Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange   |   Sept. 21, 2017 at 1:08 PM
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DENVER BRONCOS (2-0) AT BUFFALO BILLS (1-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, New Era Field. TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta.

SERIES HISTORY: 37th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 19-16-1. They have split the last four games. The most historic meeting was on Jan. 12, 1992, when the Bills turned back the Broncos 10-7 in the AFC Championship Game to go to their second consecutive Super Bowl.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos have jumped out to a 2-0 start under first-year coach Vance Joseph, who inherited a talent-laden roster from Gary Kubiak. This marks Joseph's first road trip with his team after posting back-to-back home wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys to open the year.

Denver is No. 3 in the NFL with 33 points per game, and quarterback Trevor Siemian (450 passing yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions) has a terrific 106.9 passer rating. If the Broncos can protect the ball against the Bills, their superior personnel -- e.g., wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (11 catches, 138 yards) and running back C.J. Anderson (199 rushing yards, 1 TD) -- should be able to set the tone. An ankle injury to Bills defensive Marcell Dareus only adds to the Bills' cause for concern.

Buffalo has a stout defense that has allowed 234.5 yards per game in its first two contests, good for second in the NFL. However, the Bills' offense is ranked No. 24 and must find a way to score points against Denver, whose defense is nearly as stingy as Buffalo's. Look for the Bills to ask running back LeSean McCoy (119 rushing yards) to take some of the pressure off quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Bills RT Jordan Mills vs. Broncos OLB Von Miller. Miller needs no introduction among fans accustomed to seeing him dominate opposing offensive lines with his speed and athleticism. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder from Texas A&M is coming off a two-sack performance against the Cowboys and has 75 1/2 sacks in six-plus seasons with Denver. Mills is a hard worker but lacks Miller's pedigree.

--Broncos TE Virgil Green vs. Bills S Jordan Poyer. Through two weeks, Poyer has established himself as one of Buffalo's top defenders. He leads the team with five pass breakups and is tied for the team lead in sacks (2) and interceptions (1). He will be responsible for preventing big plays down the seam against the Broncos, who have a talented tight end in Green (three receptions, 55 yards, 1 TD).

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos CB Aqib Talib. He has 10 career interception returns for touchdowns, which is third-best in NFL history. Talib needs one more pick-six to pull even with legendary defensive backs Charles Woodson and Darren Sharper for No. 2 on the all-time list. Talib could make Sunday difficult for Buffalo WR Jordan Matthews, who has five catches for 91 yards on the season but has yet to score. Matthews surpassed 800 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons with the Eagles and will have to connect with Taylor more frequently to improve this season's numbers.

FAST FACTS: Vance Joseph can become the fourth coach in Broncos history to win his first three games. ... Denver OLB Von Miller needs 3 1/2 sacks to pull even with Karl Mecklenburg (79) for second place on the franchise's all-time list. ... Broncos NT Domata Peko Sr. has an opportunity to increase his starting streak to 115 games, which is the most of any active defensive lineman in the league.

PREDICTION: A long flight east and a road matchup in front of a raucous base of Bills fans will not make life easy for the Broncos. Still, look for Joseph's squad to hang tough in Week 3 and avoid early turnovers.

OUR PICK: Broncos, 31-21.

--Tom Musick

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