DENVER - The Broncos will look to keep their momentum rolling in prime time.
The Broncos return home to Empower Field at Mile High with a chance to earn their first four-game winning streak since 2016 and even their record at 5-5.
Standing in their way? The only team with a longer active winning streak than the Broncos.
Newly acquired quarterback Josh Dobbs and the Vikings have won five consecutive games and six of their last seven contests following an 0-3 start to the season.
"Both teams battled back," Head Coach Sean Payton said Thursday. "... I think each week they're playing better and better defensively [and in the] kicking game. [It's] their own story of how they've been able to do that, and that's impressive because it requires energy and rolling up your sleeves and working hard. They've been able to do that. Fortunately, we've been able to get that started as well."
In a "Sunday Night Football" matchup, the Broncos will look to ride their home crowd's energy to another win and firmly entrench themselves in the AFC playoff picture.
"Playing this game at home and having a home crowd is significant," Payton said. "We're looking forward to that. It looks like the weather is going to be good. We are going to count on that crowd noise and all the things you gain when you play at home."
As Denver looks to continue its winning streak, here's a look at a question for the Broncos to answer, a matchup to watch and a stat to know.
ONE BIG QUESTION:
How will the Broncos' offense handle the Vikings' pressure?
Minnesota blitzes more than any team in the league, as the Vikings have brought an extra rusher on 48.9 percent of snaps. As the Broncos have prepared for this weekend's matchup, that's been a major point of emphasis.
"I'm glad we are playing it at home," Payton said, "because communication becomes harder on the road with the silent snap count in the gun."
Payton said the Vikings' six-man pressures can "force your hand" as an offense, and Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi noted the Broncos may need to eliminate certain plays from this week's plan.
"Every play you have to be ready for six guys rushing, seven guys rushing," Lombardi said. "It does limit your playbook quite a bit, because there's a lot of plays that are just dead a large portion of the time against this defense. In some ways, that makes it easier in that you have less to select from. ... The communication is key - recognizing the looks, what can happen. How are we going to pick it up when they do come? What's our answer when they drop? It makes for a lot of late nights and long meetings."
Denver, though, does have the advantage of an offensive line that has played nearly every snap together this season. The Broncos have featured the same starting lineup each game this year, and that trend is expected to continue after guard Ben Powers returned to practice on Friday.
"It's huge," Lombardi said of the continuity. "It's huge to have a really smart center. He can recognize the majority of the looks. Then you have your quarterback clued into, 'This is something [the center] can't see because he's down in a stance over the ball. So, when you see this, you know.' We try to take as much pressure off the quarterback as possible and that the center handles a majority of it, and then you have to recognize these outlier looks to help us out. We have five smart guys in there that have worked together and know how to play off each other. It's a huge help."
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
TE T.J. Hockenson vs. Denver's defense
Star wide receiver Justin Jefferson could make his return for the Vikings on Sunday, but the Broncos must also be concerned with Minnesota's tight end. Former top-10 pick T.J. Hockenson has found increased success since being traded to the Vikings, and his 71 receptions and 681 yards both rank first among NFL tight ends this season. Hockenson - who has four touchdowns this season - ranked third in the NFL in receptions entering Week 11.
In the five-game span without Jefferson, Hockenson has averaged 8.2 catches and 85.4 receiving yards per game, and he's on pace to set the NFL's single-season tight end reception record.
"He has exceptional receiving skills," Payton said. "You have to understand where he is at and how you are going to handle him. He has some of those 'Joker' traits that we talk about."
If the Broncos are to earn another win on Sunday, they'll need to limit Hockenson.
STAT TO KNOW:
Since being traded to the Vikings, Dobbs' passer rating has improved by 20.2 points from his eight-game stint with the Cardinals. After posting an 81.2 quarterback rating in Arizona, he's recorded a 101.4 rating during his short two-game tenure with Minnesota. Dobbs has also boosted his completion percentage from 62.8 percent to 67.2 percent, and he's improved his touchdown-to-interception ratio from 8-to-5 to 3-to-0.
"It's pretty remarkable," Payton said of Dobbs' early performance with Minnesota.
During his limited experience with the Vikings, Dobbs' completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio, passer rating and rushing touchdowns all rank in the top five among quarterbacks with at least 40 pass attempts since Week 9.
Dobbs did fumble three times in his first Vikings start and has 11 total fumbles in 2023.