamar Aiken have been Inactive more often than not this season.

The Tight Ends are Scott Chandler (35 Rec, 360 yds, 6 TDs), who has been nursing an Ankle injury, Mike Caussin (4 Rec, 35 yds) and Fendi Onobun, who was a recent pick up off the Jaguars Practice Squad. Lee Smith (4 Rec, 11 yds) was just added to Injured Reserve and promoted Kevin Brock. Without Chandler, the Bills may as well send in another Lineman, as the rest are poor blockers.


The Bills Offensive Line has surrendered a league low 20 Sacks, the fewest in the NFL. LT Demetrius Bell (5 G, 0.5 SA) returned from a broken collarbone and resumed his starting spot. Rookie Chris Hairston (2 False Start, 1 Holding, 3 Sacks Allowed) had been starting in his place. LG Andy Levitre (1 HLD, 4.5 SA), C Kraig Urbik (1 FS, 2 HLD, 1 SA), RG Chad Rinehart (3 FS, 1 HLD, 1 SA) and RT Erik Pears (7 Penalties, 3 FS, 2 HLD, 3,5 SA) are the other starters along the line.Sam Young (3 GA) and Colin Brown (9 GA) are the reserves.

Chan Gailey has said he wants to limit Spiller to less than 20 carries per game, so expect to see Tashard Choice in the mix. Scott Chandler is a big Red Zone target for Ryan Fitzpatrick and has been sorely missed. The Tight End has missed the last two games and is questionable at this point to play on Saturday. David Nelson had his best game in 2 months with six catches for 60 yards on Sunday. Stevie Johnson could use two big games to reach 1,000 yards on the season and enhance his Free Agency appeal, but he has had a case of the drops recently when not acting like Plaxico Burress. Of course it doesn't help that Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the league in Interceptions either.

DEFENSE

This chart represents the Rankings for the Bills Defense as compared to the Broncos Offense.

Bills Broncos
Defense Rank Category Rank Offense Last Week
26.5 27th Points Against 20th 20.9 21st
369.5 26th Total Yds 19th 322.5 23rd
230 16th Pass Yds 31st 159.4 31st
139.5 29th Rush Yds 1st 163.1 1st
21 32nd Sacks 21st 36 12th
11 T-19th Forced Fumbles N/A N/A N/A
16 T-10th Interceptions T-4th Least 9 T-5th Least
40.8% 23rd 3rd Downs 27th 32.2% 28th
14.4% 26th Overall DVOA 19th 0.00% 19th
74/736 31st Penalties T-21st 85/740 16th
N/A N/A QB Hits Allowed 6th 57 6th

The starting 3 Defensive Linemen are LDE Alex Carrington (14 TKL, 1 SK, 2 PD), Rookie NT Marcell Dareus (38 TKL. 5.5 SK, 2 PD) and RDE Dwan Edwards (49 TKL, 1.5 SK). Kellen Heard (15 TKL), Kyle Moore (1 TKL) and Lionel Dotson (1 TKL) are the reserves. Recently signed Jarron Gilbert was listed as Inactive last week.

The starting 4 at Linebacker are SLB Chris Kelsay (27 TKL, 2 SK, 1 FF, 1 PD), Rookie MLB Kelvin Sheppard (56 TKL, 1 PD, 1 SAF), WLB Nick Barnett (113 TKL, 3 SK, 1 FF, 3 PD, 2 INT, 1 TD) and JLB Spencer Johnson (39 TKL, 2 SK, 1 FF, 1 PD). Danny Batten (23 TKL, 0.5 SK) Arthur Moats (21 TKL, 0.5 SK), former Bronco Andra Davis (12 TKL) and Kirk Morrison (4 TKL, 1 SK) are the next men off the bench.

Rookie Aaron Williams (24 TKL, 1 FF, 3 PD) starts at the LCB spot. He is backed up by Rookie Justin Rogers (9 TKL, 2 PD) and Reggie Corner (5 TKL, 3 PD, 1 INT). At RCB, Drayton Florence (45 TKL, 1 FF, 12 PD, 3 INT, 1 TD) is the starter, with Leodis McKelvin (38 TKL, 8 PD, 1 INT) coming in during the Nickel packages.

At Safety, the starters are FS Jairus Byrd (88 TKL,1 SK, 3 FF, 7 PD, 2 INT) and SS George Wilson (92 TKL, 1 FF, 6 PD, 4 INT). Bryan Scott (58 TKL,1 SK, 6 PD, 2 INT, 1 TD) and Rookie Da'Norris Searcy (31 TKL, 1 PD, 1 INT) are the backups.


The Bills struggle defending the run and allow a lot of yards. However, they aren't lacking in discipline as they are the 2nd least penalized team in the NFL. Rookie Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus has a team-high 5.5 sacks for the season, the most since Aaron Schobel's 6.5 in 2001. With the weather expected to be typical for upstate New York, the Broncos will use their stable of Running Backs to stampede the Bills.


SPECIAL TEAMS

This chart represents the Rankings for both teams Special Teams Units.

Bills Rank Special Teams Rank Broncos Last Week
47.7 6th Punt-Avg(Gross) 5th 47.9 5th
37.5 23rd Punt-Avg (Net) 3rd 41.7 3rd
8.6 T-21st Punt Ret-Avg 3rd 13 3rd
11.7 21st PR-Avg Allowed 16th 9.3 16th
22.2 25th Kick Ret-Avg 5th 26.4 2nd
21 4th KR-Avg Allowed T-12th 22.9 13rg
19/24 T-24th FG Made/Att T-28th 18/24 30th
-2.50% 25th Overall DVOA 6th 2.80% 5th

The Bills Kicker is Dave Rayner, who took over for Rian Lindell in Week 9 when Lindell broke his shoulder making a Tackle against the Jets. Rayner has made 6 of his 9 Field Goal Attempts (66.7%) with his longest being a 56-yarder in Week 11. He has hit all 9 Extra Point Attempts. Rayner's Kickoffs average landing around the 12 yard line. Out of 22 Kickoffs, 7 have gone for touchbacks and 12 have been returned for a 22.3 yard average.

The Punter and Holder is Brian Moorman, who has punted 65 times with a gross average of 48.4 yards and a 37.5 Net average. 16 of Moorman's punts have landed Inside the 20, nine have gone for a touchback, 6 have been Fair Caught, 1 has been blocked and 42 have been returned an average of 11.7 yards.

Garrison Sanborn (5 TKL) has been the Bills Long Snapping Specialist since signing as a Free Agent with them in May, 2009.

The Punt Returners for Buffalo are C.J. Spiller (13 PR, 9.8 avg, 8 Fair Catches) and Leodis McKelvin (4 PR, 4.0 avg, 7 Fair Catches).


Brad Smith has been the primary Kick Returner for the Bills. He has 15 returns for an 18.8 average and a long of 28 yards. Justin Rogers (8 KR, 28.8 avg, 54 Lg), C.J. Spiller (6 KR, 23.8 avg, 35 Lg) and Leodis McKelvin (2 KR, 21.5 avg, 22 Lg) have taken reps as well.

The Broncos should be able to take advantage of the Bills poor coverage units to help with the field position game. Justin Rogers has averaged 35.5 yards on Kickoffs in the last two games, good for 2nd best since Week 14.

SERIES HISTORY


This will be the 34th regular season meeting between these teams. Buffalo leads the series 15-18-1. The Broncos have won the last 3 contests in Buffalo and are 11-12 overall in the Bills Home Stadiums (War Memorial, Rich and Ralph Wilson).

In their last meeting on December 21st 2008, the Bills came away with a 30-23 win at Invesco Field when Buffalo outscored the Broncos 14-3 in the 4th Quarter.

The line in Vegas has the Broncos favored by 2.5 points after opening at 3.


THE BOTTOM LINE

I like the odds for the Broncos to run all over the Bills this week. The #1 rushing Offense against the 29th ranked rushing Defense? I think that speaks for itself. They still have to play the game though.

Go Broncos!

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