Last AFC spot basically down to Bengals/Steelers Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! The AFC playoff picture got slightly clearer last night, as Cincinnati (8-6) pulled away in the second half of a 34-13 slopfest, turning over the Eagles (4-10) five times along the way.

The win puts them a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh, whom they'll visit next Sunday. A Steelers loss this week at Dallas would give the Bengals a chance to clinch a playoff spot next weekend with a win over Pittsburgh.

Cincy and Pittsburgh are essentially in a battle for the AFC's sixth seed, with an outside shot at overtaking Baltimore for the AFCN title.

The Jets have a slim chance at a wild card, while the Bills, Dolphins, Browns, and Chargers are essentially holding lottery tickets. To make the playoffs, San Diego needs to win out, have four other games go their way, and not be joined at 8-8 by Cleveland.

Meanwhile, a Denver win at Baltimore would almost ensure they'd be at least the number-three seed, and maintain their hopes of gaining a first-round bye.

Broncos

Videos: John Fox, Jack Del Rio, and Champ Bailey speak after practice; NFL Films previews the game; John Elway discusses the matchup with Chris Hall in his latest podcast (transcript).

Wesley Woodyard and Chris Kuper were again limited in practice, but both figure to start Sunday.

Add Del Rio to the crowd of names expecting the Ravens to utilize more of a no-huddle attack Sunday than they've shown in the past couple months.

Ben Stockwell explains the poor grades Elvis Dumervil's has received from PFF this season and suggests opponents start double-teaming Von Miller; more on this later today from Doc. Ironically, Stockwell says Elvis has been employing a limited pass-rushing repertoire this season, while Von says Doom has been responsible for helping the second-year superstar add nuance to his.

Jeff Legwold thinks Denver should use Champ Bailey to cover Anquan Boldin, and he figures Keith Brooking will need to step up big to prevent a big day from Ray Rice.

Mike Klis does what would have been unthinkable as recently as three months ago - comparing the receiving duo of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker with Denver legends Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey.

Bill Barnwell remains perplexed by Denver's fumble recovery woes, and he wonders what their record would look like with a normal recovery rate.

Ravens

Five Ravens did not practice yesterday, including four key starters - G Marshal Yanda, S Bernard Pollard, LB Ray Lewis, and FB Vonta Leach.

Terrell Suggs says he'll be a game-time decision Sunday, but his coyness sure makes it seem like he expects to suit up.

Five of Joe Flacco's seven fumbles this season have come in the past four games, which he acknowledges is a major problem. This is all the more true with Von and Doom coming to town with their 12 combined forced fumbles, and 24 sacks.

Mike Preston thinks making his play-calling debut against Denver's stout defense will be too tall a task for Jim Caldwell, and that the following week against the G-Men will provide a better read on whether Baltimore should retain Caldwell as their OC going forward.

Peter Damilatis examines the struggles of Brendon Ayanbadejo in subbing for Dannell Ellerbe, and he notes that the likely absence of Yanda will rob Baltimore of their highest-graded player.

Kevin Cowherd is the lone wolf on the Sun's staff willing to predict a Ravens victory.

News

In addition to a neck injury, Jay Cutler has a sprained MCL; Dez Bryant plans to forego recommended finger surgery and play Sunday against Pittsburgh; Cowboys teammate Jay Ratliff had surgery to repair the sports hernia that Jerrah Jones thought Ratliff should rush back from to play.

Andy Reid say he'd like to coach in 2013; Mike Silver suggests San Diego as a possible landing spot.

Analysis

Mike Tanier, Benjamin HoffmanJohn Clayton, and Jason Cole preview the week's games; Tanier thinks Baltimore emerges victorious, while Hoffman expects a Broncos win.

Matt Bowen says players don't think about the long-term health consequences of things like Toradol, and that requiring them to sign a waiver would have no effect on how many players take the injections on game days.

Chase Stuart weighs the decision facing teams on 4th-and-7 in long FG territory, and of course, the best choice is usually to go for it.

Ben Muth studies the line play of the Chiefs, whom he expects to lose both Branden Albert and Ryan Lilja to free agency.

Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will call Denver/Baltimore; here are Sunday's broadcast maps and announcer pairings.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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