By Rich Kurtzman
Saints versus Broncos – it’s a matchup of superstar quarterbacks and stunning offenses in the Mile High City on Sunday Night Football.
When the schedule-makers drew up this game, they undoubtedly understood it would be a duel of two of the game’s great gunslingers, and that’s exactly what they got.
Drew Brees is brilliant, Peyton Manning, magnificent. They are masters of the quarterbacking craft, two of the few elite QBs in the game today.
Brees possesses one of the strongest arms in the NFL, which is helped by his great balance and standing tall in the pocket. He’s one of the best at reading defenses, and really, it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or zone look—Brees has proven he will beat it. Through six games, he’s racked up 2,097 yards, an NFL-best 350 yards per game average, as the Texas native old leads the league’s No. 1 passing offense. His 18 touchdowns thrown are second-most, though he’s been far from mistake-free, with seven interceptions and two fumbles.
Brees has a wide range of weapons to go to, and he hits them all on a regular basis. Marques Colston has emerged as one of the league’s most deadly pass-catching threats, with 35 receptions for 517 yards and five scores this season. Running back Darren Sproles doesn’t actually run the ball most—as New Orleans is the worst rushing team—but he does catch many short swing passes and makes catches across the middle, turning them upfield for three touchdowns. Tight end Jimmy Graham is an athletic phenomenon, able to stretch the field and run past linebackers with ease. He’s questionable to play, but if he does, it’s a big time boost to the Saints’ offense. Lance Moore has two TD receptions of his own, while 13 players have connected with Brees on the year.
It makes stopping the pass—or at least slowing it down—a major priority for Denver’s defense this week. They got Tracy Porter back to practice in full pads on Wednesday, which is great news considering he’s a starting cornerback. Although, Chris Harris has been impressing the last two seasons, and Tony Carter played the game of his life against the Chargers, meaning the Broncos are incredibly deep in the defensive backfield. Champ Bailey will likely be locked on Colston, a tough test, while Porter will play on Moore most of the game. And someone in the linebacking corps is going to have to find Graham if he plays.
To help the secondary out, the defensive line and linebackers must get some pressure on Brees, who’s been sacked 12 times. Von Miller (six sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (five) can’t be the only ones and if Denver can speed up the quarterback’s internal clock it only benefits the defense as a whole.
Shockingly, for all the points, yards and first downs the Saints have recorded on offense, their defense has given up even more. Across the board they are one of the worst defensive teams in football, meaning Manning and the Broncos’ offense should have an easy time picking them apart.
Manning’s lit up nearly every team he’s played against this season, and he’s really gotten on a roll as of late. He’ll be hooking up with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and many more through the mile high air all night, Sunday. It should lead to fireworks and a huge score for the Broncos and likely at least three touchdowns for Manning, but that’s not all. This should also be a game Denver can get back to running the rock a bit more, as New Orleans 160 yards per game on the ground.
Yes, this game should be a shootout, with each team scoring in the high 20s or even 30s, making for entertaining football for sure.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.