Broncos Game Plan: How Denver matches against the Rams, injury report and predictions

GAME PLAN

WHEN THE RAMS RUN

The Broncos will follow their worst rush defense performance in ages (323 yards to the Jets) with a showdown against the NFL’s most dynamic rusher. Todd Gurley, a two-time Pro Bowler, has accounted for nine touchdowns and reached at least 100 all-purpose yards in four of five games. The Broncos’ inability to contain Jets’ rushers in space led to their demise last week. And, that’s just where Gurley thrives in the second-level. Denver’s tackling requires serious improvement for any shot of limiting his production. Edge: Rams

WHEN THE RAMS PASS

Jared Goff’s evolution under second-year Rams’ head coach is stunning. The former No. 1 overall pick is a legitimate early season MVP candidate with 1,727 passing yards, a league-high, with a 72.3-percent completion percentage and 12 touchdowns. Denver must hope Bradley Roby recovers from a poor showing in New York. Denver’s pass rush must make Goff uncomfortable — and then capitalize on his mistakes. A tall order. Edge: Rams

WHEN THE BRONCOS RUN

Despite only 17 carries against the Jets, Denver’s greatest offensive strength is in the backfield between Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. Combined, they average 5.5 yards per carry. If the Broncos can play with a lead (gasp!) they have the talent to grind out games. And, if the 5-0 Rams have a weakness, it’s their average run defense. Los Angeles has allowed 106.8 yards per game on the ground this season. Denver can’t walk away from this one wishing they had relied on the run game more. Edge: Broncos

WHEN THE BRONCOS PASS

Quarterback Case Keenum keeps trending the wrong direction five games into the season with seven interceptions, five passing touchdowns and a 78.1 quarterback rating. Protection issues, indecisiveness, arm strength and the lack of defensive support have aided in those issues. The Rams enter Sunday tied in the NFL at No. 10 for pass defense (234.6 yards), but with former Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib sidelined on injured reserve (ankle). Denver’s mix of veteran and youthful receiving talent projected well in 2018; it hasn’t panned out quite yet. Edge: Rams

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Brandon McManus is perfect on field goals and extra points. Recently promoted practice-squad punter Colby Wadman evened out a shaky start in New York with a 57-yard boot — which the Jets brought back 51 yards. Meanwhile, the Rams have only punted eight times in five games and rank as the league’s fourth-best return team with a 14-yard average. Former Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos earned the starting nod for Los Angeles last week and hit both of his field-goal attempts. Edge: Rams

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. What change? Coach Vance Joseph was big on talk, but small on details, when discussing the need for change to get back in the win column. It’s anyone’s guess how that plays out on the field Sunday. Schematic help for Roby and left tackle Garett Bolles is a nice place to start. Serious player/personnel moves would move the needle further. The clock is ticking for Denver to regain its moxie.

2. Let it snow. The Broncos should hope for steady snowfall throughout Sunday to potentially limit success, for both teams, through the air. Denver is more suited to compete in a low-scoring affair than keep pace in a shootout. One running back who isn’t afraid to trudge through the snow? Denver native Phillip Lindsay. Feed him the rock. The forecast calls for up to three inches.

3. Smart football. Denver’s knack for dumb penalties has halted several promising drives in three losses, and in total, the Broncos have been flagged 22 times for 190 yards through that span. Continued undisciplined play will only further the narrative that major coaching changes must take place for Denver to revive its season.

INJURY REPORT

Broncos: Out (two) — CB Adam Jones (thigh) and RT Jared Veldheer (knee)

Rams: Out (one) — K Greg Zuerlein (groin)

STAFF PREDICTIONS

Mark Kiszla: Rams 21, Broncos 17

Broncos best chance to win? Todd Gurley plays a snow game wearing UGGs.

Record: 4-1

Ryan O’Halloran: Rams 24, Broncos 20

Broncos play better than last week, but misery continues. Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald carry Wade Phillips off the field.

Record: 3-2

Kyle Fredrickson: Rams 38, Broncos 35

Don’t call it a moral victory, but a close loss gives Denver some confidence that its season isn’t completely lost.

Record: 4-1

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