PHILADELPHIA -- "Rocky" is a washed-up, loser boxer given an improbable chance to fight for the title in a rags-to riches story.
"Brocky" is a recycled, rejected passer given an unlikely opportunity to fight to reverse a riches-to-rags story.
Their season teetering on the brink of relevance, the Broncos turn to Brock Osweiler to snap a three-game losing streak and deliver the team's first road win this season. The opponent is the NFC's best team, the upstart 7-1 Eagles.
Talk about being caught between a Brock and a hard place. Osweiler as a savior was not in the script this season. However, with Trevor Sieman undermined by shaken confidence and 10 interceptions, Broncos coach Vance Joseph made the appropriate call to the bullpen.
Osweiler takes over with a simple mandate: show leadership (which he has done well) and don't turn the ball over. Give the defense a fair chance, and the Broncos believe the season will make a U-turn.
A look at my Denver7 keys to a Broncos' victory over the Eagles:
1) Protect the Rock
Osweiler put it perfectly: "Ball security is job security." The Broncos are even in turnover margin in their wins and minus-12 in their losses. It's on Osweiler to manage the game, win field position and make a few plays in the air. An ideal line is 15-for-25 yards, 225 yards, 2 TDs, zero picks.
2) Reception problems
The Broncos have averaged 12.2 points over the last five games, going 1-4. No one is blameless. Part of the issue, however, is ghost production from receivers. Emmanuel Sanders will return after a two-game absence, and his reliability is welcomed. Demaryius Thomas needs to awaken from his scoring hibernation. He has not scored a touchdown in 13 games, and has one in his last 16. The good news? When Osweiler started seven times in 2015, he connected on five scores with Thomas.
3) Start fast
In their four losses, the script remains the same. The Broncos have not led at any point. Any advantage can help the defense, making the Eagles more predictable and willing to take chances.
4) Run it again. And again
Go back and watch Osweiler's 2015 wins, and there was a common thread. The Broncos ran the ball with authority. Despite the spree of turnovers in Kansas City, the Broncos nearly won because of a powerful ground attack, averaging 5.71 yards per carry. The Eagles are stout up front. But the Broncos must stay stubborn, even on 3-yard gains, to set up chunk yardage through play action.
5) Special in name only
This would be a hell of a game for the special teams to figure it out. Coach Brock Olivo falls on the sword, blaming himself this week for not creating "a culture of (bleep)-kickers." Accountability is delightful. But it needs to extend to the players. If Isaiah McKenzie even looks like he's going to muff the punt, replace him. He has four fumbles. Be prepared to go to Jordan Taylor, or in my ideal world, Aqib Talib. Brandon McManus must stay on track after a horrible start. And Riley Dixon's misfire line drives can no longer be excused. If it surfaces again have three punters working out on Tuesday in an open competition. The special teams are an example of the team overthinking things, and allowing young players to become comfortable with delusions of adequacy.
6) Contain Carson on third down
Carson Wentz is the midseason league MVP. He is a human Red Bull who gives the Eagles' offense its wings. He plays with joy of a kid in the back yard. To win, the Broncos must stymie him in big moments. He owns the league's top passer rating (118.8) on third down with eight touchdowns and two picks.
7) Blanket Ertz
Wentz will scramble, he will hold onto the ball. The Broncos' rushers welcome this after facing quarterbacks who catch the snap and release in roughly two seconds. Yet, it won't matter if the Broncos don't improve coverage against tight ends, where they rank 27th overall, allowing six catches and 77 yards per game. Travis Kelce again worked them last week. Ertz is elite, but while Kelce uses shimmy, Ertz leans on physicality at the top of routes to create space. If it means using Talib on Ertz, the Broncos must keep an open mind. If Ertz has a big day it's an indictment of the game plan.
Let's be clear, everything about this game screams loss. The Eagles are well-coached, Wentz is a blossoming star, the Broncos are on their second quarterback, and have lost three straight games by double digits. But what if Brock is better at executing the blueprint required for this Broncos defense to win? The Broncos should lose. If they win the turnover battle, they will win. In other words, play like the New York Giants did at Mile High three weeks ago. Hello, reverse-lock theory. Or is it reverse-Brock theory?