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Broncos vs. Titans: Top Five Storylines

Posted Dec 6, 2013

What to watch for this week vs. Tennessee.

Playing in the Cold

With sub-zero temperatures and snow blowing through the Denver area this week, the Broncos have had plenty of time to acclimate to the arctic chill that is forecasted to stay in the area through Sunday’s game versus Tennessee.

The Broncos practiced indoors on Wednesday, but returned to the frigid conditions outdoor for Thursday’s practice.

“I don’t think where you’re located that you ever get really used to really cold weather,” Head Coach John Fox said. “I don’t think you grow thicker skin because you live in it. I don’t think it’s a physiological thing. I think a lot of it is mental and just dealing with elements. That could be a torrential downpour, it could be a snowstorm – just like a golfer, you’ve got to deal with the elements. I think it’s just something you learn to deal with.”

For a pair of Broncos that have had plenty of cold-weather football experience, wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Montee Ball, preparing to play well in the cold starts with the mental approach.

“I think, growing up in Minnesota, the cold, you never really get used to it, to be honest,” Decker said. “It’s a mindset. You have to understand the difficulties of being cold and the challenges that come with it. It is the same game whether it’s warm or cold but there are some challenges to it.”

“It’s different, let me say that,” added Ball, who played college football at Wisconsin. “Your hands are a lot colder so I just want to put a high sense of awareness on it for this game and not worry too much about, not make it anything I wouldn’t do all along but just protect the football.”

Regardless of how it affects the players, the cold weather will be something that both sides have to deal with.

“I think both sides do some adjusting,” linebacker Von Miller said. “I’m getting after the ball. I think everybody else on the defense is the same way. We’re getting after the ball no matter if it is 90 degrees or if it is 6 degrees. We come in here to play football.

“Weatherproof—that’s our mentality.”

Slowing Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson showcased his 4.24 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine. But a pair of Broncos have gotten to see that speed up close and in person.

Cornerbacks Tony Carter and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who are two of the fastest players on the Broncos roster, have trained with Johnson in the offseason.

This year, Johnson is one of just three AFC running backs to top the 1,000 yards from scrimmage mark already. He has carried the ball 205 times for 774 yards and caught 33 passes for 268 yards with seven total touchdowns.

“They’ve got a pretty good defense,” Johnson said of the Broncos. “I wouldn’t say they have the biggest defense but they’ve got a lot of outstanding guys and they’ve got a lot of speed back there. In the offseason, I trained with Tony Carter and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, so I know they’ve got a lot of speed on their defense and they’re athletic over there.”

Manning’s Free Agent Decision

When quarterback Peyton Manning was making his visits to various teams as a free agent, Tennessee was one of the teams that Manning worked out for in addition to the Broncos.

"I really enjoyed the time that I had with the Titans organization," said Manning, who called the Titans a “first-class” organization.

Manning worked out for Denver as well as San Francisco at Duke University and for the Titans in Knoxville, Tenn. He also visited with the Arizona Cardinals early on his tour.

"I enjoyed the process. Similar to college," Manning said. "You kind of almost want to go to each team for a little bit: go play here for a year, go play here for a little bit. But you've got to make one decision."

"It's been a long time since I've been in a ‘recruiting' battle," added Fox. "I spent 10 years as a college coach at a very high level where recruiting was kind of the name of the game. Obviously, regular free agency is a little bit of that, but it can be a lot about the money, which was part of our game. 

"In Peyton's case, I think it was a matter of what was going to be the best fit for him and his family. I always felt relatively confident because I thought we were a good fit, but there were many others. During that final decision time, you get a little anxious for sure."

Fox’s First Game Back

We know that Head Coach John Fox will return to his gameday coaching duties this week as Denver hosts Tennessee at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

What we don’t know is where he’ll do his coaching from – the field or the press box.

“You know, I haven’t really made that decision,” he said on Wednesday. “I don’t think it is a tremendous effect one way or another. I communicate with the same people. I spent half of my career in the press box and another half on the field. I haven’t given it much thought, to be honest with you, but I’ll be at the game on Sunday.”

Fox surprised the team with a Thanksgiving Day visit and returned to his full-time coaching job on Monday.

Even if he isn’t on the field during the game, players have enjoyed having their leader back in the building this week.

“Having Foxy back is great,” Ball said. “We all missed him, he missed us and it’s just extra motivation for us.”

Playoffs a Possibility

The Broncos could clinch their 20th all-time playoff berth with a win against the Titans on Sunday.

Even before the Broncos take the field on Sunday, the team could lock up a playoff berth. Losses by either Baltimore, who hosts Minnesota, or Miami, who plays at Pittsburgh, would secure a postseason spot for Denver.

Both of those games kick off at 11 a.m. MST on Sunday.

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