When the Buffalo Bills travel to Denver for their NFL week 16 game versus the Broncos, NFL fans everywhere will be eager to see how Denver rebounds from last week's 41-23 loss to New England - and if Buffalo has any gas left in their collective team tank. Denver had gone 6-1 in the seven games prior to the thumping the Patriots handed them last week, while Buffalo has lost a staggering 7 games in a row. With an overall record of 8-6 the Broncos are in first place in the AFC West and control their own destiny, while at 5-9 Buffalo now finds itself playing for nothing more than next season's draft position.
Buffalo began the season by winning 5 of their first seven games before a string of horrific injuries devastated their team roster. The most notable of these was a season ending knee injury to running back Fred Jackson in week 10, resulting in the loss of Jackson's nearly 140 yards per game of total offense. At the present time Buffalo has a mind-blowing 15 players on the injured-reserve list.
Conversely, Denver has been on an exciting roll since Tim Tebow has stepped in as the full time quarterback replacing Kyle Orton, and while at times the Broncos have struggled they still manage to win.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Denver vs Buffalo game will be how each team's running game performs. Denver is first in the NFL in team rushing offense with an average of 163 yards per game. Veteran running back Willis McGahee has 990 yards on the season good for a 4.8 average and 4 touchdowns. Additionally, Tim Tebow has rushed for 610 yards and a 5.8 yard average and running back Lance Ball has been a nice compliment chipping in 366 yards for a 4.4 yard per carry average.
The Buffalo running game ranks 13th in the NFL as a team, averaging 118 yards per game. There should be a huge asterisk next to this stat however - these numbers were padded considerably by the 93 yards per game that Fred Jackson contributed prior to his injury. Running back C.J. Spiller has done well as Jackson's replacement, but the Buffalo running game is not close to what it was earlier in the season.
In essence, the Buffalo offense now revolves entirely around quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is having a good season but is prone to throw too many interceptions (19 this year). Fitzpatrick has a 62.3 completion rate, 3,329 passing yards and 22 touchdown passes, but is in dire need of a deep threat at the wide receiver position in order to stretch the field vertically. Stevie Johnson (68 catches for a 12.8 yard average) and David Nelson (56 catches for a 10.6 yard average) are good in a ball control passing game, but neither are considered game-breakers.
On the Denver side of the passing game, Tebow will never be considered in the same light as Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady but in light of criticisms Tebow is an excellent game manager. Although Tebow's completion rate is only 48.6 percent his touchdown to interception rate is outstanding at 11 to 2. Even at this early stage in his career Tebow has quickly learned to take what the defense gives which will be a huge advantage to Denver in this game.
Overall the Buffalo vs Denver game will be decided by three main factors. The first of these is if the Buffalo rushing defense which is 29th in the NFL can stop Denver's top ranked rushing offense. The second factor is Ryan Fitzpatrick - he'll need to carry a Buffalo offense that is severely lacking in the ground game. Lastly, turnovers could be the game changer, as Buffalo is even on turnovers this year and Denver is at minus 7.