Despite injuries to key defensive players, the Broncos have a shot to contain the Jets' offense.
Banged up and bruised against the Ravens, a similarly physical, defensive-minded team comes to Denver in Week 6. The pundits are giving the Broncos little to no chance of beating the surging New York Jets.
After being beaten soundly for a second straight year against the Baltimore Ravens, Broncos fans dipped into feelings of hopelessness and desperation. Some were calling for Tim Tebow to start, believing him to be the Broncos' savior to fix all of their problems (despite the record year by Kyle Orton). Others were giving up on the season as irreparable and doomed.
Even with the numerous injuries, I believe that there is hope for the Broncos this week. I have five keys to the game that the Broncos must execute to beat the AFC's front-runner for the 2010 Super Bowl.
Kyle Orton needs to be very productive for the Broncos to win.
It's true that the Denver Broncos need balance on their offense. Good news for them, the Broncos are hopeful that Knowshon Moreno will be back this week, having practiced on Thursday and Friday.
However, the way to beat the New York Jets will be through the air. The Jets will send, early and often, blitzers every series, in every formation, all kinds of ways. And the way to beat the blitz is to pass. Kyle Orton will need to get rid of the ball quickly and make sharp throws that are on target.
If available, the sure-handed Moreno will be a big boost to the Broncos. He is fast and dynamic and will be a powerful weapon against the blitz. In space, Moreno will have opportunities to break tackles and accrue huge gains on the ground.
It is likely that the Jets will be without their outstanding CB Darrelle Revis. If he plays, he will have a hard time sticking with the speedy Broncos receivers who have been running free all season.
Pass defense, ranked 23rd in the league, has been the major struggle for the Jets this season. On Monday Night, Brett Favre led the Minnesota Vikings through the air and almost brought his team back to knock off the Jets late in the game.
Right now, Orton is playing at an extremely high level and his numbers reflect his success thus far. If Orton can pass for three or more touchdowns, the Broncos will have a huge advantage this Sunday.
Inside linebacker D.J. Williams has have a big game to lockdown the Jets running game.
I am not sure what the Broncos defense focused on while preparing for the Baltimore Ravens last week. They had a hard time stopping the Ravens in whatever they tried. Ray Rice rushed for 133 yards with two TDs and Willis McGahee rushed for 67 yards with a TD.
The run opened up the field for Joe Flacco who had a decent passing day, throwing for 196 yards. None of his receivers had more than 60 yards, as the Broncos passing defense held their own.
Therefore, the key for the Broncos was stopping the rush. It remains the key this week.
The reason that so many teams win running the ball is the time of possession. When you can run well, you hold on to the ball a long time. The other team's defense is worn out by the end of the game, and the offense puts the game out of their opponent's reach.
If the Broncos can stop LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene and hold them each to less than 60 or 70 yards, the Broncos will have the ball more often and have many more opportunities to score on quick strikes passing against a depleted Jets secondary.
Shutting down Tomlinson and Greene will force a shootout between Kyle Orton and Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has not been tested this season. Champ Bailey will tempt Sanchez to pass his way to his go-to receiver, Braylon Edwards. Perrish Cox has been somewhat of a liability in man coverage, and needs to step it up.
Punter Britton Colquitt and Kicker Matt Prater need to pin the Jets deep in their zones to win the field position battle.
Something that is often missed is the field position battle. Punter Britton Colquitt, who struggled last week, needs to make key kicks to pin the Jets deep in their zone. Kicker Matt Prater needs to put the ball through the end zone for every kick-off and keep it out of kick returner, Brad Smith's hands. Smith had a return last week for 86 yards, which put the Jets in perfect position to score and gave the Jets easy points.
By giving the Jets a long field each possession, it makes them earn every yard and point and will give the Broncos shorter fields on three-and-outs by the Jets.
With special teams captain, Wesley Woodyard out, the rest of the special teams needs to step it up to fill the hole.
Good special teams will put the Broncos in position to win a close game when it counts.
The Broncos cannot give the ball away to the Jets, or else!
Much of the Jets success this season has been due to their takeaway/giveaway ratio.
They have been able to consistently take the ball from their opponents and cash in those turnovers for points. The Jets lead the league with +11 in takeaways/giveaways. The closest team to them have only +7 (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta). The Broncos are even (+0) in the takeaway/giveaway department.
If the Broncos are going to have a chance against the Jets this week, they can't turn the ball over! If they are giving the Jets free points, the Broncos won't be able to recover. The margin of error this week is just too tight.
Don't lose the ball! Plain and simple.
Brandon Lloyd has been a big contributor and key play maker on the Broncos this season.
The Broncos offense thrives on big plays. The Orton to Lloyd connection, most notably, is what has kept Denver in every game this season. If Orton can continue to make big plays down the field, he gives the Broncos the best chance of hanging in the game against the ferocious attack of the Jets.
On defense the big play has been all but non-existent. Interceptions have been few and far between and would be a welcome spark for the rest of the team. Most quarterbacks have avoided the dominant Champ Bailey and have picked on Rookie Perrish Cox, who is still adjusting to the game speed in the NFL.
Mark Sanchez has yet to throw an interception this season because he has been able to get rid of the ball quickly to his receivers. If the Broncos get their hands on the receivers at the line of scrimmage, slowing them down, it will disrupt Sanchez' timing and force him to hold the ball longer. This would give the defense the extra time they need to put pressure on Sanchez. With any luck this pressure could lead to a few sacks or maybe an interception or two.
Execution on special teams returns would give the Broncos a shorter field and increase their chances of sustaining drives and putting up more points on the board.
If the Broncos can create big plays, the Jets will be the ones reeling instead of the Broncos.