The Denver Broncos are among a dozen AFC teams at or above the .500 mark. With the one-win Detroit Lions coming to town on Sunday, they can't waste this opportunity and expect to remain in the playoff hunt.
"We're walking into Denver and it's a darn good opponent," Detroit coach Dan Campbell said. "They're in the playoff hunt. For them it's basically a playoff game. They can't lose anymore, (that's) the way they're looking at it. This isn't some slouch we're playing."
Losses in two of their last three games dropped the Broncos' record to 6-6. Their offense stalled against Kansas City on Sunday in a 22-9 loss. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for 257 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown but he was also picked off twice.
Bridgewater's yardage total was his highest in six games. He's thrown only four touchdown passes in the last five games.
"Our whole passing game needs to improve a little bit," Denver coach Vic Fangio said. "We never got into a rhythm in our last game and the week before we didn't have a lot of yards, either."
With Melvin Gordon sidelined with a hip injury, rookie running back Javonte Williams had his best overall performance this season. He rushed for 102 yards and also caught six passes for 76 yards. Gordon returned to practice on Wednesday.
Gordon rushed for 83 yards in Denver's last home game, a 28-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Denver's defense has remained stout, regardless of the offense's effectiveness. The Broncos rank third in the NFL in fewest points allowed per game (18.2).
That gives them hope they can get hot in the last five games.
"We haven't had seven playoff berths, we've never had 17 games before," Fangio said. "There's still a lot of football to be played between the teams that are in contention."
"You want to be playing your best football during this time of the year," Bridgewater said. "We have the ability to do that."
The Lions finally got into the win column on Sunday with a last-second, 29-27 victory over Minnesota. Jared Goff threw on a 11-yard scoring strike to Amon-Ra St. Brown on the last play.
Goff threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns and was intercepted once.
"He had some outstanding throws in that game, really top-notch throws, particularly early in the game," Campbell said. "And then there was about a three or four play sequence where it was tough. For him to come back and get out of that and be able to drive us down the field was crucial. It's great for us and speaks volumes and that will help his confidence moving forward."
Fangio doesn't expect an easy time of it on Sunday.
"Throughout the entire season, they've lost a lot of tough games," he said. "The last four games, they tied one, they won one and they lost two by two points. They're playing really good football right now."
A flu bug hit the Lions' locker room this week and several players sat out Wednesday's practice because of it, including Goff. The biggest injury concern is running back D'Andre Swift. He missed Sunday's game due to a shoulder injury and did not practice on Wednesday.
Linebacker Bradley Chubb (shoulder, ankle) and defensive end Shelby Harris (ankle) were among the Broncos who sat out Wednesday's practice.
-Field Level Media