1. Turnover the tables
Carolina led the NFL with 39 takeaways this season, while Denver quarterback Peyton Manning threw 17 interceptions in 9 1/2 games to start the season. The Broncos have done a better job protecting the ball since Manning’s return from injury. They need more of the same on Sunday, and perhaps safeties Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward and the defense can get a few of their own.
2. Let the horses run
Denver has played its best when Ronnie Hillman and/or C.J. Anderson have big games. The duo provides two completely different running styles that both seem to feed the Broncos confidence when its working and takes the pressure off their aging quarterback. Even if it doesn’t work early, Denver needs to stick with the ground attack and hope to pop a couple big runs.
3. Make them feel the pressure
Denver led the league with 52 sacks and hit New England quarterback Tom Brady an amazing 23 times in the AFC Championship Game, despite limited blitzing. It’s unlikely Malik Jackson and the Broncos will get to Cam Newton near that much, as the Panthers have a much better offensive line, but they’ve got to find a way to make Newton feel the heat.
4. Slow the run to a crawl
With its power running game led by Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers have surpassed 100 yards rushing in 31 straight games, allowing them to dictate the pace of the game. Denver has allowed the least rushing yards per attempt this season, and Derek Wolfe and the Broncos must find a way to slow up the Carolina ground attack.
5. Follow the way of ‘The Sheriff’
Most experts are picking the Panthers to win, so Denver can’t do anything to help that cause. The Broncos need to follow the way of their quarterback and play smart. That means reading and adjusting to what Carolina is doing, not turning the ball over and avoiding stupid penalties. If they keep it close, they’ve got a shot, as 12 of 14 wins this year have been by a TD or less.