Broncos clinch playoff bye with romp over Raiders


The Denver Broncos bounced back from Monday night's loss to the Bengals to capture the AFC's No. 2 seed with a 47-14 thrashing of the Oakland Raiders. Our takeaways:

1. Should we be concerned about Peyton Manning? Not yet. The Broncos' quarterback rebounded from last week's four-interception debacle to puncture Oakland for 273 yards at 7.4 yards per throw. He's tossed just five touchdowns over the past four games, but Peyton still finishes the year with 39 passing scores, second to only Andrew Luck (40) among NFL quarterbacks. What he does between now and February, though, will mean much more.

2. Good chemistry between Manning and Demaryius Thomas doomed Oakland, with the Broncos' wideout picking up 115 yards off eight grabs. Thomas would have amassed more if not for a dropped pass in the end zone, but he still finishes the year with 1,619 yards through the air, a Broncos franchise record. Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders join Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey as the only 100-catch duos in team history.

3. C.J. Anderson's three touchdowns on the day gives him nine scores over his past six games, the most among NFL running backs during that span. Coming in averaging 98.3 yards per game on the ground since Week 11, the Broncos emergent workhorse piled up another 87 yards off 13 carries against a Raiders defense that wasn't the same with Khalil Mack battling a hamstring injury. Ronnie Hillman also looked sharp with 56 yards off 15 totes.

4. The Raiders didn't generate a first down until midway through the second quarter. Whoever coaches this team next season is charged with surrounding young quarterback Derek Carr with better protection up front and more weapons. No Raiders runner or receiver had more than 15 yards by the half, with five of Oakland's first seven drives going for negative yardage. The Raiders mustered just 45 yards over the first two quarters -- their lowest at the intermission point since 2008. Give the Broncos defense plenty of credit for the onslaught.

5. Even if this Broncos offense isn't the match of last year's historically explosive attack, Denver's vastly improved defense gives John Fox and friends a solid shot to avenge the team's hyper-ugly defeat in Super Bowl XLVIII. 

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