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GAME PLAN

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS RUN

Seattle could use all four of its running backs, led by Chris Carson and first-round pick Rashaad Penny. The Seahawks have been searching for a running game since Marshawn Lynch departed to Oakland. Carson averaged 4.1 yards on 22 carries and third-down back C.J. Prosise had a team-best 10 catches. The Broncos’ rush defense improved as the preseason progressed. A key is how ends Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis and nose tackle Domata Peko absorb blocks to free up the linebackers. The Broncos led the league last year in fewest yards allowed per carry (3.3).

Edge: Broncos.

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS PASS

If there’s one quarterback this year who can use his athleticism to semi-negate the Broncos’ pass rush, it’s Russell Wilson. Wilson (65-30-1 as a regular season starter) will scramble laterally and in reverse to buy time to buy time and frustrate the Broncos. It is also makes blitzing difficult since that would vacate the middle of the field for Wilson to scramble; his 30 rushes of at least 10 yards last year were seventh in the league and tops among quarterbacks. A tough test for the Broncos’ cornerbacks, which includes Bradley Roby moved up to No. 2 and Adam Jones/Tramaine Brock as the No. 3.

Edge: Seahawks.

WHEN THE BRONCOS RUN

Rookie Royce Freeman won the running back competition over Devontae Booker. Freeman scored three touchdowns in the preseason, leaving Booker to play a backup role and rookie Phillip Lindsay to be a change-of-pace option. Seattle was 19th against the run last year and one of its few returning defensive starters is excellent middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks’ 4-3 front includes former second-round pick Jarran Reed and third-round rookie Rasheem Green. But look for Freeman to show the stage isn’t too big for him and for Lindsay to get more touches (rushes/receptions) than Booker.

Edge: Broncos.

WHEN THE BRONCOS PASS

Count all of the Broncos additions: Quarterback Case Keenum, tight end Jake Butt (hurt last year), rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton and the slippery Lindsay, who can motion out of the backfield. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders remain the Nos. 1-2 receivers. Sanders in particular looked sharp in the preseason. Count on Sutton to get a few chances down the sideline. The Seahawks’ best pass rusher is Frank Clark (nine sacks last year), who will line up in a stand-up and three-point stance at defensive end. Rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin starts for the injured K.J. Wright and it would behoove the Broncos to challenge him.

Edge: Broncos.

SPECIAL TEAMS

For many years, kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Marquette King were Oakland teammates. Now they play for the Seahawks and the Broncos, respectively. The Broncos’ special teams, so poor last year, showed signs of progress in the preseason. Veteran Adam Jones, signed on Aug. 26, is expected to handle punt returns and Lindsay will handle kick returns. Kicker Brandon McManus made his first eight field goal attempts last month and placed his kickoffs in good position. Seattle rookie punter Michael Dickson debuts and Tyler Lockett returns from injury to handle returns.

Edge: Broncos.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. First quarter pulse. The Broncos’ offense was slow to wake up the entire year, but particularly at the start of games. Their offense had one first possession touchdown (Seattle had none). The Broncos were outscored 77-59 in the first quarter.

2. Red zone wins. An emphasis during the offseason/preseason for the Broncos’ defense has been inside the 20-yard line. Last year, they ranked 23rd in touchdown percentage. Seattle’s offense was 13th (55.6 percent).

3. Getting fancy. Philadelphia was doing little offensively on Thursday night until a pass to quarterback Nick Foles converted a third down and led to a touchdown. The Broncos tried a flea flicker in the preseason (incomplete pass). Both teams should be on guard for trickery.

INJURY REPORT

Seattle: x

Broncos: x

STAFF PREDICTIONS

Ryan O’Halloran, Beat writer

BRONCOS 27-20

Hopefully this won’t be a repeat of Thursday night’s Falcons-Eagles sleepwalk. The Broncos sack Russell Wilson four times and Royce Freeman debuts with 97 yards and two touchdowns.

Kyle Fredrickson, Beat writer

BRONCOS 28-24

Quarterback Case Keenum’s turnover-free day keeps the Broncos from beating themselves. Turnovers forced by Denver are the difference in a close victory.

Mark Kiszla, Columnist

BRONCOS 24-20

The Broncos’ dream is going from worst to first, flipping a 5-11 record to 11-5. For that to become a reality, this is a must win.

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