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

Julius ThomasNov 27 07:52p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) was limited during practice Thursday, Nov. 27.

Anthony DavisNov 27 07:23p

The San Francisco 49ers have declared OT Anthony Davis, WR Bruce Ellington, DL Glenn Dorsey, QB Josh X. Johnson, WR Quinton Patton, CB Tramaine Brock, TE Vance McDonald inactive for Week 13.

Arian FosterNov 27 07:12p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Allen BradfordNov 27 07:12p

The Seattle Seahawks have declared LB Allen Bradford, TE Cooper Helfet, CB Jeremy Lane, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, C Max Unger, TE Rashaun Allen, DL Travian Robertson inactive for Week 13.

Jordan CameronNov 27 06:32p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) was limited during practice Thursday, Nov. 27.

Latavius MurrayNov 27 04:52p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray (concussion) was limited during practice Thursday, Nov. 27.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 27 04:02p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Thursday, Nov. 27.

Tony HillsNov 27 03:22p

The Dallas Cowboys have declared LB Dekoda Watson, OG Donald Hawkins, QB Dustin Vaughan, FS Jeff Heath, DL Joshua Brent, OT Tony Hills, CB Tyler Patmon inactive for Week 13.

Taylor HartNov 27 03:12p

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared OT Dennis Kelly, DB Jaylen Watkins, WR Jeff Maehl, OG Julian Vandervelde, QB Nick Foles, CB Rashad Carmichael, DE Taylor Hart inactive for Week 13.

Jordan ReedNov 27 03:02p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) was limited in practice Thursday, Nov. 27.

Dwayne AllenNov 27 02:32p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Nov. 27.

Kyle FullerNov 27 11:32a

Chicago Bears CB Kyle Fuller (knee) will play in the team's Week 13 game against the Detroit Lions. Fuller had been questionable during the week.

Lance BriggsNov 27 11:22a

The Chicago Bears have declared WR Chris X. Williams, LB Darryl Sharpton, OT Eben Britton, DL Jeremiah Ratliff, LB Lance Briggs, CB Terrance Mitchell, DL Trevor Scott inactive for Week Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

The Detroit Lions have declared QB Kellen Moore, OG Larry Warford, DE Larry Webster, DL Nick Fairley, RB Reggie Bush, OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles inactive for Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 11:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is inactive Thursday, Nov. 27, for Week 13.

Reggie BushNov 27 10:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is out for Week 13 Thursday, Nov. 27. His ankle isn't responding well enough, but the hope is to return for Week 14.

R. Griffin IIINov 27 09:53a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is highly unlikely to return to the team next season, sources within the organization said. Head coach Jay Gruden convinced owner Daniel Snyder [ More ]

Jimmy StatenNov 26 09:43p

The Seattle Seahawks signed free-agent DT Jimmy Staten (Seahawks) to their practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also released OT Andrew McDonald from their practice squad.

Marcus ThigpenNov 26 09:03p

The Buffalo Bills claimed WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also waived DE Bryan Johnson.

Richard GordonNov 26 09:03p

The Tennessee Titans waived TE Richard Gordon Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 08:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Dwayne AllenNov 26 07:33p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

C. PattersonNov 26 06:23p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jerick McKinnonNov 26 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Brandon LaFellNov 26 06:03p

New England Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jace AmaroNov 26 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (head) is not expected to play in Week 13, because he is going through the concussion protocol.

Reggie BushNov 26 04:53p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle, back) was limited in practice for the third straight day Wednesday, Nov. 26, and is questionable for Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.

Jordan CameronNov 26 04:43p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) remains day-to-day, but the team is looking for him to practice symptom-free this week, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Jordan ReedNov 26 04:13p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

R. Griffin IIINov 26 02:53p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III needs more seasoning, and he'll likely do it from the bench for the rest of this season, according to head coach Jay Gruden. [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 26 02:33p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) has an excellent chance to return in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans after missing the last two games.

Mark SanchezNov 26 02:23p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez has thrown six interceptions this year, but all of them haven't been game-changing turnovers. In Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans, Sanchez thrived on [ More ]

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