There will be more footballs than oxygen in the thin air of Denver when the Broncos host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. New Orleans, led by quarterback Drew Brees, has the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL, while Denver and Peyton Manning are fourth. The Saints have won two straight after an 0-4 start and welcome back interim coach Joe Vitt, who finished serving a suspension for his role in Bountygate. The Broncos enjoyed their bye week following a 35-24 comeback victory at San Diego on Oct. 15 and will try to take advantage of the Saints' NFL-worst defense which has allowed 2,793 yards through six games, the most in NFL history since at least 1950.
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Broncos -6, O/U 55.5
ABOUT THE SAINTS (2-4): Brees threw four touchdown passes in New Orleans' 35-28 victory at Tampa Bay last week. The Saints are trying to become the second team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to reach the playoffs after starting 0-4, but they'll have to become more balanced on offense. New Orleans is last in the league at 76.2 rushing yards per game. Remarkably, though, its one-dimensional attack hasn't led to Brees getting pummeled by opposing defenses. He has been sacked 12 times, tied for the eighth-lowest total in the NFL. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is appealing his Bountygate suspension, played his first game last week after recovering from a knee injury and broke up a pass and had a knockdown.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (3-3): Manning, who has 14 touchdowns and four interceptions - three in the first quarter against Atlanta - has a passer rating of 105.0, well above his 95.2 career number. While Manning is the key to Denver making the playoffs, the secondary will likely determine whether the Broncos win Sunday. While 11-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey continues to play at the highest level, he will need plenty of help to slow down Brees and Co. Cornerback Tracy Porter, though, missed the San Diego game after experiencing light-headedness and a rapid heartbeat - symptoms he also felt prior to a seizure in August. Porter, who played four seasons with New Orleans (2008-11), has yet to receive clearance to play Sunday.
1. Brees and Manning last met in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010, when New Orleans defeated Indianapolis 31-17.
2. Aaron Kromer, who served as Saints interim coach with Vitt gone and suspended coach Sean Peyton sitting out the season, returns to his role as offensive line coach.
3. Denver leads the series 7-2 and has won three straight, including a 34-32 victory in the last meeting in 2008 when Brees was 39-of-48 for 421 yards and a touchdown.
PREDICTION: Broncos 38, Saints 35
News Breaking News
Key Players to Watch
- NeckDoub Thurs | doubtful
Flacco has been activated from the PUP list while recuperating from a disc repair surgery in his neck. He is unlikely to make his season debut Thursday against the Broncos.
- BackProb Thurs | probable
Jackson is battling a back injury, but he is expected to take part in Thursday's contest versus the Jets.
- WristProb Thurs | probable
Marshall is hampered by a wrist injury, but he is projected to be in Thursday's lineup versus the Jets.
- ShinOut indefinitely | I-R
Wilkinson has been ticketed for the injured reserve list due to a shin injury, and it is unknown when he will come back.
- ToeDoub Thurs | doubtful
Lindsay is sidelined due to turf toe, and he is not expected to return to action against the Jets on Thursday.
- AnkleProb Thurs | probable
Okwuegbunam has missed the past three games due to an ankle injury, but he is likely to make his season debut Thursday versus the Jets.
- HamstringQues Thurs | questionable
Harris sat out the previous game due to a hamstring injury, and it is up in the air if he will take the field against the Jets on Thursday.
- BicepI-R | I-R
Casey has been entered on the injured reserve list due to a biceps tear.
New Orleans Saints
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Peat left the previous game due to a high-ankle injury, and it is undetermined if he will line up Sunday versus the Lions.
- CalfQues Sun | questionable
Onyemata was held out of the last game with an injury to his calf, and it is uncertain if he will take the field versus the Lions on Sunday.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Thomas suffered left high-ankle sprain, and it has yet to be established if he will return against the Lions on Sunday.
- ElbowQues Sun | questionable
Davenport has sat out the past three games with an elbow injury, and it is unclear if he will make his season debut Sunday against the Lions.
- GroinQues Sun | questionable
Cook departed the last game with a groin injury, and it is uncertain if he will face the Lions on Sunday.
- HamstringOut indefinitely | I-R
Montgomery has been designated for the injured reserve list with a hamstring injury, and it is unknown when he team will bring him back.
- HipQues Sun | questionable
Hansen has sat out the previous two games due to a hip injury, and it is unknown if he will return against the Lions on Sunday.
- IllnessQues Sun | questionable
Jenkins is suffering from an unspecified illness, leaving his status for Sunday's tilt with the Lions up in the air.