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Denver Broncos' Keys to Victory: Week 4 vs. Minnesota Vikings

Ken Pomponio Avatar
October 3, 2015

Keys-to-Victory-

Who: Denver Broncos (3-0) vs. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)

What: Week 4

When: 2:25 p.m. MDT, Sunday, Oct. 4

Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High

TV: FOX

Announcers: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch

Radio: KOA (850 AM), The Fox (103.5 FM)

Odds: Broncos -7; O/U 43

Notable: The Vikings hold a 7-6 lead, but the Broncos have won the last two meetings, including a Tim Tebow-led 35-32 win in the Twin Cities on Dec. 4, 2011. … Peyton Manning has never lost to Minnesota, posting a 3-0 mark against the Vikes – all with the Colts – while averaging 287.3 passing yards and throwing nine touchdowns and three interceptions. … Vikings second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater is facing the Broncos for the first time in making his 16th career start. He owns an 8-7 career record. … Gary Kubiak has joined Red Miller (1977) and Josh McDaniels (2009) as the only first-year head coaches in Broncos history to start 3-0. Miller’s ’77 squad finished the regular season 12-2 en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl while the ’09 Broncos won their first six games before sagging to an 8-8 finish. … The Orange and Blue have won seven straight home contests against NFC opponents, winning by an average margin of 19 points.

The Keys

  • Weather the latest challenge up front. Just when the Broncos’ offensive line looked as if it was making strides – only one sack allowed in last week’s win in Detroit – injuries have hit the left of the front with tackle Ty Sambrailo (shoulder) and guard Evan Mathis (hamstring) missing practices with injuries this week. Sambrailo has been ruled out, coach Gary Kubiak announced Friday that Ryan Harris will move from right to left tackle on Sunday while 2014 third-round pick Michael Schofield, inactive just last week in Detroit, will make his first career start at right tackle. The Vikings, meanwhile, don’t have an Adrian Peterson-level standout on defense, but they’ve only allowed 50 points so far – one fewer than the Broncos – and have graded out as the fourth-best pass-rushing team so far (behind the Broncos, Seahawks and Rams), according to Pro Football Focus. They took advantage of a banged-up Chargers offensive line last week (four sacks and 13 QB hits) to notch a decisive 31-14 win and will be looking to follow the same formula Sunday in the Mile High City.
  • Limit AD. The Vikings rank rock-bottom in the league passing attempts (74), yards (449) and TD passes (one), which doesn’t exactly correspond to the strengths of the Denver D. The aforementioned Peterson, however, leads the league in rushing (291 yards on 59 carries) and overall, Minnesota, at 52.94 percent, trails only the Bills (53.01) in the highest percentage of rushing plays. After serving a suspension for the majority of last season, Peterson got off to a slow start in 2015, rushing for only 31 yards in the Vikings’ season-opening loss against the 49ers. The running back known as “All Day” inexplicably only carried the ball 10 times in that contest, and the next week the Vikings quickly made amends, feeding Peterson 31 times (including 29 rushes for 134 yards) in a win over the Lions. Last week was more of the same with Peterson rushing for 126 yards and two TDs on 20 carries against the Bolts. So count on plenty of Peterson on Sunday with Bridgewater mixing in some play action as well. AFC Defensive Player of the Month DeMarcus Ware and the Denver D rank in the top seven in all the key rushing defensive categories, but by far the best back they’ve faced (K.C.’s Jamaal Charles) gashed them for 125 yards and a TD despite two costly fumbles.
  • Keep plugging away on the ground. On the other end of the NFL rushing spectrum, we have your Orange and Blue, who have gained all of 171 yards at a league-worst 2.59-yards-per-carry clip. The Broncos had a plus-matchup with a struggling Lions’ run defense last Sunday night but managed only a season-low 41 yards on 19 attempts. The Vikings’ run defense also is below average, surrendering 119.3 yards per game and 4.31 yards per carry, so the Broncos have another opportunity to finally start showing some life on the ground.

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