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Game Preview: Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions | Week 15

DETROIT — As the Broncos (7-6) prepare for a Saturday night prime-time matchup with the Lions (9-4), there's plenty on the line.

And that's just how the Broncos want it.

"It's why you play the game," safety Justin Simmons said this week of playing in prime time. "You want to play in the big-time games. … Pressure is privilege. There's something great about having the opportunity to go up against the best teams in this league."

In the nine-win Detroit Lions, the Broncos will face one of their toughest tests of the season. The NFC North leaders boast one of the league's best offenses and have adopted the physical mentality of head coach Dan Campbell. And while the Lions have lost two of their last three games after an 8-2 start to the season, they still possess a slew of talented players that will pose a challenge for Denver.

With a win, the Broncos would take a massive step toward their postseason goals and be two games over .500 in Week 15 or later for the first time since 2016. Denver would also record a season sweep over the NFC North, as the Broncos previously beat the Bears, Packers and Vikings.

"Embrace the moment," quarterback Russell Wilson said of the opportunity. "Don't run from it. … If you want to be the best one day and want to win a world championship and win multiple championships, you're going to play with some lights on and cameras around and people on the sidelines and everything like that, so get used to it. … We'll be ready to go."

As Denver looks to earn a prime-time win, here's a look at a question for the Broncos to answer, a matchup to watch and a stat to know.


Can Denver get pressure on Jared Goff?

The Broncos' pass rush was borderline dominant in a win over the Chargers, as six different players recorded sacks in Week 14. Even when they weren't dragging down Justin Herbert or Easton Stick, the Broncos' defense was making life miserable for the Los Angeles signal callers. Denver may need a repeat performance to earn another victory.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff's passer rating is more than 50 points lower this season when he faces pressure, and he's completed just 55.6 percent of his passes in such scenarios. Goff has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions and posted a 61.2 passer rating against pressure. Those seven interceptions when under pressure are the second most in the league this season, behind only Sam Howell.

When he has time and is protected, Goff is performing at a much higher level. He's completed 72.4 percent of his passes, thrown 19 touchdowns and three interceptions and posted a 111.3 quarterback rating when he doesn't face pressure.

Detroit has allowed the fifth-fewest sacks this season, but Denver could gain an edge if it can get to Goff and either bring him down or force him to turn the ball over. After throwing just five picks over the first nine games of the season, Goff has thrown five in the last four games, which includes a pair of Lions losses.


*Denver's run defense vs. Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery *

As the Broncos look to slow Detroit's high-powered offense, the task begins with stopping the Lions' rushing attack. Detroit averages 137.5 rushing yards per game — which ranks fifth in the NFL — and the unit has rushed for at least 115 yards in six consecutive games, which is the league's longest active streak.

Gibbs and Montgomery power the attack, as the two entered Week 15 entered seventh and eighth in the NFL in scrimmage yards, respectively. Gibbs has posted 980 scrimmage yards and six scrimmage touchdowns, while Montgomery leads the team with 770 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Together, they've combined for more than 165 scrimmage yards per game.

"It's a run-first offense," Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph said. "It's an offense that has an experienced quarterback. If the play-action pass is working, it's tough to stop them. They have two good backs in Montgomery and Gibbs. They both can hit home runs in the run game."

After allowing more than 200 rushing yards in several games to start the season, Denver's defense has improved against the run in recent weeks. The Broncos allowed 172.3 rushing yards per game from Weeks 1-6 and just 119.7 since Week 7.

Denver, though, will face a unique challenge in Week 15. According the Next Gen Stats, the Lions' 4.5 expected yards per carry ranks second in the NFL, and they've posted the second-most yards before contact per carry. Gibbs, in particular, is explosive. On 11 carries this season, he's rushed for at least 10 yards more than expected, which is tied for the second most such carries in the NFL.

"It's a big challenge," Simmons said. "Obviously we know that they have a plethora of weapons, but their run game is really explosive. First thing for us: If we can't find a way to generate ways to stop the run, we're going to stand no chance in the pass game. Once an offense is able to run the football, they kind of dictate tempo and what they want to do. So for us, we've got to make sure that we commit to doing a good job of stopping the run and then obviously eliminating the explosives."



With a touchdown against the Lions, Courtland Sutton would become the fifth player in NFL history to record a touchdown reception in his first seven road games to begin a season. Sutton would join Randy Moss, Lance Alworth, Davante Adams and Donte' Stallworth — and put himself within striking distance of tying Moss for the all-time record of eight consecutive road games.

Against Detroit, Sutton should have a decent chance of accomplishing the feat. Detroit has allowed 15 receiving touchdowns to wide receivers in 2023, which is tied for the third-highest total in the league. And in recent weeks, the Lions' defense has faced its share of struggles. Since Week 10, the Lions rank 30th in points allowed per game (29.8) and opposer passing rating (105.9), 29th in opposing third-down percentage (45.3), tied for 28th in sacks (7) and tied for 30th in turnover differential (-6).

Quarterback Russell Wilson and Bills quarterback Josh Allen are the only two players to throw a touchdown pass in each of their 13 games this season, and Wilson will look to continue his success in Week 15. 

If Wilson tosses another touchdown to Sutton, the veteran receiver could challenge for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions. Only Tyreek Hill (12) has more than Sutton's 10, and Hill is questionable for his own matchup after not practicing this week.

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