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Broncos vs Jets preview: Is this a must-win game for Denver?

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With what lies ahead on the schedule for the Broncos, they can’t afford to extend their losing streak of three games on Sunday.

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There is something ominous about a must-win game in Week Five.

That’s where the Denver Broncos sit as they head east to face the New York Jets on Sunday. Yes, there’s that sense for the game, but also for what lies ahead; especially if Denver loses. After New York, in two of the next three games the Broncos host the Los Angeles Rams and are on the road for the Kansas City Chiefs.

As Adam Malnati and I talked about on the latest MHR Radio Podcast, if Denver (2-2) gets back on track against the Jets (1-3), it doesn’t guarantee squat, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative. If the Broncos lose, they’re staring down a four-game losing streak, and, in the best case scenario, will win one of six games.

Not to compound that ominous sentiment, but Denver’s lack of success on the road doesn’t help. In the last six games played in the East Coast, the Broncos are 1-5. Overall, in the last nine road games they’re 1-8 and 4-13 in the last 17.

Buckle up, Broncos Country.

Offensive Rankings

Denver: Thirteenth in overall offense (383.3 yards), third in rushing (148.3), 19th in passing (235.0) and 25th in points (21.0).

New York Jets: Twenty-ninth in overall offense (289.3 yards), tied for 25th in rushing (88.0), 27th in passing (201.3) and 21st in points (22.3).

Defense Rankings

Denver: Seventeenth in overall defense (366.8 yards), eighth in rushing (93.8), 20th in passing (273.0) and 17th in points (24.3).

New York Jets: Thirteenth in overall defense (355.5 yards), 16th in rushing (108.3), 14th in passing (247.3) and 13th in points (22.3).

Here are our keys to the game.

Run. The. Damn. Ball

If you read MHR after the loss to the Chiefs, it seemed all of our stories hammered Bill Musgrave for the lack of running game, play calling and whom he had on the field in key situations. There’s a reason for that — the Broncos offensive coordinator played a major role in their loss. For the life of me, over two days later, I still can’t wrap my head around calling 22 run plays and rookie Royce Freeman gets only eight. Eight freaking carries for a guy Kansas City still hasn’t tackled. And he wasn’t on the field in the most crucial drive of the game midway through the fourth quarter. That has to change on Sunday. As the stats show, it’s what Denver does well and the Jets can’t stop. Run the damn ball, and get Freeman 15-20 carries. — Ian St. Clair

Take advantage of matchups

When the Broncos do pass, Keenum needs to find crossers over the middle of the field. The Jets are an elite pass defense on the boundaries but their backers are exploitable in coverage. I talk about this in GIF Horse, but the Jacksonville Jaguars did this masterfully. — Just_JoRo

Paging Von Miller

The Broncos need a bounce back game, and their star linebacker is taking a little flack from fans right now. Miller is supposed to be a game changer, but the last two games have seen him vanish a little. With a rookie quarterback under center for the Jets, this seems like the type of game that Miller could tar over. With the lack of turnovers created by the defense, pressure on the QB could lead to a few picks, and strip sacks. Miller needs to be a true game wrecker, and the defense needs to grab some turnovers. — Adam Malnati

Pete Trifecta

First: Cut Devonte Booker. Any playing time he has is stolen playing time from Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, who I have watched pass block plenty well.

Second: Feast on a rookie QB. Listen to Chris Harris Jr and stay aggressive. Don’t give up the easy plays.

Third: Start Chad Kelly. Guess what? Last I checked, he hits receivers/tight ends running free down the sideline in stride for touchdowns. He doesn’t overthrow them by a country mile. — Pete Baron

Utilize Courtland Sutton

One pleasant surprise we got from Monday Night’s loss to the Chiefs was the rookie receiver. He showed us the unique ability to maintain focus on passes, even when wearing defenders as a blanket. This isn’t new to those who have been watching him since training camp, but it is something that should continue. He’s big and strong, and knows how to make plays. I feel like whomever is throwing to him just has to get the ball within his radius and you will get the effort it takes to make the catch. I look for the second- and third-string players to be more impactful this week. There’s too much talent not to take advantage of it. — Casey Barrett

Calm the f@$k down!

This is for players, coaches and fans. Focus on playing mistake-free football. No hook-and-ladders, no end-arounds (well, OK, one of those with Emmanuel Sanders scoring a touchdown is fine), no putting Shaquil Barrett in coverage downfield. Play aggressive pass-rush defense with the Orange Rush and utilize the playmakers on offense. I know it’s trendy in here to call for more Freeman, and I’m not against that, but mostly I would do anything that takes advantage of Andy Janovich’s talent because he’s the true hero in that rush attack and apparently is damn good catching 32-yard passes too. — Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

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What are your keys to victory for the Broncos?