The Denver Broncos will be without Wes Welker for the third consecutive week when they take the field Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Coming off multiple concussions suffered during the second half of this season, the Broncos were granted a little bit of hope when Welker returned to practice this week. That might mean he will be available for the playoffs after Denver’s bye in round one, but head coach John Fox said that Welker still has not been cleared for game action (quote from the Denver Post).
“Until he’s officially cleared, we didn’t want to monkey around with it…Player safety is the key.”
…he said as commissioner Roger Goodell nodded knowingly to himself.
Welker will travel with the team and be on the sidelines for the season finale against the Raiders. Had he been available, the Broncos might have been inclined to use him as they need a victory Sunday to clinch the #1 in the AFC (unless the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals both lose, that is).
Welker and Julius Thomas represent the two biggest match-up problems on the Broncos offense, and when they are both on the field it is just that much more difficult for opposing defenses. The Raiders aren’t exactly world-beaters on that side of the ball (24th in defensive DVOA according to FootballOutsiders), but the Broncos will surely feel better once they are back under the lights of the playoffs if Welker is able to return and help free things up for the rest of the offense.