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Broncos-Cowboys preview: The game will be won in the trenches

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The Denver Broncos can beat the Dallas Cowboys if they beat them in the trenches.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos (1-0) are two-point underdogs at home against the Dallas Cowboys (1-0) this week. It’s a line that signifies a public’s incorrect perception of both teams.

The Cowboys lost a bit of talent on their offensive line and the Broncos gained a bit on theirs. The advantage is still in the Cowboys favor, but maybe not nearly as much as people assume. Alternatively, the Broncos seem to have found a run game and that could tip the scales in their favor this week.

Offensive Rankings

Dallas: 4th in total yards, 10th in passing yards, 6th in rushing yards, 17th in points.

Denver: 14th in total yards, 19th in passing yards, 5th in rushing yards, 9th in points.

Defensive Rankings

Dallas: 7th in total yards, 14th in passing yards, 2nd in rushing yards, 2nd in points.

Denver: 9th in total yards, 13th in passing yards, 12th in rushing yards, 18th in points.

Granted, these rankings are after just one game so the sample size is much too small to make any long term projections for either team. However, each week counts now, so it is information worth noting.

Here are the keys to victory the Broncos will need to come out victorious.

Stop Ezekiel Elliot

The run defense for the Broncos was a major area of concern last season, but through one game in 2017, they seem to have figured it out. Outside of one 21-yard gain, Melvin Gordon wasn’t able to do anything against the Broncos front seven. That leads into the next item on our list as they go hand in hand. - Tim Lynch

Dominate the Line of Scrimmage

For the Broncos to improve to 2-0, they need to dominate both lines of scrimmage, as Adam Malnati and I talked about the latest MHR Radio Podcast. They need to get a consistent push on defense and offense. After the first quarter, we saw Denver control the line of scrimmage on defense. The Broncos held Melvin Gordon and the Los Angeles Chargers in check. Perhaps the biggest test of the 2017 season comes Sunday. Denver needs a similar, if not even better, performance against the Cowboys and their offensive line. What will help the Broncos run defense is to get another strong showing from their run game. That will allow the defense to stay on the sideline, open the passing game and control time of possession. We can hope Ronald Leary is cleared from the concussion protocol and play against his former team. Cross your fingers and toes on that front because the Broncos offensive line dropped off when Leary left the game. If Denver dominates both of lines of scrimmage, they win this game. - Ian St. Clair

Control Time of Possession

Denver's defensive line depth is suspect and Dallas likes to play ball control/wear you out offense and dominate the time of possession, keeping their defense fresh, and yours not fresh. Denver's offense will need to sustain drives and intentionally give their D a break so they don't get worn down in the second half taking on the Great Wall of Dallas. - Jeff Essary

Keep Trevor Siemian Upright

Here's one key to victory that projects to be much easier vs the Cowboys than it was against the Chargers: Keep Trevor Siemian upright. Siemian showed toughness and made some excellent throws last week, but the Chargers sacked him 4 times which ties for 3rd most in his 15 games started. Add the 9 other QB hits and Siemian surely came out of the game with more bruises than he'd like. It's not the 20 combined sacks and hits the Broncos defense laid on Tom Brady in the 2015 AFCCG, but Siemian also isn't Tom Brady. Dallas's pass rushers probably the weakest part of their defense, and certainly are not on the level of those the Broncos' AFC West rivals sport. So I want to see the number of sacks and QB hits this week drop by at least half. If we can do that, Siemian can pick apart the Cowboys' secondary. But this is a Key to Victory for the entire season as well, and if we want to keep our starting quarterback out of the medical tent then progress is urgently required. - Taylor Kothe

What are your keys to victory for the Broncos?