Preview: Vikings vs Broncos 02 Dec 11

THE STORY: Although Tim Tebow continues to garner much of the publicity – and that may be an understatement – there appears to be a bigger force behind the Denver Broncos’ turnaround. The defense is arguably the No. 1 reason the Broncos will try for their fifth straight victory when they visit the injury-depleted Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. After its 45-10 loss to Detroit in Week 7, Denver was allowing 28.5 points per game. The Broncos have allowed an average of 15 points in their last four. Denver rookie linebacker Von Miller, who has 10.5 sacks, underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb Tuesday but said he will play. Vikings four-time Pro Bowl running backAdrian Peterson missed last week’s 24-14 loss at Atlanta after injuring his ankle in Week 11 against Oakland. He did not practice Wednesday and will be a game-time decision.

TV: FOX, 1 p.m. ET. LINE: Vikings -1, O/U 37.5

ABOUT THE VIKINGS (2-9): Minnesota placed four players on injured reserve this week, including wide receiver Michael Jenkins and safety Tyrell Johnson. A bright spot continues to be defensive end Jared Allen, who is second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks (DeMarcus Ware, 14). Allen also added long snapper to his resume when Cullen Loeffler was lost to a lower back fracture last week. Minnesota has done a poor job protecting rookie Christian Ponder, who has been sacked 18 times in five games since taking over for Donovan McNabb, who was released Thursday. Toby Gerhart rushed for 44 yards last week.

ABOUT THE BRONCOS (6-5): Denver has registered 12 sacks in the last four games, including a combined 10 by Elvis Dumervil and Miller. Another key aspect to its rise on defense has been cornerback Champ Bailey, who has consistently shut down the opposition’s top receiver. That was evident in last week’s 16-13 overtime victory at San Diego when he held Vincent Jackson to a pair of catches for 25 yards. Jackson was only thrown to three times.

EXTRA POINTS:

1. Tebow has orchestrated four second-half comebacks en route to his 5-1 record as a starter this season, including three in the fourth quarter. … Tebow has converted only 25 percent on third down.

2. The Vikings may look to wide receiver Percy Harvin for some inside information on Tebow. The two were teammates on Florida’s 2008 national championship team.

3. Denver’s Willis McGahee posted his fifth 100-yard game of the season last week, including a key 24-yard run in overtime.

PREDICTION: Broncos 17, Vikings 14. The defense continues to shine – regardless of whether it has to deal with Peterson – and leads Denver to its fourth straight victory on the road.