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Broncos can play spoiler in season finale vs. Raiders

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' playoff chances ended in Week 15 with a loss to the Chiefs, but Denver will have a chance to play spoiler to an AFC West rival in Week 17.

The Raiders (7-8) will need a win on Sunday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive — as well as losses from the Steelers and Titans and a win from the Colts.

The rest of the results, though, won't matter if the Broncos knock off the Raiders.

And though Head Coach Vic Fangio said Monday he wouldn't emphasize that angle to his team this week, several Broncos' players seem motivated enough on their own.

"There is motivation anyway, any time that you play the Raiders," running back Phillip Lindsay said Tuesday. "That is a [rivalry] game. Second of all, we lost to them when we went there, now it's time for them to come to us. If they think they're going to come in here and try to clinch the playoffs, they've got something coming because we're here to win the game. That's what it is. We're here to end our season on a right note for next year and they want to try to get to a playoff game, so it's going to be a battle. You can say this is like a little playoff game for them because if they think they're going to come in here and just get one, they're sadly mistaken."

Lindsay could earn more than the win Sunday, as he needs just 42 yards to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second consecutive season. He would be the first Bronco since Clinton Portis to achieve the feat.

Guard Dalton Risner agreed with Lindsay's premise that the team needs to even the score after a Week 1 loss, but he said Sunday's game against Oakland is just as much about the Broncos.

"They started our season and they beat us pretty good at their home to start the year this year," Risner said. "I've never been a fan of the Raiders. I know they're a rivalry game, an AFC West game. We want to be able to win, we want to be able to spoil their chances at the playoffs and end our season on a high note.

"It's not always about the other team. It's a lot about us here at Denver. We want to win. We want to be a seven-win team, have Drew [Lock] sitting at 4-1 heading into next season. A lot of the guys on the team, a lot of the talk is there's something special getting built around here. And I've bought into that and I think a lot of guys have as well. So let's end the season strong and get ready for next year to do something really special."


After battling the flu last week, Risner played the first half of Sunday's game against the Lions before sitting out the second half.

"You guys know me, I'd never go to anybody and asked to be pulled out of a game," Risner said Tuesday. "That's the last thing I want to do. But [Offensive Line Coach] Mike Munchak has been around the league a long time, and he saw an opportunity for some guys to get in the game and saw how I was feeling, knew how I felt all week, and pretty much just told me, 'Hey, if I need to throw you back in, I will. But let's just take this second half to get you right and get you ready for the Raiders.'"

Risner said he's felt better each day and expects to practice all week before being "ready to kick some ass on Sunday."

Though Risner said his perception was that he should toughen up and play, he realized how much of an impact the illness could have on his play. In addition to the reps he missed during practice last week, he also felt drained on the field.

"Whenever you have the flu or that type of sickness and you try to do any type of physical activity, you just feel like you have no juice," Risner said. "That's part of my game is having juice. I felt tired, I felt weak, I felt like I had no energy to be able to move a 300-pound man down the field."


When Ja'Wuan James joined the Broncos as a free agent this offseason, he and the team expected that he could be the long-term answer at right tackle.

Instead, James spent the year battling knee injuries and appeared in just three games and 64 total offensive snaps.

James revealed Tuesday that he suffered an MCL injury in Week 1 against the Raiders and then hurt his meniscus when he returned to the field in Week 8 against the Colts. He felt his knee "buckle" again in Week 14 when he played the first half against the Texans.

He did not return to the game after halftime in Houston and has not practiced since. James said he would not play Sunday in the season finale against the Raiders.

James said this has been the most frustrating season of his six-year career.

"I wanted to come here and make a good impact in my first year," James said. "It's been tough. That's why I chose to come here: I wanted to win games and help this team win games. For me, just being sidelined was tough mentally, but everybody — especially in the O-line room — has helped me. They've had my back throughout this whole process."

After talking with doctors and trainers, James said he does not expect to undergo surgery on the knee.

"They said my meniscus doesn't look like it would need surgery," James said. "Hopefully with the time, it will heal. [It's] the same with the MCL. But I'm going to get checkups and MRIs throughout the offseason just to make sure after about a month that it's healing properly."

After a lost season, James said he is looking ahead to prove himself to his teammates in 2020.

"I just want to get it behind me," James said. "Work to get this thing 100 percent so when we hit OTAs and stuff like that, I'm ready to go and ready to go for the next season."

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