The task before the Denver Broncos is a steep one.
To get a win on the road in the NFL is a challenge, but when it’s against one of the better teams in the league in the Minnesota Vikings (7-3) you see what’s before the Broncos (3-6) on Sunday. Add in the history Denver has as double-digit underdogs and in early games of the Sunday schedule, and here we are.
Can Denver overcome the odds on Sunday?
Denver: Twenty-seventh in overall offense (311.4 yards), 16th in rushing (111.9), 28th in passing (199.6) and 28th in points (16.6).
Minnesota: Eighth in overall offense (384.4 yards), third in rushing (153.0), 17th in passing (231.4) and ninth in points (26.2).
Denver: Fourth in overall defense (309.7 yards), 17th in rushing (107.6), fourth in passing (202.1) and tied for sixth in points (18.9).
Minnesota: Thirteenth in overall defense (333.1 yards), seventh in rushing (91.2), 18th in passing (241.9) and fifth in points (18.2).
Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.
Make Kirk Cousins beat you
That means to limit the damage of Dalvin Cook, and that’s a tall order. As I told Adam on the podcast, that doesn’t mean the Broncos load the box to contain Cook. What that does mean is Denver’s front has to win this game. Think Alexander Johnson and Mike Purcell, as Jeff Essary and Joe Mahoney highlighted earlier this week. If Cook goes off as he has this season, it’ll be a long Sunday afternoon. — Ian St. Clair
Play not to lose
The best thing about Brandon Allen’s and Rich Scangarello’s game against the Cleveland Browns was that they were aggressive. Take some deep shots down field. Let your quarterback run if needed. Take any and every chance you can against this playoff team. Time for a No. 2 receiver to step up. — Luke Patterson
Pray to a higher power
The Broncos are facing the antithesis of their roster: one laden with talent across the board. Denver is at a road game against a team that has a QB, talent at skill positions, and a defensive roster that most NFL fans would die to have on their team. Being aggressive won’t work on the Viking’s defense. Loading up to stop the run will result in big play passes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my key to the game is divine intervention. — Sadaraine
Pray to a higher power II
Overall, I think I’m with Sad here. This is going to be an extremely tough game to win. The saving grace for the Broncos offense might be the fact that there’s only one game of film on Allen, so I’d look to Scangarello and Allen to try and lure the Vikings into mistakes against a QB they know very little of. If the Broncos can score a TD or two off of plays like that, that might be Denver’s best chance for victory. The defense does have something of an advantage due to several starters’ familiarity with Gary Kubiak’s system. It will be up to guys like Chris Harris, Justin Simmons, Von Miller, and Derek Wolfe to take advantage of what they used to see every week in practice while avoiding the other edge of that blade: Kubiak’s familiarity with them. — Taylor Kothe
Control the clock
Getting Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman going will help keep the Vikings offense (Cook) off the field. Win the time of possession battle and there’s a chance. Slim, but a chance. — Adam Malnati
Control the clock II
I am with Adam on this one. The Broncos offense cannot live off the way they played last week. The last time Denver won a game with as little offensive plays as it did in its last game was in the late 1980s. Against a team like the Vikings, holding onto the ball for 22 minutes is a recipe for a blowout loss. The Broncos offense needs balance and it needs to grind out the clock with each possession or they’re toast. — Tim Lynch