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Gray Matter Mailbag: Divisional Round X-Factor

Posted Jan 10, 2014

This week, DenverBroncos.com Editor Gray Caldwell answers fan questions on the 'X-factor' for Sunday's game, Rahim Moore's status and the team's confidence level.

Thanks for this week's submissions.

As always, you can tweet me your questions all week long to @GrayCaldwell using the hashtag #GrayMatter.

I'm going to stay on the offensive side of the ball and go with Wes Welker.

Welker missed the final three games of the regular season and still ended up with 10 touchdowns and was only 222 yards away from a 1,000-yard campaign. He's a difference-maker, to state the obvious.

“Any time you get a guy of Wes’ caliber back, it’s really going to be to our advantage," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "And just to see his energy, the way that he plays, the way that he practices out here, other guys feed off that. And a guy that—he’s 32 years old, you can see that he’s hungry, he wants to be in this position. I think our guys see that and it motivates them, as well.”

Welker has been especially productive on third downs this season, and even when he wasn't the one making the catch, he drew enough attention to help someone else make the play.

Independent analyst Andrew Mason dove into that earlier this week. "Prior to Welker's second concussion, the Broncos converted 48.2 percent of their third downs," he wrote. "Their percentage was just 39.0 in the three-and-a-half games they played without him."

And the last time the Broncos and Chargers met, Welker wasn't on the field. San Diego won.

"The main thing is they played us a certain way because we didn’t have him, I think," Demaryius Thomas said. "They didn’t account for Wes last game because he didn’t play but they will this game. It’s good for us because you don’t know what they’re going to throw at us, but it’s another weapon on the field to help us out.”

I think it could be one of the big differences between this game and the Chargers' Week 15 regular-season win.

“We all know he’s a dynamic player and he’s a guy that has been a big part of our offense this year," Decker said. "To have him back, San Diego is going to have to key on him. They’re going to have to make sure they have a plan for him. It just opens everybody else up and it gives us more options, more opportunities."

I'll let Eric Decker take this one.

"I would say that there’s a lot more confidence in the locker room this year than last year," he said Wednesday. "Last year we went on a little run there and I don’t know if we got comfortable but we didn’t finish. We were hungry this year as far as coming into the offseason, coming into training camp making sure that when we go out and play we make sure we finish everything we do. We’ve had some bumps in the road, but I think that adversity has helped us as a team and grow together as a team. Again, our focus is making sure that every single person does their job so we can have that success.”

If the Broncos win on Sunday, Rahim Moore would be eligible to play again for the AFC Championship Game.

But the safety was eligible to return to practice as soon as the week leading up to the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. He didn't practice that week and hasn't been on the field this week, either.

It's yet to be determined whether Moore could return to practice next week and still be ready in time to play in the AFC Championship Game, but Head Coach John Fox said on Thursday that Moore is "improving every day."

"The old adage ‘time heals’ is true and he’s getting better every day," Fox said.

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