The New Orleans Saints (4-4) will host the Denver Broncos (6-3) as they look to get above .500 for the first time this season. A clash of Titans will occur on Sunday as the Broncos’ number 1 pass defense will look to stop the Saints’ number one passing offense.
Five Things to Look For
1) Denver Pass Rush
Last year, the Broncos’ defense emerged as one of the NFL’s best, and a large reason for their defensive success was their pass rush. Things have not changed much as the Broncos have sacked opposing quarterbacks 28 times this season. Star outside linebacker Von Miller has 9.5 sacks thus far, and he’s set to face off against right tackle Zach Strief. Strief has played very well despite being 33 years of age, but he will have his biggest challenge of the year in Miller. The Saints must neutralize the pass rush as often as they can in order to give Drew Brees and the receivers a chance to succeed.
2) Coby Fleener
The Saints’ wide receivers will have a tough matchup with the Broncos’ cornerbacks, so Brees may be targeting Fleener more often. The Broncos play a lot of man-to-man coverage, and Fleener has shown the ability to create separation. He will be matched up with linebackers and safeties throughout the game, and Brees will likely try to exploit every mismatch he can find.
3) Saints’ Rushing Attack
Over the past two weeks, the Saints have placed great emphasis on the run game. After a costly fumble against the Seahawks, Mark Ingram was benched and Tim Hightower replaced him. However, Ingram had the bigger game against the 49ers as he ran for 158 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. The Saints will likely look to the run once again on Sunday as the Broncos have the 30th ranked run defense in the league. If the Saints are able to run the ball effectively, they will be able to keep their defense off the field and limit the Broncos’ pass rush.
4) Broncos’ Receivers
It could be argued that the Broncos have one of the top receiver duos in the league with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas; the duo has combined for 1,205 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Cornerback Delvin Breaux returned last week for the Saints, and he’s expected to play the whole game this week. Whoever starts opposite of Breaux (either Sterling Moore or B.W. Webb) will be challenged throughout the game. Although the Broncos have struggled offensively, they’ll have several chances over the course of the game to exploit the Saints with their receivers.
5) Sheldon Rankins
The Saints’ 2016 first draft pick returned to the field last week after sustaining a broken fibula during training camp. He appeared to be a little rusty against the 49ers, but he played much better in the fourth quarter. It isn’t unreasonable to expect a bigger performance from him against the Broncos as he continues to get acclimated and up to game speed. The Saints will need him to be a disruptive force up the middle on Sunday.
- The Saints win a close one by a score of 27-24.
- Willie Snead will have more than 125 receiving yards.
- Von Miller will have two sacks.