The Denver Broncos enter perhaps their most hopeless matchup of the year this week, as they travel to face the Baltimore Ravens.

How can the Broncos possibly hope to pull off the upset? Let’s look.

Rein in Lamar Jackson

Quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson change the entire structure of the game, and can singlehandedly tilt the odds in their team’s favor, even when their teams are overmatched.

The Denver Broncos should attempt to find one of those guys…

But anyway, Jackson’s value to the Baltimore Ravens can’t be overstated, and the Broncos’ top priority on Sunday has to be containing him. Now, it’s impossible to stop Jackson, as Denver learned last season, when they went all-out to stop the quarterback’s rushing ability, only to be burned over the top of the defense for 316 yards and a touchdown.

Reining in Jackson this season takes on added importance, for two key reasons.

First, this is not the high-octane, electrifying, and explosive offense of the Pat Shurmur and Teddy Bridgewater era — the offensive era Denver was in the last time these two teams met. You might protest with those descriptions, but the 2021 Broncos look like the 2018 Chiefs compared to what we’ve been forced to endure this year.

Instead, the Broncos are stuck with Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson. Good grief.

Is there a single soul in Broncos Country that believes this team could dig out of a 10-0 first-quarter hole, against Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh?

The second reason is that the Ravens are leaning on Jackson more than they have since his 2019 MVP campaign. Almost their entire offense runs through him, and with a depleted cast of both pass-catchers and running backs, the necessity of him carrying the passing game and the run game has amplified.

Limiting Mark Andrews should be a top priority for the Broncos, in their quest to limit Jackson, because outside of Andrews, the Ravens have very little offensive skill-position talent.

Narrow the margin on special teams

The Denver Broncos still have one of the league’s worst special teams units, in the continuation of a problem that has lasted nearly as long as the franchise’s never-ending void at quarterback.

This offseason, they brought in a new special teams coordinator, made a number of special-teams-focused player transactions (including bringing in a new punter, and drafting a returner in the fifth round), and yet still, the special teams ranks 32nd in the NFL, overall, according to DVOA. They also rank 31st on field goals and extra points (DVOA is an excellent way to measure the kicking game, because it takes into account exact distances, weather conditions and elevation, which standard field-goal percentage doesn’t, even when broken into 10-yard splits), 26th on kickoffs, 32nd on kickoff returns, 21st on punts, and 26th on punt returns. Per DVOA, the much-maligned Corliss Waitman is the leader on the best unit of Denver’s special teams.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens’ special teams unit ranks first in overall special teams DVOA, first on field goals and extra points, 15th on kickoffs, fourth on kick returns, 17th on punts and 4th on punt returns.

Justin Tucker, who ranks first in kicking DVOA, is on a four-year, $24 million deal. Brandon McManus, who ranks 31st in kicking DVOA, is on a four-year $17.2 million deal. Tyler Bass, who ranks sixth in kicking DVOA, is on a four-year $3.5 million deal.

The Broncos need to find a Tyler Bass.

Lean on their run game

Russell Wilson has always been a high-variance quarterback, who would create several magical plays, while also killing a handful of drives with his inconsistent field vision and internal clock, as well as his well-documented struggles operating quicker passing concepts.

As a result, the best Wilson-led offenses in Seattle often leaned on a steady, reliable run game, to help keep the offense on schedule on early downs, and mitigate three-and-outs.

As he’s aged, declined, and joined the Denver Broncos, the ratio of magic:drives-murdered has inverted, and the importance of supporting him with a strong run game has grown exponentially..

The Broncos haven’t been able to support him with such a ground attack this season, but they also haven’t ever leaned into their ground game to the extent they should’ve. No, a two-yard carry on 1st-and-10 isn’t the most efficient play, as many an analytics nerd will tell you, but, it’s still better than an incompletion or a six-yard loss on a sack, which is hamstringing Denver’s offense all too frequently.

Latavius Murray has been a solid power back for them, and Mike Boone is a perfect fit for the zone-blocking scheme. This would be the perfect week to re-find the importance of the rushing attack.