clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ronnie Hillman set to return for Broncos - Horse Tracks

New, comments

Ronnie Hillman is probably vs. the Raiders; the Chiefs have lost QB Alex Smith with a spleen issue (Chris Simms sends his sympathies); more in your Saturday Horse Tracks!

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

The Broncos have been lacking a dynamic one-two punch since Ronnie Hillman sprained his foot six weeks ago (you could argue they have that in C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson; I would offer that that combination isn't "dynamic" in that Anderson and Thompson offer much of the same skillset).

After a solid week of preparation, Hillman is probable for Denver's season finale against the Oakland Raiders.

"He has good burst, good explosion, same things that you saw before the injury. He looks to be back in that form," said Head Coach John Fox. "We will see how it goes. He hasn't played football in about six weeks or so always get a little nervous about that but he has had a good week of preparation."

There was a five-week stretch, between Week 5 and Week 8, where Hillman was looking like the Broncos' next premiere running back. He rushed for over 100 yards twice in those four weeks and averaged nearly five yards per carry. If the Broncos get that Hillman back, their running offense will be dynamic indeed.

Safety T.J. Ward (neck strain), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (hip) and tackle Paul Cornick (toe) are all questionable this week after being limited in all three practices. David Bruton is expected to fill in for Ward if he can't go. Linebacker Brandon Marshall has been ruled out.

Broncos Raiders previews

Preview: Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos - NFL Videos
NFL Films previews the Week 17 matchup between the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos.

Terrance Knighton says Broncos "have a lot to play for this week" - The Denver Post
"It's very special to achieve. Growing up, my mom always told me you never lose a fight in your front yard," said Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "That's the mentality we have. We have a lot to play for this week. We are going to come out with a lot of intensity."

PFF Preview: Raiders @ Broncos, Week 17 | ProFootballFocus.com
While much of that can be attributed to abandoning the run due to playing from behind frequently, the Raiders’ rushing offense just hasn’t been getting it done when called upon. Latavius Murray is the only Raider back to have a rushing grade above 0.0, and it’s at +0.7. As an offense, they have a combined run block grade of -41.7.

Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos preview - ESPN
Mack has been simply outstanding. His statistics don’t jump out, but he’s a coach’s dream. He is always around the play, no matter the situation. I expect him to get more explosive as his career develops. Carr is revered by the entire franchise. He still has a ways to go in his development, but the game is not too big and he’s delivered in some pressure situations. If he continues to learn his progressions and improve against the blitz, he should be an above-average player.

Prediction: Denver Broncos defeat Oakland Raiders - ESPN
The Broncos are undefeated at home this season and have scored at least 31 points in five of those games. The Broncos also have won six consecutive meetings with the Raiders, including 41-17 in Oakland earlier this season. My prediction: Broncos 35, Raiders 16.

NFL Picks Week 17: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks
However, the Broncos are at home to face the Raiders in Week 17, and AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen thinks an angry Denver team will take care of business and lock up a first-round bye:

Raiders vs. Broncos: Who has the edge?; how to watch; more - The Denver Post
With a first-round playoff bye on the line, the Broncos (11-4) take on the Raiders (3-12) in Denver in their final game of the regular season. Here's what you need to know about the matchup.

Historical Vault: Broncos-Raiders
The Broncos ran for 164 yards in their home win over the Raiders last year, their second-highest figure of the season. That pushed Denver to 16-1 all-time when rushing for at least 140 yards against the Raiders. The 37-21 win was the only game of 2013 in which returning running backs Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman both rushed for more than 30 yards; Hillman gained 66 yards on nine carries and scored once, while Ball chipped in 61 yards on 11 carries.

Fixing that offense

Peyton Manning, Broncos offense attempt to strike balance
But only a year removed from the best statistical season of his career, and two months since he broke the NFL's career touchdown record, there is something different about Manning, and something different about the Broncos' offense. The wide-open, sling-it-around style has been, at times, replaced by an old-school power running game.

Broncos' offense still looking to smooth out rough spots - Denver Broncos Blog - ESPN
"I'm not sure if the tempo really is what it's about as much as just the execution," Manning said. "We just have to be more sound. I have to be more on the details, more on the little fundamentals to get us started, to give each play a chance to succeed. Hopefully I can do a better job of that this week."

Coordinators' Corner: A malleable offense, molding young players, and changes in the Raiders
"Any time you go up-tempo, it puts them at a little bit of a disadvantage to where it's harder for them to get to multiple looks, it's harder for them to communicate," he said. "I mean, every once in a while you'll have a guy on their side bust (his coverage). But at the same time, it's a lot of work on the quarterback, it's everybody being on the same page. Peyton makes a lot of this stuff look really easy and it’s come over time and experience. So it's easy to say, 'Hey just go up-tempo and you'll have the same success,' but we've kind of moved in and out of that this year."

John Fox wants Peyton Manning to return | ProFootballTalk
So have Fox and Manning talked about 2015? "It’s cliché but in this business you pretty much stay one week at a time," Fox said.  "So probably not a lot of conversation, but if you’re asking me moving forward, would we like that opportunity?  I’d say yes."

Horse Tracks

#AskABronco: Aqib Talib
Have a question for your favorite Bronco? Each week, DenverBroncos.com will pick a different player and let the fans ask the questions! Use the hashtag #AskABronco, and your question may be featured.

Broncos' Emmanuel Sanders made MNF's play of the game, until it wasn't - The Denver Post
Pound-for-pound — and the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Sanders doesn't have a lot of them, comparatively — Sanders might be the toughest dude on Denver's roster. Twice this season, play has stopped when Sanders was viciously hit by a defensive back. He takes Wes Welker '13 hits. But if he's not concussed, Sanders isn't bowing out; instead, yep, he's bowing to the crowd like a conductor and lining up at the line of scrimmage.

Chiefs QB Smith out with lacerated spleen | The Kansas City Star
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will miss Sunday's regular-season finale against San Diego with a lacerated spleen.

Chase Daniel faces Chargers a year after nearly beating them - CBSSports.com
Perhaps starting Chase Daniel doesn't mean the Chiefs will lose to the Chargers on Sunday.