The Saints finally seemed to have figured some things out are heading back to their winning ways. This weeks game will be a big sign of which team is for real. The Saints head into Mile High to face the 3-3 Denver Broncos lead by future HOF QB Peyton Manning. The Bronco’s record may not look all that impressive, but a deeper look at their record explains how they can be a much better team. Their three losses have come against some of the better teams in the NFL. They lost to the 6-0 Falcons, 5-1 Texans, and always challenging Patriots who hold a 4-3 record. Their three losses have come against some decent competition as well in Pittsburgh, San Diego, and an absolute trouncing of Oakland. They have a lot to prove as well, but make no mistake they are one of the better teams in the NFL.
Things looked all down in the first half for Denver in their last game against the Chargers. They trailed 24-0 at Halftime and seemed destined for a rout by the hands of the Philip Rivers. It all turned around in the second half when the scored 35 unanswered points to defeat their division rivals. A pretty remarkable comeback to say the least, but Peyton Manning is a pretty remarkable QB. If this teaches anything, it is never let your foot off the gas when Manning is on the other sideline. That victory brought them to 3-3, and share of first place in the AFC West.
This team is completely revamped on offense. Last year, with Tebow under center, they operated as more of a run first team. In fact, Denver has long been a team focused on the running game, back since Mike Shanahan was coaching for the Broncos. That is much changed with Peyton Manning running the show. They still run, probably more than a typical Manning offense, but this is a pass first team for sure. Manning has proven all of his doubters wrong so far this season. He has thrown for nearly 300 yards per game with 14 TDs to only 4 interceptions. He may not have the same zip he had on the ball before, but he has led the Broncos to the 4th best passing offense in the NFL. That is still very much in the elite category of NFL Quarterbacks.
That is bad news for the Saints defense that has struggled to slow down QBs at a much lower caliber than Manning. And he has some solid weapons as well. Eric Decker is essentially the safety net in this offense, but adds a little explosiveness as well. He has racked up 34 catches in the first 6 games, good for 441 yards. Manning can find him in the middle of the field all day, and that is what he specializes in as a possession receiver. The major threat though is Demaryius Thomas. He has averaged over 90 yards a game so far and has proven to be Manning’s favorite target. He has already had 12 catches of 20 yards or more and will burn you if he catches you napping. He has fumbled the ball 3 times already, so after the catch is almost just as crucial as actually covering Thomas.
The defense is aging, but still features an elite pass rush. They have amassed 18 sacks already, with their top guys Elvis Dumervil (5) and Von Miller (6) leading the way. This is what concerns me the most about this game. Drew Brees will get his yardage at the end of the day. However, he has been a bit more mistake prone then previous years, which is has been a big cause in some of the losses thus far. He has been taken down for sacks 12 times already, and has thrown 7 interceptions. There is no doubt that some of those picks have come from added pressure because of an offensive line getting beat. In the last two wins, Brees has thrown 4 TDs and 1 INT each game. Both games were won by 7 points. Basically, if Brees throws one more errant pass for an INT in either game, it very well could have been a loss. He also threw for 370 yards in each contest. He has put up some remarkable stats and walked away with a victory just barely. The defense will need to step up, because this pass rush is better than the last few he has faced, and they won’t allow him to shred them apart as easily.