KUSA - For the second consecutive season, the Denver Broncos go into the playoff as the top seed in the AFC thanks to Sunday's 34-14 blowout win against the hapless Oakland Raiders.
The Broncos (13-3) needed to win to secure the top spot, and Peyton Manning had little trouble against a meager Raiders defense. The Broncos' record-setting quarterback threw for 266 yards in the first half to set the NFL record for yards in a season.
Denver and New England secured the AFC's top two spots and will have byes next weekend. The Broncos next will play at home Jan. 12 at 2:40 p.m. in the divisional games, and the Patriots will play Jan. 11 at 6:15 p.m. The AFC title game is Jan. 19 at 1 p.m.
"We've had our goals all along," Manning said. "This is why you work hard in the offseason, to give yourself the opportunity to play in the postseason. ... I know how hard this group has worked. We've done things outside the requirements. Guys have paid the price and sacrificed to get in this position."
Denver won't know its opponent until after next weekend's wildcard games, and the Broncos will face the lowest remaining seed in the divisional game. Next weekend's AFC wildcard games are: No. 5 Kansas City at No. 4 Indianapolis (2:30 p.m. Saturday) and No. 6-seeded San Diego at No. 3 Cincinnati (11 a.m. Sunday).
In addition to increasing his NFL-record to 55 TD passes for the season, Manning set the league record passing yards at 5,477 on a 5-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to take a 31-0 lead just before halftime.
"We still have stuff ahead of we want to do," Thomas said after the game. "Now it's all about the playoffs."
Going into the game, Manning needed 266 yards to break the record set by Drew Brees in 2011 when he threw for 5,476 yards. Manning finished the first half with exactly 266 yards (25-of-28 passing) and watched backup Brock Osweiler in the second half.
The Broncos tied the NFL scoring record on Matt Prater's 34-yard field goal in the second quarter (equaling the 589 by New England in 2007) and then set it on Thomas' 63-yard pass from Manning for a 24-0 lead. Thomas finished with six receptions for 113 yards.
Prater later hit a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter as Denver became the first NFL team to hit the 600-point mark. The Broncos set the NFL record with 70 offensive touchdowns in a season.
Last season, the Broncos couldn't take advantage of the top seed, losing to fourth-seeded Baltimore 38-35 in double overtime in the divisional round after having a bye week.
"It's not easy to go back-to-back 13-and-3s. It's not easy to go back-to-back 1-seeds," coach John Fox said. "Obviously everybody in our building, in our city, probably in our region, maybe in the country was disappointed in how we finished a year ago. So hopefully that's been a fire in the bellies of everyone in our building since that last January."
Added Thomas: "We don't want that feeling again."
The Broncos' offense didn't take long to score against the Raiders. After the defense held the Raiders to three-and-out on the game's opening drive, Manning guided the Broncos' first drive 71 yards on 12 plays for a 7-0 lead; he was 8-of-9 passing for 70 yards.
Manning hit Eric Decker at the goal line for a 3-yard score, and the Broncos never trailed. It was No. 11 for Decker, who last week became the fifth Broncos player with 10 or more touchdowns.
Four plays later, Denver took a 14-0 lead on Manning's 7-yard pass to Knowshon Moreno just 9½ minutes into the game. Broncos defensive end Sylvester Williams recovered a Terrelle Pryor fumbled shotgun snap on the first play of the Raiders' second drive at the Raiders' 21-yard line to set up the score.
"We wanted to get ahead early and get the verterans on the sideline to get rested," the rookie Williams said.
Those two drives set the tone for the first half as the Broncos rolled through the Raiders defense and scored on five consecutive series.
Pryor was ineffective in his first start since early November, and Oakland (4-12) ends the season on a six-game losing streak.
The Raiders avoided the shutout when Pryor connected with Rod Streater on a 14-yard pass with 4:24 left in the game. Pryor finished 21-of-38 passing for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
Oakland rookie tight end Nick Kasa of Colorado caught his first TD pass with 37 seconds left in the game.
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