Broncos Historic Favorites**
By all accounts, there hasn't been a bigger favorite for an NFL game than Denver is over Jacksonville.
But that doesn't matter to the Broncos players and coaches.
"We don't care about that," Duke Ihenacho said. "That's for bettors and gambling. That's not for us. We're football players and we don't look at stuff like that. We look at the tape and what they've done on the field."
Head Coach John Fox has his team focused on what the Jaguars have put on tape, not on paper.
"Well, I think you're in this long enough – whether you're a player or a coach – and we've got enough veteran leadership in there that understands that we don't look at records," Fox said. "We don't look at point-spreads."
Fox has seen firsthand that being favored in a matchup doesn't get you anywhere. He was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants in 1998 when the 13-0, defending Super Bowl-champion Broncos came to town.
Denver left with its first loss of the season, a 20-16 defeat to the Giants.
"I've been on both sides of that," Fox recalled. "We had a (13-0) Broncos team that was 15-point favorites coming into the Giants stadium. They left with a loss."
Terrance Knighton and Jack Del Rio Facing Their Former Team
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton played 61 games, including 49 starts in his first four NFL seasons with Jacksonville.
Selected by the Jaguars in the third round (72nd overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft, Knighton registered 140 tackles and 7.5 sacks along with an interception and three forced fumbles with the Jaguars.
"I told the D-line things about the guys up front because their O-line, I played with all of them," Knighton said. "Even their right tackle (Austin Pasztor), he was on the practice squad last year but I've hinted to them some things they get beat on, some of their strengths."
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio spent nine seasons (2003-11) as the head coach of the Jaguars.
During his time in Jacksonville, the club ranked sixth in the NFL in yards per game allowed (317.3) and eighth in points per game allowed (20.3). A staple of Del Rio's defensive units was their ability to stop the run, surrendering just 105.6 yards per contests on the ground throughout his tenure to rank sixth in the league.
"It was an honor to be the head coach there," Del Rio said. "It was a terrific place to raise my family, to live and to be the head coach. A lot of great memories. (I'm) very grateful for Mr. Weaver for giving me that opportunity back then and just very appreciative of all that. Now, it's moved on. I'm here in Denver. I enjoy doing what I do, and that is helping this defense be as good as it can be and helping this football team win games. That's what I'm after right now."
Broncos D Looking to Buckle Down
According to Knighton, the Broncos defense has a goal of holding its opponent to 17 points each week.
That hasn't happened yet in 2013. In Weeks 3 and 4, Oakland and Philadelphia narrowly topped that mark with 21 and 20 points, respectively.
But Week 5 was a step in the opposite direction for the Denver defense, which surrendered 48 points to the Cowboys. Dallas' output tied for the second-most points in a loss by an NFL team since at least 1950.
"I understand it was a 'W,' but at the same time, it felt like a loss because of the points and the mental mistakes and stuff like that," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "It's a pride thing, man. As a defense, you never want that many points given up. As a defense, you want to get some stops on third down; you want to get off the field on third down, and I don't think we did that at all."
Jones-Drew Presents Another Test for League's Top Run D
Despite ranking 29th in overall yards allowed per game, the Broncos D is at the top of the NFL leaderboard, surrendering a league-low 69.6 rushing yards per game.
Oakland and Philadelphia were both leading the league in rushing yards coming into their games against the Broncos. The Denver run D limited Oakland to just 49 net rushing yards – nearly 150 below its season average to that point. The next week, Denver held Philadelphia to 166 yards on the ground, which was 43 yards below its season average entering the game.
The latest test for the run-stopping unit is Maurice Jones-Drew. The three-time All-Pro has totaled 7,746 yards in his eight-year career and his 64 rushing touchdowns are the most in Jaguars franchise history.
"He is stout, very heavy-legged," Head Coach John Fox said. "He breaks tackles. He's not an easy guy to get down for one guy. You better play swarming defense against him."
Since his rookie season in 2006, Jones-Drew ranks third in the NFL in touchdowns and is one of just four players to account for more than 10,000 yards from scrimmage.
"He can do everything as a back," Knighton said on Wednesday. "He can block, he can run, he can catch out of the back field. He's a smaller guy. He hides behind his blockers but just because he's a small guy doesn't mean he doesn't run hard."
Champ Bailey was a full participant in practice for the first time this week after missing the first five as he recovered from a foot injury suffered in Week 2 of the preseason.
After missing the first two weeks of practice entirely, Bailey was a limited participant for the past three before returning in a full capacity on Wednesday.
"It's been a long time coming," Bailey said. "It seems like I've been on a long vacation and it's time to go to work."
The 15th-year cornerback intercepted a pass in his first practice back and Broncos fans hope to see him do that in a game soon.
His status for Sunday's game will be announced after Friday's practice.
"Well, I'm progressing towards that," Bailey answered when asked whether he'd play this week. "That's the plan. I've kind of been planning on that for a few weeks, but this is the week I feel like I'm ready to go out there and do it."