Two of the NFL’s best field generals will meet on Sunday Night Football, when the Denver Broncos host the New Orleans Saints at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. Peyton Manning and the 3-3 Broncos come off a bye week that followed the biggest comeback in Monday Night Football history, a 35-24 victory over the Chargers where Denver trailed 24-0 at halftime. The 2-4 Saints have struggled on defense all season, but Drew Brees always gives New Orleans a chance to win.
When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
Manning has returned to his four-time MVP form during the last month, throwing for 1,314 yards and 11 touchdowns against only one interception over the last four Denver games. However, the Broncos are only 2-2 in those contests because of an inconsistent defense. Manning will need to keep up his stellar play to beat the Saints, and receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker should do well against a meek New Orleans secondary. Denver could also use a solid performance by running back Willis McGahee, who could eat away time of possession and keep Brees off the field.
The Saints defense ranks last in the league, giving up an alarming 465.5 yards per game. The offseason turmoil and new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo seems to have a caused a disconnect for New Orleans defenders so far this year, and they will be challenged greatly by Manning and the Broncos attack. The Saints will need to do a better job of stopping the run (31st in the NFL) and try to make the Denver offense one-dimensional.
When the New Orleans Saints have the ball:
Brees has also been excellent lately, leading New Orleans to two wins in a row after starting the season 0-4. During the last four games, Brees has thrown for an outstanding 1,433 yards and 14 touchdowns. However he may be without Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore should have plenty of opportunities for a big night, and New Orleans would be helped greatly by any contribution from the NFL’s lowest-rated rushing attack.
The Broncos defense has been very susceptible to bad starts this season, struggling in the first half on multiple occasions. A repeat of those early woes would be a dangerous formula against the intrepid Brees, who can torch any defense when he gets into a rhythm. Denver has been fairly solid with takeaways (10) and sacks (18), and interrupting Brees’ timing will be critical for the Broncos to have success tonight.
There should be plenty of points scored in Denver tonight, and the defense that gets off to the better start will have a huge advantage in this one. If the Saints can force the Broncos defense into another first-half lapse, then Manning and the offense will have to dig out of another early hole and the crowd will be less of a factor. But if Denver solved some of its defensive issues during the bye, the Saints could be in for an uphill battle. With the raucous home crowd, we’ll take Manning and the Broncos to prevail in a shootout.
Broncos 31 Saints 27
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman )