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Coming Attractions: Anderson emerges as Broncos’ No. 1 back

By Jay Skurski

News Sports Reporter

1. C.J. Anderson has given the running game a spark. The Broncos have used a running back-by-committee approach this season, with the 5-foot-8, 224-pound Anderson the most recent to get the bulk of the workload. On Sunday night against Kansas City, he ran for a career-high 168 yards, getting 32 carries. Anderson is also solid in pass protection – which is job No. 1 for Broncos running backs. Even when Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman return to the lineup, Anderson has done enough to keep the starting job.

2. The offensive line has had its issues, as has the return game. Even though they got left tackle Ryan Clady back from injury after he missed all but two games in 2013, the Broncos haven’t gotten great offensive line play. Denver has used four different combinations along the line this season, including two changes at right tackle. Converted guard Louis Vasquez is the latest to start at the position. He’ll have his hands full against Bills Pro Bowler Mario Williams in Week 14. Heading into Sunday night’s game against Kansas City, the Broncos ranked 24th in the NFL in both kickoff- and punt-return average, at 21.8 and 6.8 yards per return, respectively.

3. They’ve got a new kicker. Rookie Brandon McManus started the season strong, making 6 of 7 field goals in the first six weeks. But his performance dipped in the last five games, as he went 3 for 6. His 69 percent success rate was 32nd in the NFL. The low point came when he missed a 33-yard attempt against Miami in Week 12. The Broncos then cut McManus and signed Connor Barth. He hasn’t kicked in the NFL since 2012, missing last year with torn Achilles tendon. He has a career success rate of 83.4 percent.

4. They’ve got key contributors getting healthier. Linebacker Brandon Marshall, the team’s leading tackler, returned to the lineup Sunday night against Kansas City. Cornerback Aqib Talib (left hamstring) and tight end Julius Thomas (left ankle) were unable to play against the Chiefs, but were able to practice on a limited basis during the week – a good sign for their availability in Week 14. Talib is the Broncos’ top cornerback, while Thomas is one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets with 12 touchdowns on the season.

5. They are a different team at home and on the road. Heading into Sunday night’s game at Kansas City, the Broncos were averaging 11.3 fewer points per game on the road than in Mile High Stadium. Manning has thrown seven of his nine interceptions on the road, while the team has reached 31 points just twice.

Unfortunately for the Bills, they must travel to Denver. At Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Broncos have scored at least 31 points in five of six games, and twice topped the 40-point mark.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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