After an ego-boosting 31-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, the Broncos will look to continue their winning streak against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday.
Although reports have centered the Broncos' success on resurgent quarterback Peyton Manning, the key for Denver lies within their defensive strategy.
A key to the Broncos defense might be rookie defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, who Denver selected in the second round of the 2012 draft.
Out of Cincinnati, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound giant was the 2011 Co-Big East Player of the Year, and was named to the First Team All-Big East. Wolfe finished his senior season with 21.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks.
Heading into the start of the regular season, it was crucial for Denver to strengthen their defensive line. They lacked an interior pass rush, and often struggled to stop the running game at all.
The Broncos' rushing defense finished 22nd in 2011, allowing over 126.3 yards per game.
In a division that has become more run-dominant, particularly with the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, Denver will need to make these adjustments quickly to continue their success, and Wolfe could play a major role in slowing their opponents' ground game.
As proven last week against the Steelers, Wolfe knows when to clog up gaps, and has the ability to break through double teams.
Wolfe recorded three tackles and a sack against Pittsburgh, and was the key contributor to many big plays that allowed players like linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumerville to freely rush the outside.
"I just like his demeanor," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said to ESPN. "Nothing is on his mind more than coming in here and helping his team win. I've really liked the way he's approached the beginning to his career, coming in with the right approach. So many young kids will come in and be distracted by other things. He's' just not bee that kind of kid."
Defensive lineman Ty Warren, who was sidelined for the entire 2011 season, re-injured his triceps against the Steelers, and is once again out for the entire season. The injury may place even more pressure on Wolfe to perform on Sundays this season.
The Broncos face another test this week, as they have to visit a high-powered offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones in the Atlanta Falcons on Monday. Denver should look to make Ryan uncomfortable in the pocket, and Wolfe can help by breaking down Atlanta's offensive line.
If Wolfe can be successful against the Falcons, he definitely should be a player to watch.