Quick start will be key to outscoring New Orleans
This one might make Woody Hayes turn over in his grave.
Three yards and a cloud of dust? Perish the thought. Why waste time trying to gain a few yards via Pony Express when we can advance the ball in huge chucks using a FedEx jetliner?
The bookies have installed the over/under on this one at 55 1/2 ... to the fifth power.
The New Orleans Saints come a calling tonight at New Mile High. They have a quarterback named Drew Brees. You may have heard of him. He throws for 300-plus yards in his sleep. He’s averaging nearly 350 yards per game this season via the air, easily the best in the NFL.
Denver’s new-look Broncos have a quarterback named Peyton Manning. You may have heard of him as well. He has a bad neck, is still rehabbing a throwing arm, his passes wobble, and his arm isn’t nearly what it once was. Oh yes, he is averaging 301 yards passing per game, tied with his little brother for second-best in the NFL.
Last we looked, Brees was helping the Saints to their second win in a row after opening with four losses. He and the Saints overcame a 14-point early deficit last week to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (the same team that just clobbered Minnesota on Thursday night) 36-17.
In case you were thinking the Saints were dead and buried because of Bountygate, think again. They are alive and kicking and desperate to stay in the playoff hunt in the NFC.
Last time we checked out the Broncos, they were trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego against the Chargers and looking as if they were intent on starting to work hard on next year’s draft plans. That was just prior to Manning and his mates on both sides of the ball waking up in time to outscore the Chargers 35-0 in the second half.
All that little rally did was put Denver in the top spot in the AFC West with their 3-3 record going into last week’s bye as good or better than even the most ardent fans could have hoped for when the season opened.
Both teams are sitting pretty.
One of them won’t feel nearly as cute Monday.
It is a good thing for the Broncos this one is in Denver, not in the dome in New Orleans.
It is a good thing for the Broncos it is a prime-time affair that should have the orange-clad fan nation pumped and loud.
It is also a good thing for the Broncos as they are the better team.
Offensively, it’s close to a draw with both teams having shown they can move the ball against anyone.
New Orleans averages 411 yards per game, 335 of that passing. Denver averages 384 yards, 290 passing.
The Saints average 29 points per game, the Broncos 28.
Neither runs the ball particularly well, although the Broncos have a slight edge.
The defensive side of things is where Denver has the huge advantage. And who thought we would be saying that about the Broncos D any time in this millennium?
Denver has been respectable on the defensive side, holding foes to 330 yards per game, only 215 passing, and that includes games against Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, all among the league’s best.
Denver ranks a respectable 10th in the league in total defense. The Saints, on the other hand, rank 32nd, dead last.
Matter of fact, under first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, New Orleans has surrendered 2,793 yards, the most in NFL history through six contests since 1950. The Broncos have had two bugaboos all season: holding foes on third down and getting off to a decent start.
The defense worked well on third downs two weeks ago against San Diego, even in the first half when they were falling behind. And tonight, the Saints defense should help Peyton & Co. start fast.
Manning said during the week-plus of practices in preparing for the Saints, “We’re studying it and trying hard to get off to a better start. This would be a great week to do it. This is not a team you want to fall behind, because they have potential to keep scoring, keep extending that lead.”
The better team will win. I’ll take my 4-2 record on the season picking with or against Denver and say Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller will apply enough pressure on Brees to force another couple of turnovers, something Denver finally got going with six against the Chargers.
The Saints will be scary on this near-Halloween occasion and score somewhere around their average of 29 points.
Denver will go them a touchdown better.
Broncos 37, Saints 30.
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.