ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos (11-3) are seeking their third double-digit win streak in franchise history as they host the Cleveland Browns (5-9) on Sunday afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Kickoff is set for 2:05 MST.
Below is a preview of the game, including important matchups on each side of the ball, a key to victory for Denver and links to DenverBroncos.com's coverage throughout the week.
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Safety Mike Adams won't be on the field when the Broncos have the ball, but he was a member of the Cleveland defense for the last five years. He remembers one distinct part of the unit that likely hasn't changed.
"They play hard, that's one thing I can say about the Browns," Adams said. "The defense, they play hard. Their numbers show it, they get a lot of turnovers, they make a lot of tackles with (linebacker) D'Qwell Jackson in the middle. Joe Haden in the corner, an elite corner. They make a lot of plays, so you just can't take these guys lightly."
The Broncos offense will look to continue its high-scoring ways after reeling off 34, 26 and 31 points in its last three games. Still, there are things to improve on, and the offensive unit will hope to use Sunday to take one more step towards a performance that it's comfortable with repeating in the playoffs.
"I think that we're getting closer and closer," said wide receiver Eric Decker, who has led the team in receptions and receiving yards in two straight games. "There's stuff we do need to work on. We do need to get better. That's a good attribute of this team, is we're always focusing on what we can get better at, and pushing ourselves to get better."
In the last two weeks, the Broncos offense has been fueled by the production of running back Knowshon Moreno. The fourth-year back has topped the 100-yard mark in consecutive games, and has been extremely effective in the fourth quarter. That's a trend that Denver will look to keep up against a Cleveland defense that allows 120.6 rushing yards per game.
Even if Cleveland does a good job of bottling up the Broncos rushing attack, it's unlikely the offense will get away from the run. The importance of a solid ground game in December and January is something that coaches and players are very aware of.
"We have to be able to run the ball if you want to win games in this league," Moreno said. "You play some really good teams and you can't just pass the ball and can't just run the ball. We have to be really balanced so we do come up with those wins. I think we have to be really balanced so we do come out with those wins in the tough games down at the end."
In his weekly press conference, quarterback Peyton Manning complimented Moreno's job of protecting the ball late in the game in Week 15 as the Ravens defenders were desperately trying to rip the ball out.
Moreno and Manning both must stress ball security against a turnover-savvy Browns defense. Cleveland has 16 interceptions and is tied for fifth with 28 takeaways.
WHEN THE BROWNS HAVE THE BALL
Cleveland is a very young team, with a total of 16 rookies on the active roster. 10 different rookies have started for the team in 2012, and the offense is led by two of them - quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson.
Linebacker played Weeden when the two were in college - Miller as a Texas A&M Aggie and Weeden as an Oklahoma State Cowboys.
"He has made changes and gotten better in a lot of different areas, so I'm excited to play him this week," Miller said. "I remember him making all the passes that were necessary in the OSU offense. (OSU) Coach (Mike) Gundy, he is pretty demanding of his quarterback, so he was making big-time passes in college. I know he can throw the ball. I know he can get it in those spots."
Richardson, meanwhile, enters the game on a touchdown tear. He has piled up six TD's in the last four games and has scored at least once in all of those. On Sunday, he'll try to run through a defense that has been unrelenting against opposing rushing attacks, as the Broncos have allowed a league-low one rushing touchdown since their winning streak started in Week 6.
"It's going to be a good challenge to make sure we take the physicality to them," said linebacker Wesley Woodyard, the team's leading tackler. "Watching (Richardson) in college, I was a big fan of him. He's a workhorse. I say that he can carry the ball 30, 40 times a game, and carry the last snap like it's his first snap."
A sturdy offensive line for the Browns will make it even tougher to stop Richardson. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio calls left tackle Joe Thomas "as good as any in the game" and the players on defense have complimented the unit all week.
In the secondary, safety Mike Adams will face off against the team he spent the last five years with. He is looking forward to the opportunity to take down his former club.
"I (was) there for the majority of my career, five years," Adams said. "It's definitely like going against your older brother and you try to beat him all the time and you just can't. But this time it will be different."
KEY TO THE GAME: Stay in the Moment
Denver has locked up its playoff spot and can win out to earn a first-round bye. The players have shown maturity and veteran qualities throughout the year by focusing on the task that lies ahead of them. This week, it's a 5-9 Browns team that is out of playoff contention. But Cleveland has won three of its last four games and is starting to click as a team with major players that are spending their first season together.
The Broncos must approach the Week 16 game with the same mentality as it had in each of the last nine games, and that will give the team its best chance at winning its 10th in a row and becoming more prepared for a playoff run.
"The only thing that's going to mean something to me is if we play well and get better this week and try to beat Cleveland," Manning said. "That's really all we're focused on. That's been the best thing we've done all year is approach every opponent the same, regardless of who the team was and where we were playing and what the situation was and what their record was. That's the thing I've always believed in, in the month of December, 'Are you getting better? Are you making some strides every week?' We still have some things that we want to get better at, we feel like we need to get better at, and that's what we're trying to do this week."
Television: The game will be televised on KCNC-TV CBS4, with Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Dan Fouts (color commentary) calling the game.
Local Radio: KOA (850 AM) will feature Dave Logan (play-by-play) and Ed McCaffrey (color commentary) with Andy Lindahl reporting from the sidelines.
Local Spanish Radio: KMXA (1090 AM) / KJMN (92.1 FM): Luis Canela (play-by-play), Rafael Medina and Javier Olivas (color commentary) will call the game.
National Radio: Dial Global Radio Sports: Sam Rosen (play-by-play) and Mark Malone (color commentary) will call the game.