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NFL Week 15: Can the Broncos clinch the AFC West?

Oakland will be looking for revenge against Denver in a rematch of their AFC West clash from Week 5, which the Broncos won 16-10.  However,


Oakland will be looking for revenge against Denver in a rematch of their AFC West clash from Week 5, which the Broncos won 16-10.  However, the Broncos have had a peculiar season for a team that is sitting 10-2 and with both feet all-but in the playoffs. A quarterback change from Peyton Manning to Brock Osweiler has gripped the NFL, while a two-game slump in the middle of the season prompted remarks about the Broncos season capitulating. However, they have since won three straight games under Osweiler, while Manning remains sidelined with plantar fasciitis. The Raiders have been vastly improved in 2015, if not quite playoff ready. Their young talent has wowed at times, with rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper and second-year quarterback Derek Carr having instant chemistry, as well as veteran Michael Crabtree having a resurgent year. Carr and Cooper are coming off the back of a tough loss against the Chiefs, where everything went wrong in the fourth quarter. Their playoff hopes are resting on this game.  

Three Keys to the Game

  1. Playoff implications

Both teams are going into this game with varying priorities. For the Raiders, it’s win or bust from here on in if they want to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. Meanwhile, the Broncos will be looking to secure home field advantage through the postseason, so they will be looking to better the results of New England and Cincinnati this weekend.

  1. Brock Osweiler

The jury is still out on whether or not Brock Osweiler will replace Peyton Manning once he returns from injury. Will the veteran nearing a return, this might be Osweiler last, and best, shot at showing Gary Kubiak that he is the man to lead Denver into the playoffs. Oakland rank towards the bottom of the NFL in yards per pass allowed and points allowed in 2015.

  1. The conditions

December is always an interesting time to play football in the NFL, and not more so than in Denver at Mile-High Stadium. The last outing there saw the Patriots lose to the Broncos in snowy conditions, and with inclement weather and high winds the norm at this time of year, expect it to be a major factor in the teams game plans for Sunday.  

Match-up to watch

Derek Carr vs the Broncos defense We all know the narrative about Wade Phillips and this Broncos defense. Not only are they the best in the NFL, but they have been drawing comparisons to the Chicago Bears defense of the mid 1970’s and the Baltimore Ravens defense of 2000, such is the high level they are at. With DeMarcus Ware returning to partner Von Miller at defensive end, Derek Carr will have to watch his back (and front) to try and get the Raiders down the field.  

Prediction

Denver Broncos The Broncos have not lost since switching to Brock Osweiler under center, and I do not see that changing on Sunday. The defense will no doubt get the plaudits, but I foresee Osweiler throwing for three scores and making the starting job his own come January.  

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NFL Week 15: Can the Broncos clinch the AFC West?

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