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Patriots vs Broncos preview: Denver looks to get back on track on Christmas Eve

After a three-game road trip, the Broncos return home for a key game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Denver Broncos v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos were humiliated the last time they took the field.

Now they need to turn the page and move on.

Fittingly, Denver is on to the New England Patriots.

There are countless scenarios for the Broncos to make the AFC playoffs, but it starts with winning out. The first shot is Christmas Eve at Mile High.

DraftKings Sportsbook likes Denver's chances. The Broncos are near a touchdown-favorite over New England. The total sits at 34, the lowest of the season for Denver.

Offensive Rankings

New England: Twenth-eighth in overall offense (285.3 yards per game), tied for 24th in rushing offense (98.4 YPG), 26th in passing offense (186.9 YPG), 32nd in scoring offense (13.3 points per game).

Denver: Twenty-fifth in overall offense (299.8 yards per game), 14th in rushing offense (112.7 YPG), 25th in passing offense (187.1 YPG), 16th in scoring offense (21.7 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

New England: Eighth in total defense (308.3 yards per game), second in rushing defense (84.9 YPG), 16th in passing defense (223.4 YPG), 16th in scoring defense (21.4 points per game).

Denver: Tied for thirtieth in total defense (382.4 yards per game), 32nd in rushing defense (146.9 YPG), 23rd in passing defense (235.5 YPG), 30th in scoring defense (25.1 points per game).

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

Control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball

The Broncos got manhandled by the Detroit Lions last Saturday. That cannot happen again. Denver needs to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball on Sunday night. Get pressure on Bailey Zappe, protect Russell Wilson and open lanes in the running game. There’s no doubt this is the cliche key to the game, but it’s imperative for the Broncos against New England. Win the line of scrimmage, win the game. — Ian St. Clair

Turnovers

Win the turnover battle. This defense is only as good as their ability to take the ball away. The flip side is that the offense can’t give the ball away. Free possessions are nice to have but suck to give away. — Adam Malnati

Be a goldfish, defense

Sorry for the lame Ted Lasso reference, but while the offense couldn’t do much against Detroit, the Lions’ offense made the Broncos’ defense look as bad as they’ve looked since Miami. They need to shake that performance out of their minds and return to the form that helped reshape the season. So be the happiest animal in the world with the shortest memory and be a goldfish. — Nick Burch

Just beat a bad team

If you can’t beat the Patriots at home then you have no business talking about the playoffs anyway. Take care of business this week and the next two weeks and we’ll likely see ya’ll in the playoffs. Go Broncos! — Tim Lynch

Get the running game going

It’s falling apart at all levels and this defense needs help. It needs the offense to grind out yards and finish with seven. The running game has to succeed for that reason but also to give the play action game more bite. Hit the ground running. Then keep running. — Mike DeCicco

Let Russ cook

The Broncos will have to make a big decision when it comes to Russell Wilson at the end of the season. They either designate him as a post-June 1st cut or opt into him for the 2024 and 2025 seasons by guaranteeing $37 million of his ‘25 salary. What do I want to see? I want to see Russell Wilson cook. Denver’s offense has been inconsistent on offense all season long. They need Wilson to play at a high level the next three games and most definitely against the Patriots who have a middle-of-the-pack passing defense. Wilson needs to perform at a high level, hit his throws, and start proving his worth as a quarterback. He hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards since they beat the Minnesota Vikings in November and has averaged roughly 200 yards in the past four games with only 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The Patriots are one of the worst teams in the league. If he can’t ball out against them — that should speak volumes to all of Broncos Country. — Christopher Hart

What are your keys to Sunday night’s game?