Game Plan and Matchups v. Carolina

How the Denver Broncos' offensive tackles match up against the Carolina Panthers' defensive end Julius Peppers will go a long way in determining the outcome of Sunday's game. Read about the game plan and other key matchups.

GAME PLAN

The Broncos have had more success passing the ball than running it this season, and there's no reason to believe they won't lean on the short-passing game again against Carolina. Denver will try to limit turnovers on offense and let the defense win the game for them, an approach that will probably be its trademark this season.

Denver will try to get its running game going after averaging 2.8 yards a carry in its past three games, and Carolina has been vulnerable. The Panthers are giving up 142 rushing yards per game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--Denver OTs Matt Lepsis and George Foster vs. Carolina DEs Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker. Lepsis was up to the challenge last week against Buccaneers DE Simeon Rice, keeping him off of Jake Plummer all game. Denver has only allowed two sacks this season, but Carolina's front four is very good at getting to the quarterback.

--Denver CB Champ Bailey vs. Carolina WR Muhsin Muhammad. Steve Smith's injury robs the fans of seeing him go against Bailey, but Bailey will likely cover Muhammad instead. The Panthers aren't exactly deep at receiver and Muhammad is Jake Delhomme's favorite target with Smith out, so to move the ball consistently through the air Muhammad will have to get open.

--RB Reuben Droughns vs. Carolina DTs Kris Jenkins and Brentson Buckner. Droughns was able to pick up some key third-and-short runs against Tampa Bay. The Broncos have struggled in short-yardage situations, but may have found an answer in Droughns. To keep having success up the middle on third and short, the Broncos will have to get a push up front against the Panthers' big tackles.

INJURY IMPACT

RB Quentin Griffin did not practice on Wednesday. He has a sprained ankle, which could affect him more than most backs because his strength as a runner is cutting quickly.

G Ben Hamilton has a sprained thumb that he suffered in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, but that shouldn't affect him too much against Carolina.

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