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5 keys to Broncos beating the one-win Lions

Best way to honor the memory of Demaryius Thomas is by winning in front of emotional home crowd.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The unexpected and tragic death of former receiver star Demaryius Thomas pierced the hearts of the Broncos and their fans.

Besides his former teammates still on the team, veteran safety Kareem Jackson (Macon, Ga.) grew up 35 miles away from D.T.’s hometown (Montrose). They were the same age (33) and were selected two picks apart in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft (Jackson went No. 20; Thomas’ No. 22).

>>Video above: Klis & Tell: Broncos host Lions team fresh off first win

Somehow, the Broncos have to refocus their energy on their what they’re paid to do – win on Sunday. On the outskirts of AFC playoff contention with a 6-6 record, the Broncos can move back to the fringes with a win against the 1-10-1 Detroit Lions.

The Broncos better win. They are now listed as 10 ½ to 11 ½-point favorites for the game Sunday afternoon at Empower Field at Mile High. Here are 5 keys to the Broncos emerging triumphant against the Lions:

1. Play for D.T.

Among the lessons from Demaryius’ death is tomorrow is not promised. Let it rip today.

RELATED: NFL community remembers the late Demaryius Thomas

2. Respect the Roar

Jared Goff is a legit quarterback who just three years ago guided the Rams to the Super Bowl. The Broncos caught a break in that the Lions’ top two weapons, running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and tight end T.J. Hockenson (hand) won’t play. And backup running back Jamaal Williams is among 7 Lions players who tested positive for COVID-19 this week. But the Lions still have their physical offensive line intact and receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and former Bronco Kalif Raymond aren’t bad. And the Broncos just lost their top pass rusher, Malik Reed, to COVID-19 protocols.

Credit: AP
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff throws against the Minnesota Vikings during an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Lions may only have one win this season but it was in last week's game against the Vikings.

3. Chip Charles

Lions outside linebacker Charles Harris is with his third team in three years, but he’s had a breakout season with 6.0 sacks. Harris did not practice Thursday or Friday because of non-COVID illness and is listed as questionable.

4. Score 28 points

The Lions are 29th in total defense and 28th in scoring defense. No more 20-play, zero-point drives for the Broncos. They should score four touchdowns in this game – without help from their defense, although if the Denver D wants to set up good field position with a turnover, Teddy and the offense wouldn’t mind.

5. Throw it deep

It’s become clear in recent games that opposing defenses are beginning to squeeze the Broncos offense. There are likely two reasons for this: One, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater throws a high percentage of short routes. Two, the Broncos with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III run the ball pretty well. Teddy will have to throw deep, and throw deep early to keep the Lions’ offense honest.

RELATED: Broncos notes: Lions hope to roar again this week in Denver

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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