Published September 17, 2015
Any given Sunday?
Well, probably not this Sunday — not in Denver, at least.
Next up for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose 51 points this season are as many as Manning's offense put up last week.
That doesn't mean, of course, that Sunday's game won't draw an audience, especially in Denver, North Florida and certain establishments in Southern Nevada.
This is "The Point Spread Game," where it's not so much about who gets the 'W', as whether the Broncos (5-0) can cover the 27-point spread, largest ever put on the board in Las Vegas for an NFL contest.
"It ain't got (expletive) to do with me at all, so I don't want to hear about it," Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts III said, clearly tired of a question that's been bubbling in Jacksonville for the better part of two weeks. "No more questions about the point spread, please. That's dumb."
Manning, whose 20 touchdown passes are the most through the first five games in NFL history, certainly didn't want to discuss the line either, shaking his head before the question was even completed, then talking up the winless Jags.
"Completely irrelevant to me," he said. "We're playing a good NFL football team. I don't look at anything besides what I see on the tape. On defense, I see a team that's stingy in the red zone. I've seen some offenses that have made some really good plays against them, that have been hard to defend, and certainly it's a team with a lot of pride."
Here are five things to know as the Broncos try to extend their regular-season winning streak to 17:
LASER FOCUS: Part of what's been impressive about the Broncos since they last lost a regular-season game on Oct. 7, 2012, is that they haven't had an off day or a day where they looked like they were glancing past that week's opponent.
In setting up the week's talking points, coach John Fox said he remembered being a two-touchdown underdog at home when he was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. The year was 1998. The opponent was the Denver Broncos, who came in with a 13-0 record.
"They left with a loss," Fox said of the 20-16 Giants win over a team that went on to capture the Super Bowl. "And this team has beaten us four out of the last five times we've played. Nobody here is taking anybody lightly."
COVER MEN: The Broncos got embarrassed on defense last week in that 51-48 win over Dallas, allowing Tony Romo to pass for 506 yards and five touchdowns. The Jaguars have shown nothing near that sort of potential on offense, but certainly they can gather ideas watching the tape from a game in which Champ Bailey sat and his replacement, Chris Harris, missed the second half.
Harris has a concussion, making him a long shot to return by Sunday. Bailey was fully participating in practice this week, meaning he's getting closer to his 2013 debut. This also marks the last week of linebacker Von Miller's suspension — good news for a defense that needs to start getting players back instead of losing more.
Starters Wesley Woodyard and Robert Ayers also were hurt against Dallas and are less than sure things to play Sunday.
COVER HIM: The Jaguars had an offensive explosion of sorts last week — 20 points — thanks in part to receiver Justin Blackmon's return from a four-game suspension. Blackmon had five catches for 136 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars have another offensive threat in running back Maurice Jones-Drew, though Jacksonville's running game — along with everything else — has been stifled, averaging 58 yards a game, ranked 30th. Overall, the offense is last in points and total yards.
"In order to be successful in anything you have to go through some trying times and that's what we're going through right now," Jones-Drew said.
JACK'S OLD TEAM: This will be the first coaching opportunity for Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio against the team that fired him in 2011 after nearly nine seasons. The Jaguars have gone 4-22 since he left.
"The one thing we always respected about coach Del Rio is that he's always going to put you in a situation to be successful," said Jones-Drew, who was drafted during Del Rio's tenure.
JUST A REMINDER: Jacksonville has pulled off big upsets in Denver before.
In their second year of existence, the Jaguars were double-digit underdogs to John Elway's Broncos in the 1997 divisional playoffs. Led by Mark Brunell, who now does radio work for the team, the Jaguars overcame an early 12-0 deficit for a 30-27 win that still goes down as one of the most painful losses in Broncos history.
AP NFL website: http://pro32.ap.org/poll