ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos don't need a Post-it note to know Carson Wentz is an MVP candidate with his league-leading 19 touchdown passes, or that he's the guy who makes the offense go for the 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
But when the Broncos play Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, there will be a little of the unknown to deal with. There's mystery with the Eagles' new-look running game, and there's also the tight end matchup, which has been the only one opposing offenses have had success with against the Broncos' snarling defense.
Wentz will certainly be the starting point in the Broncos' plan, but the Eagles added a Pro Bowl running back in Jay Ajayi just before the trade deadline earlier this week. The Broncos never faced Ajayi in his three seasons with the Miami Dolphins and simply won't be able to predict how much the Eagles will use him just five days after his first practice with them.
"That's crazy," Broncos safety Will Parks said. "I remember playing against Jay Ajayi in Arizona against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. He's a pretty solid guy. He's fast. He hits the hole pretty good. We'll see where he's at. He just got there, too. We probably won't see him as much, but like I said, we're going to be ready for every single one of these players on the team."
However, the Broncos can safely predict that Eagles tight end Zach Ertz will see the ball plenty. Ertz leads the Eagles in targets (64), receptions (43) and touchdowns (six).
And while the Broncos are the league's No. 1 defense overall, No. 2 in run defense and No. 6 against the pass, opposing tight ends have found room to work. The Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten had 10 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, the Giants' Evan Engram had five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, and the Chiefs' Travis Kelce had seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown on Monday night.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was particularly effective finding Kelce when the Broncos chose to match up safety Darian Stewart or Parks on Kelce in man-to-man coverage. Stewart was matched up on Kelce for his 29-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter of the Chiefs' eventual 29-19 win.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said that trend was indeed noteworthy, "but you still have to protect, you still have to get the ball to him."
Ertz has been targeted like a wide receiver -- at least eight times in five games, at least 10 in three -- and has touchdown receptions in each of the past four games.
In their run game, the Eagles have largely used LeGarrette Blount as their primary runner; it's believed the Eagles will eventually use Ajayi in a third-down role. Pederson wouldn't say earlier this week whether Ajayi would play against the Broncos.
"We've got to get him in the mix. He's got to get caught up offensively in what we're doing in order for him to see the field at this point," Pederson said. "[It] just depends on a few things, how much he can learn, obviously, in a short period of time. I don't want to do him a disservice by putting him out there and by affecting the roster. ... We'll see as the week goes. We'll see how much he can learn and understand."
The Eagles have been a fairly balanced affair on offense to this point with the No. 5 run game (129.3 yards per game) to go with the No. 11 passing game (242.5 yards per game). They are also No. 4 in scoring at 29 points per game.
"In the run game, we've just got to keep doing what we've been doing all year," Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "Just play our gaps and keep the edges as outside linebackers. The guys inside and D-linemen do a good job of running to the ball, getting off of blocks and making the plays. In the passing game, we've been doing good against that, too. We just have to keep after the quarterback."