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Broncos vs Lions preview: Denver tries to grab hold of a playoff spot

The Broncos are back on the road with a tough game on Saturday in Detroit to help strengthen the playoff hopes.

Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The Denver Broncos have won six of their last seven games.

At 7-6, they’re right in the hunt for the AFC playoffs. After a complete and dominating win, the Broncos will look to build on that on Saturday night at the Detroit Lions.

A win over the Lions would really help strengthen the odds Denver makes the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Detroit is still one of the better teams in the NFC, so the task for the Broncos is a big one.

DraftKings Sportsbook doesn’t think Denver will get it done. The Broncos are a pretty steep underdog on Saturday. The total sits at 48. There is definitely potential for this game to see a lot of points, though Denver’s defense has been phenomenal in the last seven games.

Offensive Rankings

Denver: Twenty-fourth in overall offense (300.8 yards per game), tied for 12th in rushing offense (115.0 YPG), 27th in passing offense (185.8 YPG), 13th in scoring offense (22.1 points per game).

Detroit: Third in overall offense (390.3 yards per game), fifth in rushing offense (137.5 YPG), seventh in passing offense (252.8 YPG), seventh in scoring offense (26.2 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

Denver: Thirtieth in total defense (377.4 yards per game), 32nd in rushing defense (144.0 YPG), 24th in passing defense (233.4 YPG), tied for 23rd in scoring defense (23.8 points per game).

Detroit: Fifteenth in total defense (323.5 yards per game), ninth in rushing defense (96.8 YPG), 19th in passing defense (226.6 YPG), tied for 25th in scoring defense (24.2 points per game).

Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Saturday night’s game.

Win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball

This could be the key to the game every week, but against a Lions team that has a strong offensive line and formidable front seven, it’s the key for Denver to get a win. Offensively, hopefully, the Broncos offensive line can recreate what it did against the Cleveland Browns. Defensively, keep doing what that unit has been doing. But the defense needs to take away the Lions’ running game and make that offense one-dimensional. — Ian St. Clair

Win the turnover battle

That has been the formula for success in this run of games. Stealing offensive possessions is necessary because Russ and the offense has to have as many chances as possible to put points on the board. The defense needs to key on chances to take the ball away. Jump a route, hold a guy up and go for the strip, punch the ball out. Do what it takes to give Payton a chance to dial up more scoring opportunities. — Adam Malnati

Don’t let Jared Goff get comfortable

Accurate QBs like Goff have shredded the Bronco defense this season. Sam Howell is currently third among starters in on-target percentage, and Tua Toomanyvowels is eighth. Goff is sixth. If the Broncos let him have time in the pocket, he is going to pick this defense apart. While Goff does not get rid of the ball as quickly as Tua (1.9 seconds), he is near the top of the league with an average of 2.3 seconds before he gets rid of the ball, so the Bronco pressure is going to need to be quick or it will be useless. — Joe Mahoney

Convert on third down

After converting zero of 11 third down attempts vs the Houston Texans, the Broncos bounced to convert 8-of-17 vs the Los Angeles Chargers. That needs to continue. The Lions surrender 323 yards per game and should provide cushion, but on offense, their third-ranked unit is putting up nearly 400 yards a game. So if the Broncos offense isn’t converting, the defense is going to have to carry a heavy load, one that may break down without the support from the other side of the ball. — Nick Burch

Make big plays

The Broncos have left a lot of big plays out there, especially when they are going to someone not named Courtland Sutton. To beat a team like the Lions, the other wide receivers are going to have to start making those big plays that only Sutton seems capable of making here lately. If they can do that, they can roll to another victory. — Tim Lynch

Keep Javonte Williams cooking

He has been an integral part of Denver’s recent success and that run game that Sean Payton was talking about at the beginning of the season is starting to form. The offensive line has been solid up front in the run department and Williams has been making plays against the second-level defenders. If Williams is able to have another 100+ yard game then things bode well for the Broncos’ playoff hopes. — Ross Allen

What are your keys to Saturday night’s game?