JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The holiday season presents a challenge in a warm climate. There is a better chance of the Jaguars reaching the playoffs than snow blanketing the beach.
So they "Deck the Chairs" in a cool light display with a teddy bear, an anchor and a wavy green palm tree illuminating the sky. The holidays mean one thing for NFL contenders: a sense of urgency. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak drove home the point with his team this week. It can be argued whether the Broncos' season sits on the brink. But the Broncos can see the ledge from here after losing at home to Kansas City. Denver has lost four of its last seven games and two of its last three on the road.
How do Broncos get back on track with rookie Paxton Lynch making his second start? My Take 5 Keys to a Broncos victory:
1) Tweak the offense to the Kid's strengths
No sense playing the round hole, square peg routine. Stubbornness will get the Broncos nowhere this week. The coaches must put Lynch in the best position to succeed. If that means more shotgun formations, quick slants and designed runs, so be it. The Broncos have been careful all week not to overload Lynch. There will be points in the game where the offense looks like three yards and a cloud of rust, er, dust. But the Broncos can't become so conservative they don't play to Lynch's strengths.
2) Let the run game help
The Jaguars have 99 problems, but Malik Jackson is not one. He identified himself as such this past week -- a "problem" the Broncos must deal with after letting the defensive end go in free agency. Jackson, who hung out with Von Miller on Saturday night, continues to play better after a slow start, netting 3.5 sacks and nine of his 20 total tackles in his last four games. The Jaguars pressure the quarterback, holding teams to 204.3 yards passing per game, third best in the NFL. They can be gashed in the run game, yielding 117 yards. Is this the week the Broncos and Devontae Booker bust out? If not, it might be worth the Broncos bringing in free agent Justin Forsett, who knows Kubiak's offense, for depth before the Titans game. Denver has improved each of the past two weeks with 103 and 124 yards, respectively. Lynch's work on scrambles could prove pivotal in the ground attack.
3) Take away the run
The Broncos' rush defense is starting to stiffen. Denver has yielded 163 yards on 47 carries over the past two games, a paltry 3.46 per attempt. Jacksonville represents the ideal team to make one dimensional. Quarterback Blake Bortles holds onto the ball too long, and his awkward mechanics -- he looks like a pitcher throwing from the stretch -- set up for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris to jump routes. Jacksonville is protecting Bortles better, but there's no good reason Denver shouldn't be able to turn him over.
4) Special teams U-Turn
Don't be surprised if rookie slot receiver Kalif Raymond receives the first look on punt and kick returns after Jordan Norwood's miscues last week. Kansas City's Tyreek Hill showed how a slippery returner can change a game. Can the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Raymond provide a boost to the Broncos? It can't hurt to try him after the Broncos played arguably their worst special teams game in two seasons last week.
5) Start fast, play fast
I have documented the Broncos' first quarter problems. They have been outscored 60-23 in the opening period. The last thing the Broncos want to do with their playoff hopes flickering is let Jacksonville hang around. This is the Jaguars' Super Bowl. Let them stay close, and who knows what will happen. The Broncos preached urgency all week. Time to back it up with a convincing first half statement.
RENCK PREDICTION: Broncos 22, Jaguars 17