The Denver Broncos (2-0) want to keep rolling, but they will face a Detroit Lions team that is desperate for a win at Ford Field on Sunday night. Will Peyton Manning keep the Broncos on the right track, or will Matthew Stafford finally lift the Lions (0-2) out of the dumps?
Here are three keys to the game for both the Broncos and the Lions.
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1. Test that new running game over and over again
Gary Kubiak knows he'll have to fix the team's inoperative running game for long-term success in Denver. He job won't be tough this week. The Lions surrendered 199 rushing yards and don't look like the same run defense from years past, so Kubiak's game plan will almost certainly be a run-heavy one featuring either C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman.
2. Try a little more no-huddle with Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning shocked the Kansas City Chiefs when he sped up the Broncos' offense last week. His offensive line is still in flux, so a similar, speedy approach might help build some momentum in what's sure to be a hostile Ford Field.
3. Manufacture a score on defense or special teams
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' group has scored game-deciding touchdowns in back-to back weeks. It seems outrageous to expect a third; what isn't far-fetched is that Denver needs to manufacture points in close games to compensate for its offense. If that happens, they'll win.
1. Protect Matthew Stafford
The Lions will only go as far as their quarterback can take them, and he can't take them far from the sidelines. Stafford has been battered through the first two weeks. As a result, the team has failed to find an offensive groove. If the Lions can't keep Stafford upright against a Broncos defense with six sacks already, they'll lose a third straight game to start the season.
2. Establish the run
Detroit reverted to a one-dimensional offense in Week 2. The Lions had no success running the ball, as Stafford led the team with 20 rushing yards. Detroit has a stable of talented running backs, but they've gone underutilized. Rookie sensation Ameer Abdullah, for example, leads the team with only 13 carries. The best way to slow down Denver's pass rush is to establish a respectable ground game.
3. Pick off Peyton Manning
Manning isn't the impeccable passer he once was. Although he's still one step ahead of the defense, he doesn't have the same zip on his passes and they tend to float in to their intended receivers. Manning has thrown two interceptions, including a terrible pick-six against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. The opportunistic members of Detroit's defense must step in front of these passes and make some plays.