The Denver Broncos have the division wrapped up, but there is still much at stake for their last matchup of the regular season against the Oakland Raiders. Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Raiders aren’t expected to bow down to their longtime division rivals.
The Broncos are expected to win by most analysts’ predictions, but they face serious playoff seeding implications if they lose. Because they lost to the New England Patriots on Nov. 24, the Broncos do not own the tiebreaker for home field advantage throughout the AFC playoff race. If Denver drops their last game to Oakland, they would drop to the second seeded team for the rest of the playoffs and face the highest ranked remaining team in the divisional matchup.
The outcome of the game will be determined by how much Peyton Manning and the rest of the Denver starters play. If this weren’t the last game of the season with the AFC West and a playoff bye already wrapped up, there wouldn’t be much of a question of how much playing time the Broncos starters would play.
Manning broke the touchdown record last week and is a mere 265 yards shy of the passing yards record; he is likely to start the game and establish an early lead before allowing youngster Brock Osweiler to take the reigns of the offense.
A new string of injuries has caused the Broncos to sit some starters. Von Miller tore his ACL early in last week’s win over the Texans, his season is over. Wes Welker was seen back at practice after suffering two concussions in three weeks. The Broncos are expected to save Welker until the playoffs, benching him for the remainder of the regular season.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor will play his first game for the black and silver for the first time in six weeks. He sprained his MCL weeks ago and Matt McGloin has led the Raiders to a 1-5 record in Pryor’s absence.
Manning is undefeated in his six career starts against the Raiders and is looking to keep the streak alive. The Raiders have not beat the Broncos in Denver since 2010 and will miss the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.