Heading into the final quarter of the season, the Denver Broncos are right where they need to be, in first place in their division and in their conference. Here’s what they need to do to stay there starting with this week’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
1. Run effectively
With a predicted high of 16 degrees and snow, Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will have to get it going early so that the offense doesn’t have to rest entirely on the arm of Peyton Manning, who is 0-5 all-time when the temperature drops below 27 degrees. Two weeks ago it was Moreno with a huge game and last week it was Ball with the first 100-yard game of his career. Both are clearly capable of carrying the run game on their backs and it has to happen again on Sunday.
2. Physical receivers on the line
The Colts and Patriots really focused on disrupting the Broncos receivers, jamming them at the line. That, rather than sending extra rushers is what disrupts Manning’s game. If the Broncos receivers can free themselves and play a physical game rather than constantly look for flags, then the passing game will be effective. The Titans haven’t faced many pass-first teams this season, but Alterraun Verner is second in the league in interceptions (5).
3. Bring the focus on third down
This applies to both the offense and the defense. The Titans are 6th in third-down percentage, which means the Broncos defense can’t let up late in the series. The Titans are also 5th in third-down defense, which has the potential to keep Manning from getting into any kind of rhythm.
4. Contain Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson is no Jamaal Charles, but without Kevin Vickerson and Derek Wolfe starting on the line, he has more room to work. The Chiefs swung Jamaal Charles out to Von Miller’s side last week, which took Miller out of the pass rush. The Titans may try the same thing with Johnson.
5. Weather the storm
No, I’m not talking about the actual storm. I’m talking about the Titans storm. At 5-7, the Titans are still in the playoff hunt, and they need a win to stay in the Wildcard race. They’ll bring everything they have on Sunday and come up with a couple of big plays. The Broncos need to weather that surge of energy, settle down, and play their game.
Prediction: Broncos 41, Titans 21