The Denver Broncos have lived and died this season on the play of their newly acquired quarterback Peyton Manning, and that'll ring true once again when they travel to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Manning's offense is putting up 278 yards passing per game, ninth in the league, and is complemented by a slightly above average running game.
Bill Belichick's defense has struggled in recent years, and they've been getting carved up through the air this season. But they're having much more success stopping the run, as they're giving up just 85 yards on the ground per game.
Let's take a look at the keys to this Broncos team getting out of New England with a big-time win and turning around their 2-2 season.
Establish the Run Early
One of the league's best rushing attacks in 2011, the Broncos have struggled to find that same level of consistency this season.
If Willis McGahee can get going early and help sustain drives, we all know that Manning will do the rest of the work. But he can't do it alone, and the lack of a solid back-up back has hurt this team.
They'll be without Knowshon Moreno yet again, which means Lance Ball will have to pick up the slack. Ball's only had 16 carries this season, so expect him to get many more chances against a stingy Patriots run defense.
Hit the Long Ball
Manning's true deep threat this season has been Demaryius Thomas, which hasn't exactly come as a surprise to most of us.
The Broncos simply don't have the same sort of tall, lanky and speedy receivers that many teams have that can stretch the field, so Thomas is as good as it gets for Manning. Though he's one of the league's top wideouts, so that's not exactly a bad thing.
Brandon Stokely and Eric Decker certainly have the speed to go down the sidelines, so look for Manning to look for deep balls to showcase his arm and prove that he's back and healthy.
Avoid Costly Throws
Manning has only hit major turnover problems once this season, and it cost his team a win as three early interceptions put his team behind in Atlanta and he nearly brought them back.
The Patriots secondary may not be elite by any means, but they can certainly make plays and force interceptions.
The Broncos quarterback needs to avoid making too tight of throws, because even if they don't directly fall into the hands of a Patriots cornerback, they can be tipped and cause Manning to commit a turnover that isn't entirely his fault.
Manning will need to get out of this game without costing his team the ball if they want any chance of winning.
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