2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Broncos to face toughest test since October

    2012-12-12 18:00

(Eds: Adds Manning Pro Bowl note. With AP Photos.)
By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Though nobody would discount an eight-game winning streak in the NFL, there's a not-so-little secret about the one Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are currently enjoying.

Quite simply, they haven't played anyone all that good since the streak started back in October.

Nobody the Broncos have beaten over their longest winning streak since the 1998 Super Bowl season would be in the playoffs if they started today. Only one - Cincinnati at 7-6 - currently has a winning record.

All of which adds yet another layer of intrigue to this week's game at Baltimore.

``This is the type of team that we will have to play in the playoffs,'' linebacker Von Miller said. ``This is the type of team that has been very successful in the past. ... And this is the type of team that we have to play to gauge ourselves and see what type of team we are.''

Not only will the game against the Ravens (9-4) go a long way toward determining where the Broncos (10-3), currently seeded third, land in the hunt for a first-round bye in the playoffs, it will, true to Miller's words, give them a true litmus test on a number of issues. Among them:

-How well do they stack up against one of the league's best teams with what is traditionally one of its best defenses that could be getting linebacker Ray Lewis back in the lineup this week?

-How well can they play outdoors, on the road in inclement weather, which is where the playoffs could conceivably take them? (Sunday's forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain.)

``You have to play the best teams at the end,'' cornerback Chris Harris said. ``So it's good to play the best teams early, so by the time you get to the playoffs, you've had a good test.''

That ``good test,'' some might say, has been lacking during this eight-game winning streak, which has, to Denver's credit, included road wins against San Diego, Cincinnati, Carolina, Kansas City and Oakland. Also during that time, the Broncos have captured the AFC West. They've outscored teams by an average of 30-18. Manning has thrown for 2,313 yards and 19 scores over the eight games and has surpassed either John Elway or Dan Marino, or both, for second place on the NFL all-time list for completions, touchdown passes and wins for a starting quarterback.

Through it all, the Broncos have stuck to the mantra that they take them one at a time with the goal of playing their best football come December.

But given the strength of their competition during the streak - combined .356 winning percentage - and some of the flaws they've shown, it's hard to tell if they're doing that.

For instance, in last week's 26-13 win over Oakland, the Broncos settled for four field goals, all of them after moving inside the Raiders 20-yard line. Denver is ranked 10th this season in scoring touchdowns after getting inside the opponent's 20, but the offense has failed to reach the end zone in nine of its last 15 trips. Baltimore's defense leads the league by only allowing 18 touchdowns on opposing offenses' 45 trips inside the 20.

``Every week's a new experience, so we'll have the same type practices and we'll work those situations into our practices as we prepare for them and look at what they do,'' coach John Fox said. ``Like always, it's who executes the best.''

Denver's running game, now led by Knowshon Moreno after Willis McGahee's knee injury, averages 3.8 yards a carry, only 25th in the league. It's a statistic that, presumably, the team would like to improve on, given the possibility of a road playoff game in New England, or maybe a return trip to Baltimore.

``I think any quarterback would tell you that his best friend is a good running game, and that's something that we continue to emphasize and focus on,'' Manning said. ``It's a tough bunch against the run, starting in Baltimore, but we feel it's important, like all season, to be balanced, and that's our goal every single week.''

Much is being made this week of Manning's 6-0 record vs. the Ravens since 2002 compared to Denver's 0-4 lifetime record in games at Baltimore since the Ravens arrived.

Manning, not surprisingly, wants very little to do with trying to explain either trend.

``I can't speak to the past,'' he said. ``All I know is, we're going on the road, playing an excellent team.''

Earlier in the week, Fox said the game would be a ``measuring stick.''

Manning didn't want to go there, either. Neither did another former Raven, defensive lineman Justin Bannan, who knows there are two more regular-season games, both at home, after the team returns from Baltimore. Those opponents: Cleveland and Kansas City, combined record 7-19.

``We could beat them this weekend, and the next week we could lose and you could pile on us next weekend,'' Bannan said.

Notes: QB Peyton Manning leads in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl with 823,372 votes, more than 75,000 ahead of Patriots QB Tom Brady. Voting goes through next Monday. ... WR Demaryius Thomas, who missed part of last week's Raiders game with a shoulder injury, participated fully in practice Wednesday. LB Wesley Woodyard (ankle) was limited. ... Broncos have lost last two games in Baltimore (2009, 2010) by combined score of 61-24. ... Ranked fourth in offense and defense, Broncos are only team in NFL in top five in both categories this week.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

A.J. GreenSep 21 11:52a

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) is active against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Sept. 21.

Anthony SpencerSep 21 11:52a

The Dallas Cowboys have declared DL Anthony Spencer, DL Davon Coleman, OG Donald Hawkins, QB Dustin Vaughan, LB Justin Durant, LB Rolando McClain, CB Tyler Patmon inactive for Week 3.

Bryce BrownSep 21 11:52a

The Buffalo Bills have declared RB Bryce Brown, TE Chris Gragg, OG Cyril Richardson, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, LB Keith Rivers, LB Randell Johnson, CB Ross Cockrell inactive for Week 3.

Aaron DobsonSep 21 11:52a

New England Patriots WR Kenbrell Thompkins is active for the Week 3 game Sunday, Sept. 21. WR Aaron Dobson is a healthy scratch for the game.

Aaron DobsonSep 21 11:52a

The New England Patriots have declared WR Aaron Dobson, CB Don Jones, RB James White, OL Josh Kline, DL Michael Buchanan, C Ryan Wendell, DE Zach Moore inactive for Week 3.

Akeem JordanSep 21 11:42a

The Washington Redskins have declared LB Akeem Jordan, TE Jordan Reed, DL Kedric Golston, OT Morgan Moses, QB Robert Griffin III, WR Santana Moss, CB Tracy Porter inactive for Week 3.

Brandon WattsSep 21 11:42a

The Minnesota Vikings have declared LB Brandon Watts, WR Charles X. Johnson, QB Christian Ponder, OG David Yankey, WR Rodney Smith, DL Scott Crichton, CB Shaun Prater inactive for Week 3.

Arthur JonesSep 21 11:42a

The Indianapolis Colts have declared DL Arthur Jones, LB Chris Carter, WR Da'Rick Rogers, LB Jerrell Freeman, OL Joe Reitz, C Khaled Holmes, OG Lance Louis inactive for Week 3.

Brandon ThompsonSep 21 11:42a

The Cincinnati Bengals have declared DL Brandon Thompson, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, OG Kevin Zeitler, WR Marvin Jones, RB Rex Burkhead, LB Sean Porter, LB Vontaze Burfict inactive for Week 3.

Ben TateSep 21 11:42a

The Cleveland Browns have declared RB Ben Tate, DL Eric Martin, TE Gerell Robinson, DL Ish Kitchen, WR LaRon Byrd, CB Pierre Desir, DB Robert Nelson inactive for Week 3.

David HawthorneSep 21 11:42a

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB David Hawthorne, FB Erik Lorig, DL John Jenkins, SS Marcus Ball, RB Mark Ingram, WR Nick Toon, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 3.

Justin ForsettSep 21 11:39a

Forsett will start the Week 3 game for the Ravens. Bernard Pierce is out.

Bernard PierceSep 21 11:39a

Baltimore Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh) is inactive Sunday, Sept. 21, for the Week 3 game. RB Justin Forsett will start.

Akeem AyersSep 21 11:32a

The Tennessee Titans have declared LB Akeem Ayers, OL Byron Stingily, DT DaQuan Jones, WR Kris Durham, DL Mike Martin, WR T.J. Graham, QB Zach Mettenberger inactive for Week 3.

Charles BrownSep 21 11:32a

The New York Giants have declared OT Charles Brown, DL Devon Kennard, OT James Brewer, DL Jay Bromley, LB Jon Beason, DT Kerry Wynn, WR Odell Beckham Jr. inactive for Week 3.

Arian FosterSep 21 11:32a

The Houston Texans have declared RB Arian Foster, WR DeVier Posey, LB Jadeveon Clowney, OT Jeff Adams, DL Louis Nix, SS Shiloh Keo, QB Tom Savage inactive for Week 3.

Jordan CameronSep 21 11:32a

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder) is active for the Week 3 game Sunday, Sept. 21.

Arian FosterSep 21 11:32a

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring) is inactive for the Week 3 game Sunday, Sept. 21. RB Alfred Blue is expected to start.

Arthur BrownSep 21 11:32a

The Baltimore Ravens have declared LB Arthur Brown, RB Bernard Pierce, OT Jah Reid, OG John Urschel, WR Michael Campanaro, FS Terrence Brooks, DL Timmy Jernigan inactive for Week 3.

Earl WolffSep 21 11:32a

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared SS Earl Wolff, WR Josh Huff, OT Kevin Graf, OG Matt Tobin, QB Matt Barkley, LB Mychal Kendricks, DE Taylor Hart inactive for Week 3.

Dontrelle InmanSep 21 11:32a

The San Diego Chargers have declared CB Chris Davis, WR Dontrelle Inman, DL Ricardo Mathews, RB Ryan Mathews, DT Ryan Carrethers, CB Steve Williams inactive for Week 3.

Zach ErtzSep 21 11:22a

Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz has seven receptions on the season, and six of them have gone for 20 or more yards. He's second in the league in that category.

Shaun HillSep 21 11:22a

St. Louis Rams QB Austin Davis is likely to start Sunday, Sept. 21, against the Dallas Cowboys. QB Shaun Hill (thigh) is likely out.

DeSean JacksonSep 21 11:22a

Washington Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder) will play Sunday, Sept. 21, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alshon JefferySep 21 11:12a

Chicago Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (ankle) is expected to play Monday, Sept. 22.

Brandon MarshallSep 21 11:12a

Chicago Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle) is expected to play Monday, Sept. 22.

Shane VereenSep 21 11:02a

New England Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder) is likely to play Sunday, Sept. 21.

Justin ForsettSep 21 10:32a

Updating an earlier report, Baltimore Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh) has a 5 percent chance to play Sunday, Sept. 21, according to a team source. RB Justin Forsett is likely to start.

Jordan CameronSep 21 10:22a

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder) is expected to play Sunday, Sept. 21.

Vernon DavisSep 21 10:22a

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis (ankle) is doubtful to play Sunday, Sept. 21, and was on crutches until Thursday, Sept. 18. TE Derek Carrier would start in his place.

Jamaal CharlesSep 21 10:15a

Updating an earlier report, Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle) is not expecting to play Sunday, Sept. 21, but he will test his ankle on in pre-game warm-ups. [ More ]

Bernard PierceSep 21 10:15a

Baltimore Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh) is in serious doubt to play Sunday, Sept. 21, in Week 3. He'll be a game-time decision. RB Justin Forsett would start.

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