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Klis List: Check-off these items and Broncos will beat the Jets

The 2-2 Denver Broncos are an underdog this Sunday when they face the 1-3 New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Credit: USA TODAY Sports

ENGLEWOOD — They may have faith from inside the walls at the UCHealth Training Center.

Bronco fans may be hopeful.

But the 2-2 Broncos with a veteran quarterback are a 1-point underdog to a pick ‘em to the 1-3 New York Jets and their rookie quarterback? Clearly, the Broncos have work to do if they are to convince the rest of the country they are a legitimate playoff contender.

Starting with Sunday at MetLife Stadium with kickoff at 11 a.m. MDT.

“We’re going to have to come to play,’’ said Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman. “It will be a good road test, going East. So, we’re going to have to come to play and it’s a really big game for us. Got to get a 'W' here.’’

The Broncos have lost two in a row overall, and they are 1-9 on the road since the start of last season. If they play their game, they should beat the Jets. Will they play their game?

Credit: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

Here is a Klis List of important items for the Broncos to check off if they are to beat the Jets.

1. Shake up the Kid

Had Sam Darnold been there when the Broncos had the No. 5 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Case Keenum’s backup would not have been Chad Kelly.

But the Jets sacrificed three, second-round picks to trade up from No. 6 to No. 3 to get Darnold and the Broncos wound up taking the best pass-rusher in the draft, Bradley Chubb, at No. 5.

Darnold has played with the inconsistency of a rookie. He threw a pick six early in his NFL debut at Detroit, but then rallied for an impressive 48-17 win. He has been spotty since, throwing just two touchdown passes against four interceptions in his next three games, all losses.

The Broncos need Chubb, Von Miller, Shane Ray, Shaq Barrett and defensive coordinator Joe Woods to dial up a variety of pressures that hurry the rookie Darnold into mistakes.

2. Record at least two takeaways

The Denver defense has not been good at creating turnovers for going on two years. They were 26th in 2017 with 17 and they’ve created zero takeaways in the past three games. That must change against Darnold and the Jets.

3. Run the ball

Rookie running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have combined for 22 carries and 122 yards a game for a 5.5-yard-per-carry average.

With that kind of production, maybe they should combine for 28 carries a game and, you know, see what happens.

4. Efficient Case

Broncos quarterback Case Keenum ranks 31st in the league with a 72.1 rating that has been damaged by six interceptions against three touchdown passes.

The only quarterbacks ranked behind Keenum either no longer play (Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford) or are just getting started (Josh Allen). Darnold ranks No. 30 with a 72.6 rating.

Keenum’s interception last week against the Chiefs was nothing more than tough luck – he had the completion to Heuerman, but a defender, Eric Murray, snagged it away before the tight end had a chance to secure it. Still, Keenum must keep slinging the ball with confidence and his efficiency will follow.

5. Wadmania!

The unknown Colby Wadman will be making his punting debut Sunday in place of the injured and slumping Marquette King.

The Jets have a terrific returner in Andre Roberts so Wadman will be immediately challenged.

Punting is often directly tied to field position. The Broncos haven’t been explosive enough on offense – 25th in scoring with 21.0 points per game -- to overcome losing the field position battle.

6. Protect Case and the ball

The Jets have 10 sacks, same as the Denver D, but they also have 10 takeaways, tied for third-best in the league and seven more than the Broncos. Denver won't have right tackle Jared Veldheer, who is out with a severe bone bruise in his knee, but they believe Billy Turner will adequately fill in.