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Broncos vs Texans preview: Denver looks to strengthen playoff hopes

The Broncos enter Sunday’s game as the hottest team in the NFL. What will it take to keep the streak going?

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos keep winning games.

And doing so against some of the best teams in the NFL.

Now, the Broncos enter Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans on a five-game winning streak as the hottest team in the league. The Broncos will also look to strengthen their playoff hopes as both teams are 6-5.

DraftKings Sportsbook has Denver has the road underdog. The Broncos are currently a +3.5-point undergo to Houston. That number seems high and will probably come down over the course of the week as the game gets closer. The total sits at 47.5. That number seems high too. The under has definitely been the safe bet for Denver over this winning streak.

Offensive Rankings

Denver: Twenty-third in overall offense (300.5 yards per game), 12th in rushing offense (115.5 YPG), 25th in passing offense (185.0 YPG), 13th in scoring offense (22.4 points per game).

Houston: Sixth in overall offense (374.9 yards per game), 24th in rushing offense (98.7 YPG), second in passing offense (276.2 YPG), 10th in scoring offense (23.5 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

Denver: Thirtieth in total defense (388.2 yards per game), 32nd in rushing defense (155.2 YPG), 23rd in passing defense (233.0 YPG), 29th in scoring defense (25.5 points per game).

Houston: Twenty-second in total defense (347.6 yards per game), eighth in rushing defense (95.1 YPG), 27th in passing defense (252.5 YPG), tied for 14th in scoring defense (21.1 points per game).

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

Run the ball

If the Broncos run the ball the way they did against the Cleveland Browns, they’ll be incredibly hard to beat the rest of the season. Denver’s offensive line absolutely manhandled the Browns defense. The Broncos need to follow that recipe against on Sunday. That sets the rest of the offense up for success, especially in the red zone. That also allows for Sean Payton to call up a few more deep shots for Russell Wilson. But it all starts with running the football. — Ian St. Clair

Stop the run

Mark Sanchez took a beating from Broncos Country for his awful announcing, and he wasn’t great, but many fans were upset because he was pointing out what seemed obvious to anyone; the Browns should have been running the football more. He wasn’t wrong, even if you were annoyed by him. When they take on CJ Stroud and the Texans, they will be playing a QB on a bit of a heater, but the secondary is still Denver’s strength. Smart play callers will try and take advantage of the tackling issues that still make me nervous when watching the Broncos play. Stop the run. Make Houston one-dimensional and Denver should win this game. — Adam Malnati

Take care of the football

It’s cliche, but this team needs to continue their winning formula of taking care of the football on offense and grinding out yards in the run game. It’s funny to keep saying this, but this game against the Texans is the most important game of the year. Win this game and I’ll start to relax a bit about the playoff hunt considering Denver will own tiebreakers with the Texans, Browns, and Bills with five games to go. They absolutely have to win this game though. — Tim Lynch

Apply pressure & get sacks

This season the Broncos have been around average when it comes to the pass rush. There is definite room for improvement, especially with the defensive tackles. But CJ Stroud is a mobile QB, so if the Broncos can find a way to contain him AND apply pressure, maybe we could see some costly hiccups from the rookie QB. — Rachel Strand

Time for the rookies to step up

Last week, Drew Sanders got some reps as the fourth edge rusher in rotation, while also playing a few snaps inside. If he can start taking advantage of these opportunities Denvers going to have a lot more room for a playoff push. Riley Moss has been getting a few snaps a game and needs to show his development. Marvin Mims has transformed the Broncos return game already, but I would love to see him showcase his dangerous speed over a larger share of targets. If the rookies step up, Denver is going to be able to win big without relying on big turnover differentials. — John Holmes

What are your keys to Sunday’s game?