TAMPA, Fla. -- The Broncos enter Sunday's game as a favorite. Geez, Las Vegas and the rest of the country finally realized they are good. Super Bowl 50's historic defensive effort didn't provide a hint? The season-opening win over Carolina didn't cause pause? It took Trevor Siemian's first road start for the ages for the country to warm back up to Denver. The Broncos sit 3-0, and, in Siemian, have the NFL's top-ranked quarterback in the fourth quarter. If nothing else, the Broncos are finishers. Dating to last season, they have won seven straight games. Everyone one came down to the fourth quarter.
The Broncos embrace the tension. Look at their defense this way: it is a python squeezing the life out of its prey, gripping harder and extinguishing last breaths over time. Don't believe it? The Broncos have outscored opponents 45-13 in the final quarter this season. And with that statistic, let's examine my Take 5 keys to a Broncos' victory.
1) Start fast for once
The Broncos have yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter. They have delivered six points. This isn't a new trend. Last season, they didn't score a touchdown on their first drive until Nov. 22 at Chicago. Given how dominant the defense is -- and how porous the Bucs are -- a fast start would do wonders. The Broncos could drop their fangs and rush quarterback Jameis Winston with mean intentions for the entire game.
2) Show offensive balance
Siemian experienced a starburst game last week, throwing for 312 yards and four touchdowns. He grew up roughly two hours from Raymond James Stadium, prepping at Olympia High School in Orlando. The story goes that Siemian planned to become a Division I shortstop. He played baseball across the country growing up, including Cooperstown. The Titans coach Bob Head asked, um, begged Siemian to give football a try. Within a week he started at quarterback and went off, picking up the offensive quickly. Sound familiar Broncos fans?
This week, the Broncos shouldn't need to rely on Siemian's arm exclusively. I expect them to run better, which makes them even more dangerous going forward.
"We have shown we can beat you with the pass and the run," said running back C.J. Anderson, who should have a bounce back game.
3) Guard the big guys
Winston shows courage with his arm. He's not afraid to throw into tight windows. And with running back Doug Martin sidelined, Winston represents Tampa Bay's best chance to pull off the upset. Winston is tough to sack, dropped five times in three games because he looks to dump the ball off. The underneath stuff won't hurt Denver. The Broncos must keep Mike Evans, and to a lesser degree, Vincent Jackson in front of them. Evans led the NFL in drops last year but is enjoying a rebound season. I would look for Aqib Talib to guard him in man. That typically means good things for Denver.
4) Let Siemian go deep
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Siemian? When the deep throw shows up, he will take it and make it. That's not easy for a kid. But he shows no fear. Receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas can make plays. Siemian's growing trust in them remains critical, not just this week, but going forward.
5) Trust the depth
The Broncos' biggest strength? They are like sharks. They have multiple sets of teeth capable of devouring opponents. In this game, tight end Jeff Heuerman figures to play more along with young safety Will Parks and outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray. The coaching staff actually coaches. So when the young players are asked to contribute they are ready. In Sunday's smothering heat and humidity, it will be a big deal in the second half.
RENCK'S PREDICTION: Broncos 27, Bucs 17.
Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.