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Taking the Reins: Of Broncos, Rams, & Reindeer

We all love Christmas football!... Right?

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

#1: Can we get a three-peat?

Kudos to the team for doing exactly what it needed to last week against the Cardinals. Scoring 20+ points twice in a row, for the first time all season, is no mean feat with your backup QB starting one of the two.

The goal this week is the same: Score 20+ points, against this Mayfield-led Rams team, and the Denver Broncos will almost certainly come away victorious.

The biggest offensive key this game will be Russell Wilson’s performance. The Los Angeles Rams’ defense ranks 15th by DVOA, right around league average. But it becomes a pretty stark split when you look at pass defense versus run defense. As DVOA reckons it, the Rams are the 5th best team in the NFL against the run. That’s going to make leaning on Latavius Murray & company hard to do, unlike last week.

By contrast, though, the Rams rank just 23rd in DVOA against opposing passing attacks. With Courtland Sutton hopefully returning to the lineup and pulling off some of the heat, it’s an opportunity for Russell Wilson to flex the connection he’s built with Jerry Jeudy over the course of the season. Ideally, we want to see Jeudy lined up outside a lot and playcalling that lets him maximize his ability to get open right where Wilson likes to throw.

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

#2: Get Baker Mayfield’s jersey dirty early & often.

The Broncos face a second straight opponent operating without their original starting quarterback after losing that guy for the season. In the Rams’ case, they’re starting recent acquisition Baker Mayfield.

One thing about Mayfield: Like Wilson, he tends to take a lot of sacks. During the 5 games Mayfield has been sacked at least 4 times in this season, he’s thrown at least 1 interception all but 1 time. So I’d love to see our Edge guys and linebackers getting creative and aggressive out there tomorrow, hitting and sacking Mayfield early & often.

If the pass rush can get in Mayfield’s face, and thus into his head, it’ll result in some prime opportunities for Pat Surtain and Justin Simmons to add to their interception totals for the season. And the short fields those turnovers generate could easily be a deciding factor for the game’s outcome.

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

#3: Have a good Leg Day.

Brandon McManus is the Broncos’ longest tenured player, and the only Super Bowl 50 champion left on the roster. Corliss Waitman is one of the newest starters on the team... or would be if half the starters weren’t on IR. But these two guys on very different ends of their careers with the Broncos have something in common this season: less than stellar performance.

The Broncos need their special teams to be an asset rather than a liability. Unfortunately, that’s been an issue with McManus this season. His 75% field goal make rate is the 3rd lowest in the NFL this season, and he has misses as short as under 30 yards- plus two missed extra points. Worse, he’s sitting at just a 58.3% make rate for attempts at or over 50 yards.

In similar fashion, Corliss Waitman has done only an okay job living up to his preseason showing. He ranks an okay 18th in net yards per punt at 41.2, but just 24th in gross yards per punt (46.1). Perhaps more troubling is the fact that his long of 58 yards ranks an abysmal 32nd among punters this season... while his 84 attempted punts lead the league.

The Broncos really need both of these guys to pull through for them in what may be a close and hard-fought game this Sunday.

What are your top keys to victory for the Broncos on Sunday?

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