The Denver Broncos have their biggest game of the young 2022 season this week as the San Francisco 49ers come to town.

Which key matchups will the Broncos have to win to ensure victory? Let’s look.

Patrick Surtain II vs. Deebo Samuel

It appears that Patrick Surtain II will play this week, setting up a marquee matchup in this week’s game.

Now, considering how much the San Francisco 49ers utilize pre-snap motion and how they align Deebo Samuel in a variety of roles and positions, it seems pretty unlikely that Patrick Surtain II will follow him all around the field — like he did D.K. Metcalf — but we should still be treated to this matchup a good deal.

Surtain has been terrific for the Denver Broncos so far this season, but he hasn’t quite been the game-breaking shutdown force that he was hyped to be this offseason. Now, that is more the fault of perilously high expectations than the fault of Surtain, but he has the opportunity to revise that early-season narrative, against one of the league’s best offensive superstars, and on the biggest national stage — Sunday Night Football.

Amping up the drama is the fact that Surtain will be playing the game with a wounded wing after he injured his shoulder against the Houston Texans.

If Surtain can help guide the Broncos to victory, it’ll be a heroic triumph. If he doesn’t look himself and Samuel is able to feast as a result, it could sink the team’s underdog efforts.

Advantage: San Francisco 49ers

Denver Broncos’ OL vs. San Francisco 49ers’ DL

So far, the Denver Broncos have been outperforming expectations upfront, as their offensive line has been pretty solid overall, after a fairly concerning preseason showing. They’ve picked up the new scheme very quickly, and seem to be rolling, but a weak right side could easily be exploited by a talented 49ers front.

For as much love as Kyle Shanahan and the offense have gotten for consistently churning out high-end offenses, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek deserve just as much praise for reliably producing one of the league’s best defensive fronts year after year, despite a rotating cast of pieces.

This defensive front is one of the toughest tests for any offensive line, and this offensive line has yet to be tested.

Even if the Denver Broncos get some reinforcements in the form of Billy Turner suiting up for his first start of the season, asking Turner to come off the injury report and right into a matchup with Nick Bosa is a tall order that could end in disaster for the Denver Broncos.

Advantage: San Francisco 49ers

Denver Broncos’ front seven vs. San Francisco 49ers’ run game

A large part of the reason Kyle Shanahan’s offense has proliferated around the NFL is the run game, and how it is not only remarkably effective but can open up the entire offense for San Francisco. That will be especially true with Jimmy Garroppolo under center.

With that said, the 49ers’ run game hasn’t been quite as effective so far this season, as Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey not playing up to their typically elite level. Meanwhile, Spencer Burford and Jake Brendel are liabilities on the interior of the line. Not only that, but the 49ers are down running backs Elijah Mitchell and Tyrion Davis-Price

On the other sideline, the Denver Broncos should hopefully be getting Josey Jewell back, which should provide a large boost to their ability to defend the run over Alex Singleton. Plus, with D.J. Jones, Dre’Mont Jones, Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb, Denver’s front looks up to the challenge on paper. The question now is, will they be up to the challenge once the rubber meets the road?

Advantage: Denver Broncos