DENVER -- Sun shining, ice glistening. Sunday provides a perfect day for, um, the Iditarod.
Pretty sure I saw a polar bear in Parking Lot F with a parka on. It's cold. Not see-your-breath-cold. See-your-life-pass-before-your-eyes cold. Layers required, which I know Broncos' fans realize. They will stay to the bitter end in this bitter cold. Forget what anybody has told you. The New England Patriots are the Broncos' biggest rival these days. Every time they play, it decides something. Typically homefield advantage in the playoffs.
The Broncos, however, have to worry about making the postseason, not spoiling New England's pursuit of the conference's top seed. Even for a Denver team that has lost five of its last nine games, this is a winnable contest.
Let's look at my Take 5 Keys to a Broncos' victory:
Stop the run, OK?
There's no reason to believe the Patriots will need Tom Brady to throw 50 times to win. That's because every team runs on the Broncos. And New England boasts LaGarrette Blount. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards with 14 touchdowns. The Broncos will receive a steady diet of Blount and play action. The Broncos allow 127 yards per game on the ground, and teams log 30 attempts against them. Don't look for that to change. The Broncos' ability to slow the run game will likely determine if Denver wins.
Don't stick with run
Quarterback Trevor Siemian wasn't being smug, just honest. His preference, he told me, is to throw 100 times.
"I'd like to rip it," Siemian said. "But we need balance."
Let's not go crazy. It's likely the Patriots will permit Denver to run the ball and drop as many as seven players in coverage. Justin Forsett might provide a spark. But the Broncos can't be stubborn. If the run isn't working -- and it hasn't since C.J. Anderson hurt his knee in October -- then bail on it. Use swing passes and get Forsett isolated in one-on-ones in the flat. That can serve as the running game.
Throw to the stars
Last week, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were targeted only seven times in the first half. It doesn't matter where the number ended up. They need to be fed early. They are the Broncos' best offensive players. It's easy to sleep at night knowing your stars were involved, win or lose. Get them the ball.
Special teams magic
Forget Mile High Magic. How about some special teams magic? The Patriots have had slippery hands on kick and punt returns. I expect Julian Edelman to return punts. Perhaps there's a chance on kickoffs to create a turnover. That is what turned the regular-season game in the Broncos' favor last year.
Von or Vonster?
The Broncos can't win without Von Miller enjoying a big game. Will the Patriots create formations to put him in coverage? Miller must resist. They need him to rush the passer and create a turnover. The Broncos have won 29 straight games when they win the turnover battle.