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Broncos' Pistol not a popgun, Bills must counter with Spiller

1. Tebow Time

Tim Tebow is successful not only because of his ability to run but because of his underrated ability to read defenses. When he steps up in the middle of the pocket, he keeps his head up and has become more of a dual threat. Last week, New England was able to slow him down by disguising where the pressure was coming from and, if he decided to run, forcing him into the heart of the defense. Also, the left-handed Tebow isn't nearly as successful making plays scrambling to his right as he is to his left. Critics lament Tebow's alleged failure to deliver deep balls accurately, but he has averaged more than 22 yards on his 11 touchdown passes. The Broncos like to throw long from the Pistol formation and Tebow will challenge Bills cornerbacks Drayton Florence and Aaron Williams. Denver's wide receivers, however, are inconsistent. Demaryius Thomas has big-play ability as does Eric Decker, but both have dropped passes in key situations.

2. Broncos have options

Bills coach Chan Gailey said the Broncos, with Tebow behind center, have "the ultimate Wildcat," but they run an option attack seen more often on the college level. This makes it difficult to prepare for them. Denver's attack takes about a quarter to adjust to, but by then they mix in more of a traditional offense and crank up the running game with former Bill Willis McGahee. With 990 yards, McGahee today likely will top the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth time in his career and his first since 2007, when he was with Baltimore. That doesn't bode well for the Bills, who have been in the holiday spirit of giving all season when it comes to the run.

3. Make Spiller a thriller

The Bills haven't shown much energy on either side of the ball lately, but C.J. Spiller is becoming a viable offensive threat. The Broncos give up 125.4 yards per game on the ground. Spiller has been productive running and receiving; he caught nine passes against the Dolphins working from the backfield. He has always shown elite-level speed but now that he's found a rhythm by playing more, he's also making defenders miss. The Broncos will game plan for wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who will likely be shadowed by corner Champ Bailey. Look for Ryan Fitzpatrick to target David Nelson more if he's covered by Andre' Goodman, who has been burned by receivers all season.

4. Heavy hitters

The Bills' offensive line has been praised for protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it will be tested often today. The Broncos love to blitz and their edge rushers, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, have combined for 20 sacks. Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in April, just ahead of Marcell Dareus, has 11.5 sacks, which is ninth in the NFL.

5. Moving forward

Now that the Bills have been eliminated from playoff contention, Gailey must tap into every motivational aspect and give the players a sense of their obligation to the organization. More than a few players know they have to finish strong because there are serious questions about the team and jobs are on the line heading into next season.

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Outlook

The Broncos are 5-2 on the road this season, have won six of their last seven and are playing with the AFC West title in mind. The game simply means more to Denver than to Buffalo. Prediction: Broncos 28, Bills 10.

email: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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