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Broncos vs Browns preview: Denver looks to avoid two-game losing streak to Cleveland

The Denver Broncos haven’t lost back-to-back games to the Cleveland Browns since 1972-74. The Brandon Allen Era is underway.

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Brandon Allen, come on down, you’re the next contestant on “How many quarterbacks will the Denver Broncos start?”

For the record, since the 2016 season, Allen will be the sixth starting quarterback for the Broncos. “Not great, Bob.” It’s not far fetched to think we will see that number jump to at least seven and potentially eight by the end of the season.

It’s only fitting the Broncos (2-6) host the Cleveland Browns (2-5). On the MHR Radio Podcast (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify), Adam Malnati and I joked about the image of the Browns fans in a jersey with all of the quarterbacks names taped on it. Denver is now well on its way to that and has definitely taken over for Cleveland in that regard. “Not great, Bob!”

To put a bow on this, the Broncos are looking to avoid their first two-game losing streak to the Browns since 1972-74.

Offensive Rankings

Cleveland: Twentieth in overall offense (345.3 yards), 12th in rushing (125.4), 20th in passing (219.9) and 25th in points (19.0).

Denver: Twenty-sixth in overall offense (312.6 yards), 16th in rushing (110.0), 27th in passing (202.6) and 28th in points (15.6).

Defensive Rankings

Cleveland: Twenty-first in overall defense (365.4 yards), 29th in rushing (143.3), seventh in passing (222.1) and 22nd in points (25.9).

Denver: Fourth in overall defense (304.5 yards), 19th in rushing (109.8), fourth in passing (194.8) and eighth in points (18.9).

Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.

Protect Allen

Given that Allen is making his first NFL start, the Broncos need to do whatever it takes to help him succeed. The offensive line needs to protect him, but Denver’s offense needs to run the ball to ease up that Browns pass rush and “protect” him in that sense, too. To wit: Myles Garrett enters Sunday’s game tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 10. — Ian St. Clair

Rich Scangarello

Denver’s offensive coordinator is coming under the microscope and has a backup QB with no regular-season action. He needs to call to the strength of his offense and especially Allen, which probably looks a lot like the Indianapolis Colts game plan: heavy mix of runs, play action, boots, and a sprinkling of shot plays to Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and the others. — Just_JoRo

Force turnovers

I’m gonna build on Adam and say that the defense needs to force multiple turnovers, and preferably convert at least one of them directly into seven points. The Browns have given up three or more turnovers in four out of seven games this season, and have had at least one turnover in every game. The defense leading the way by capitalizing on that lack of discipline is the clearest path to victory in the most winnable, and possibly last reasonably comparable matchup, of the remainder of the Broncos’ 2019 season. — Taylor Kothe

Force turnovers II

Both teams are reeling, with the Broncos losers of two in a row and the Browns three. The Browns were moderately competitive against the New England Patriots, the best team in the league (I HATE typing that), in their last game, staying within seven or 10 points for most of the game. Like Denver, Cleveland has a starting quarterback who has been a disappointment so far this season. Unlike the Broncos, Cleveland’s defense has been poor so far this year. Other than the game against the New York Jets, the Browns defense has allowed at least 20 points to every other opponent, including 43 to the Tennessee Titans and 32 to the Seattle Seahawks. Cleveland has its best cover cornerback, Denzel Ward, back from injury and that helped against the Pats. I expect Denvers’s defense to try and exploit Baker Mayfield’s willingness to take chances (six passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions), and I think a key to victory will be forcing and capitalizing on turnovers. The Browns are currently 30th in the league having turned the ball over 17 times in seven games. Offensively, the Broncos will have to capitalize on those turnovers by turning them into touchdowns (instead of punts and field goals). — Joe Mahoney

Mission Impossible

The defense has to do what is almost impossible and give up 13 points or fewer. — Adam Malnati

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What are your keys to the Broncos winning on Sunday?