DENVER BRONCOS (5-3)
at CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-6)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Denver -4, Total: 47
Sizzling-hot Denver tries to extend its winning streak when it pays a visit to Carolina on Sunday afternoon.
The Broncos have won three in a row overall and two straight on the road, SU and ATS. QB Peyton Manning has looked like the Peyton of old over the past five games, completing 76% of his passes for 316 YPG, including 15 TD and just 3 INT during that span. The Panthers’ season was going down the toilet before an upset win in Washington last week. Their porous defense had its best effort since Week 1, holding the Redskins to 337 yards of offense and 13 points. QB Cam Newton managed the game well, but was underwhelming again, completing 13-for-23 throws for 201 yards— but no turnovers—against Washington’s league-worst secondary.
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Manning hasn't faced the Panthers since 2007, but his numbers against them in two starts are pretty pedestrian for his standards: 57.8% completions, 548 passing yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. For the first time since 2004, Manning has tossed 3 TD in five straight games, helping him to take the NFL lead in both passer rating (108.6) and completion percentage (69.5%). Manning has quickly built a great rapport with both of his starting receivers, Eric Decker and a Demaryius Thomas. Decker has 7 TD grabs in his past five games while Thomas has 95 receiving YPG for the season, good for 4th-most in the NFL. Decker has been bothered by a thigh injury, but he is expected to start on Sunday. While Denver's passing attack is in great shape, the ground game has been inconsistent, ranking 18th in the league with 107 rushing YPG. In the past three road games, the Broncos have managed just 65 rushing YPG on 2.9 yards per carry. Fumbling has been a huge problem for Denver, as it has lost 10 fumbles already -- K.C. is the only NFL team with more (15). Defensively, the Broncos rank in the top half of the NFL in both passing defense (221 YPG, 10th in league) and rushing defense (104 YPG, 12th in NFL). They have forced 12 turnovers this year, but half of those came three weeks ago in San Diego when Philip Rivers had six miscues.
Newton has not thrown the football well during his team's three-game home losing streak, completing just 51% of his passes for 616 yards (6.4 YPA), 1 TD and 4 INT. It would help if he had the kind of running game the Panthers showed off last season, when they ranked third in the NFL with 151 rushing YPG. This year, they have just 116 rushing YPG (12th in league), as the team tinkers with the workload of both DeAngelo Williams (3.7 YPC) and Jonathan Stewart (3.8 YPC). The return of No. 2 WR Brandon LaFell, who sat out last week's game with a concussion, will surely take attention away from top wideout Steve Smith and give Newton another reliable target. The defense is making strides, especially in terms of pressuring the quarterback, tallying 10 sacks in the past two games. The Panthers also have seven takeaways in the past four games, something they will need to do more of against a turnover-prone Broncos club.