The next big test awaits the Denver Broncos.
In the hopes of a possible playoff run, Sunday against the Tennessee Titans (5-3) looms large in keeping them alive for the Broncos (3-5).
The good news is Denver is coming off its bye after a big win in London almost two weeks ago. The goal now is to build off that against a better team in the Titans.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos as a +3-point underdog. Since Tennessee is at home, even with Ryan Tannehill’s status still up in the air, that line makes complete sense. The total sits at 38.5. For what it’s worth, the under is 7-1 in Denver games this season.
Denver: Twentieth in overall offense (328.9 yards per game), 20th in rushing (108.4), 19th in passing (220.5), 30th in scoring offense (18.6 points per game).
Tennessee: Thirty-second in overall offense (278.5 yards per game), eighth in rushing (142.3), 31st in passing (136.3), 24th in scoring offense (22.1 points per game).
Denver: Second in overall defense (288.4 yards per game), 21st in rushing defense (122.6), first in passing defense (165.8), second in scoring defense (16.5 points per game).
Tennessee: Twenty-second in overall defense (363.3 yards per game), second in rushing defense (87.6), 30th in passing defense (275.6), 10th in scoring defense (19.8 points per game).
Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.
Load up to stop the run
There’s no question the Broncos defense is elite. However, this unit struggles to stop the run. In London against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Travis Etienne Jr. finished 156 yards on 24 carries. That’s an average of 6.5 years per rush. Now comes the best running back in the NFL in Derrick Henry. Even if Tannehill doesn’t play, this is a massive advantage for the Titans. That means Denver needs to load up and do everything it can to limit the damage. Of course, this defense also can’t tackle, so that needs to drastically improve as well. — Ian St. Clair
Sorry, but this will be one of those games where the defense will probably struggle. The offense will have to win this game for the Broncos because Derrick Henry will get his. Russell Wilson will have to build on the successes in London against the Jags and find a way to put up at least 28. — Adam Malnati
The Titans are not built to come from behind. Did you see Malik Willis once the Chiefs put some points on the board and they needed to actually generate some passing attack? The Broncos offense can set the tone for this entire game by coming out with their heads not in their asses and getting an early touchdown or (gasp) two. — Jeff Essary
Keep third downs manageable ... and then manage them
You can’t afford to let your defense get gassed against a run-heavy team like the Titans. So the offense needs to sustain drives, particularly to avoid 3-and-outs. The best way to do that is to avoid the 3rd-and-long BS that has plagued the Broncos all season. Stop running for 2 or 3 yards on 2nd-and-10. Instead, rely on guys like Jeudy, Dulcich, & Sutton to get that incremental gain of 5 to 8 yards that will set you up for success. — Taylor Kothe
The coach keeps saying the players just need to execute. OK, fine. Do that then. Catch the ball. Don’t get sacked. Don’t fumble. Score. Tackle. Score. Force a fumble. Get a sack. Score. Wow, this is so easy. — Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
Yardage on first down
This season the Broncos have only been able to manage around 3 yards per play on first down, which has forced even worse play calling on 2nd and 3rd down. If the Broncos can average 5 yards per play on first down, then their chances of beating the Titans increases 10 fold. — Ross Allen
What are your keys to Sunday’s game?