The Denver Broncos host the Buffalo Bills this week, and both teams find themselves in completely opposite places. The Bills are 10-3, two games ahead of the Miami Dolphins for the lead in the AFC East. The Broncos are 5-8 and in third place in the AFC West. While Buffalo has yet to clinch a playoff berth, the Broncos need a whole host of things to go right in order to begin thinking about playing meaningful games in January.
With a loss on Sunday, Denver will officially be eliminated from playoff contention. Of course, a win by either the Miami Dolphins or the Baltimore Ravens would eliminate Denver, as well, but those results are out of their control. Denver will have plenty of motivation to play well on Sunday, as every game is essentially a playoff game, no matter how far-fetched the scenario may be.
Which Broncos does Buffalo need to contain in order to come out on top this week? Here’s our list.
QB Drew Lock
Two things you never want to read from your starting quarterback: bulletin-board material for the other team and declarations of confusion about his abilities. Lock has done both things recently, as he intimated that he often throws passes and then realizes he shouldn’t have thrown them, and then he also said that while All-Pro corner Tre’Davious White is a talented player, he won’t hesitate to throw at White on Saturday. Sure, Lock was complimenting White, and I’m sure that the headline saying that Lock says “Oh no” half the time the ball leaves his hand is a bit of an exaggeration. Lock will see a Bills defense that is beginning to gel at the perfect time, so he’ll have to make some high-quality throws in order for Denver to prevail.
RB Melvin Gordon III
Gordon is fast and powerful, and he’s also an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He has 874 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns this season in another solid campaign. The Bills have struggled at times with strong, downhill runners, and Denver is absolutely going to look to exploit that tendency. The Bills can defend against this strategy in two ways: first, they can stack the box and stop the run. Then, they can score plenty of points and put the Broncos in a negative game script. This will allow the Bills’ pass rushers to feast on Lock rather than sitting back and worrying about Gordon. The last time Gordon played the Bills was in 2018 as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers. He scored three touchdowns in that game. The Bills will need to limit his success in order to win on Saturday.
WR Tim Patrick
I really like Denver’s receiving group. They have a solid young tight end in Noah Fant and a pair of speedy wideouts in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Then, there’s the big-bodied Patrick, a favorite target for Lock all season long. While Jeudy has more targets (86) than both Fant and Patrick, who have 67 apiece, Patrick is second on the team in catches with 43, and he leads the team in receiving yards (643) and touchdowns (6). Levi Wallace played the best game of his career last week, breaking up three passes and making a key interception in the fourth quarter. If he continues that level of play, the Bills can mix-and-match between Wallace, Tre’Davious White, and Josh Norman on Patrick. Wallace has struggled with big, physical players in the past, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see White on Patrick more often than Jeudy.
EDGE Bradley Chubb
With Von Miller out for the season, it’s been Chubb who has stepped up and filled the void as Denver’s top rusher. The third-year man has shown no ill effects from the torn ACL that ended his 2019 season, as he has 7.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, and nine tackles-for-loss to go with 41 tackles this year. His pace doesn’t quite match that of his rookie year, where he notched 12.5 sacks, but it’s still a great sign that he can bounce back from injury and still play at a high level without Miller on his opposite side.
CB Michael Ojemudia
The rookie is going to be Denver’s top corner, as three of his teammates at the position won’t be available Saturday. A.J. Bouye was suspended for PED use, and the Broncos placed Duke Dawson and Kevin Toliver on injured reserve. That means that Ojemudia will probably find himself matched up against Stefon Diggs more than a few times. Advantage Buffalo. If the Broncos play some bracket coverage on Diggs? Then they’ll have to contend with Cole Beasley, too. Ojemudia is going to play a tremendous role in this game one way or another.