New Orleans enters the game following a controversial win over Tampa Bay in Week 7:
Denver had Week 7 off, but its gigantic comeback over the Chargers in Week 6 is a fitting memory to carry into Sunday night's primetime matchup.
This should be exciting, regardless of the Saints' struggles this season.
Let's preview this one from top to bottom:
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
When: Sunday, October 28 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Broncos (-6), Over/Under 55.5, according to covers.com
New Orleans Injury Report (via USA Today)
TE Jimmy Graham, Ankle, Questionable
WR Joe Morgan, Chest, Questionable
LB David Hawthorne, Hamstring, Questionable
DE Turk McBride, Ankle, Questionable
Denver Injury Report (via USA Today)
CB Tracy Porter, Illness, Questionable
LB D.J. Williams, Suspension, Out
What's at Stake?
New Orleans is far from in it, but the next three games are big for the rest of its season. After Denver, the Saints must play Philadelphia and Atlanta. Assuming that they lose to the Falcons, the first two are must-win games.
The Saints are tied with Tampa Bay in the NFC South standings. Because of the Falcons' scorching-hot start, every win is necessary if they want to climb back into the divisional race.
Denver, on the other hand, is battling for first place in the AFC West. San Diego is also 3-3, but the team's massive comeback to beat the Chargers in Week 6 gives it the advantage for the time being.
The Broncos are contenders in the AFC. The Saints aren't in the NFC. Either way, pride is always on the line.
Must Start: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
Thomas has become Manning's No. 1 target, and he should have no problem catching passes against New Orleans' 30th-ranked pass defense.
The Broncos receiver has 542 yards and three touchdowns this season, often showing off his athleticism by breaking a big play.
According to ESPN, Thomas has 64 points in standard-scoring leagues. He's a legitimate No. 1 fantasy receiver, largely because of Manning's presence in the pocket.
If you own Thomas, do not forget to set your lineup this week. Denver was off last week, so pull Thomas off your bench and insert him into his rightful starting slot.
Sit 'Em: Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints
In case you needed a reminder, don't play Pierre Thomas. Don't play him in Week 8, and probably don't play him ever unless you have a severe problem with bye weeks.
He only has 214 yards and a touchdown this season. The Saints are dead last in the league at running the ball, and they don't have a top ball-carrier whom they're willing to settle on.
Denver is No. 18 in the league against the run, but don't expect the Broncos to falter here. Brees is going to throw the ball at least 40 times, Thomas will receive minimal touches, and his owners will be happy that he's lingering among their reserves.
Sleeper: Jacob Tamme, TE, Broncos
Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen battle it out for Manning's attention, but Tamme is the better fantasy option.
If you're looking for a tight end to start this week, consider slipping Tamme into your starting lineup for a spot start. He's got 22 catches for just over 200 yards and one touchdown this season, but he's a big-play threat who is comfortable with Manning.
New Orleans is weak up the middle, and it struggles to defend the pass. Look for Tamme to exploit the seams, put stress on the safeties and pick up a few big catches Sunday night.
Don't expect a 20-point night here, but he's a capable play if you're facing some bye-week dilemmas.
What They Are Saying
Anyone who hasn't lived in a hole for the past 15 years knows who Peyton Manning is. He's a monster of epic proportions behind center, consistently ravaging NFL secondaries.
The Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt understands that. He had this to say, via ESPN:
He is a football genius. He understands defenses, alignments and pre-snap reads. When you talk about the skill level of quarterbacks there needs to be three characteristics and he has all three. He is tough, smart and accurate. He is also one of those players, a lot like Drew, that makes other people around him accountable and makes other people around him better.
New Orleans' quarterback isn't too shabby himself, but that's high praise either way. His description of Manning hits it on the head. Even at his age, on a new team, he's a very real MVP candidate.
Saints Player to Watch: Drew Brees, QB
I'd like to get cute here, but who else are you watching the Saints for right now?
Brees has the Saints on a two-game winning streak after starting the season 0-4. He still doesn't have any support from his defense or running game, but he's good enough to get the job done all by himself.
With 2,097 yards and 18 touchdowns so far this year, Brees is on pace for another unbelievable season. Even without Jimmy Graham for most of the past two weeks, Brees has found a way to get things done. He still has Marques Colston and Lance Moore to throw to, and he's still an elite arm in this league.
As long as Brees is throwing the ball, don't count New Orleans out. He's a gamer, and he doesn't take losing lightly.
Broncos Player to Watch: Von Miller, LB
Miller has 26 tackles, six sacks and seven tackles for a loss this season, a strong followup to his wonderful rookie campaign last year.
Combine Miller with Elvis Dumervil, and you have one of the league's best pass-rushing duos. As good as Dumervil is, Miller's elite athleticism makes him the more dangerous of the two.
The Broncos defense has been above average for most of the season. Its ability to get to the quarterback plays a major role in that. Miller has already, in a short period of time, proven himself as someone whom teams must game-plan for.
Expect Miller to get after Brees as much as possible Sunday night. Beating New Orleans comes down to one thing—sacking Brees. For Denver to do so, Miller will need to dominate the edge.
Key Matchup: Willis McGahee vs. Saints Run Defense
The Saints can't stop anyone from doing anything defensively, but they're really bad against the run. Allowing just over 160 yards per game on the ground isn't going to get anyone anywhere.
Denver is going to be able to play two-dimensionally on offense, something that the Saints won't be able to get done. The Broncos will be able to control the clock and keep Brees off the field.
McGahee is a major part of that. He only has three touchdowns this season, but his 432 yards show that he's still capable of grinding out quality runs. Sunday night's game presents a great opportunity to boost his confidence, which could pay huge dividends down the road for the Broncos.
Expect a heavy dose of McGahee. If New Orleans somehow rallies the troops and shuts him down, this game could be interesting. If not, the Saints don't have a prayer of stopping Denver's attack.
Denver is simply too much on both sides of the ball. It's been nice to see Brees find himself in the past few weeks, but the Saints' two-game win streak will halt here.
Look for Manning to continue gathering momentum in the MVP race with another huge performance.
Broncos 38, Saints 24
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