Saints vs. Broncos 2012 preview: Brees and Manning battle in Denver

Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Two of the league's best quarterbacks face off on Sunday night.

In a battle between two of the NFL's most decorated quarterbacks, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints trek a mile high to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Both the Saints and Broncos have victories, but are lacking the kind of statement win that gets a team noticed nationally. In Week 1, Denver beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, but since that win, the Steelers are no longer the juggernaut most expected they would be. Concurrently, the New Orleans Saints are still getting their feet back under them following a start that saw the team, sans coach Sean Payton, start 0-4. Now siting at 2-4, it's hard to imagine the Saints can catch the streaking Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South, but theirs is a quest for respectability.

Meet the Denver Broncos

The decision to pull the plug on Tebow-mania and sign Peyton Manning has paid dividends on offense for the Broncos so far. Manning has thrown 14 touchdowns (forth most in the NFL) while being one of just three quarterbacks to achieve a quarterback rating of over 100 on the season. John Fox typically likes his offenses to rely heavily on the run game, but with Manning as his QB, it's easy to forgive a struggling unit that is running the ball for just 93.8 yards per game, 23rd in the league.

Denver's defense has also improved, allowing 30 less yards than it did last season. On the surface, the Broncos should be flying in 2012. However, a brutal schedule has led to their 3-3 record.

Meet the New Orleans Saints

Leading up to the season, it was hard to judge how the Saints would respond to losing Payton due to the league's bounty allegations. Initially, New Orleans were hit hard and looked to be a team without direction; this is an organization responsible for the sole wins of the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs. Now they appear to be getting back on track by leaning on a familiar presence -- the arm of Drew Brees.

The Saints now possess the NFL's best passing offense, throwing for 335.2 yards per game, and scoring an impressive 29.3 points per game. New Orleans have found their footing, and while their defense ensures games are close, they are still a dangerous team at any time.

Local Takes: Denver Broncos

Brian Shrout from Mile High Report says this about the Broncos ability to return from the bye week:

"the Broncos have had twenty-three byes from 1990-2011. Denver has faced thirteen different teams in those twenty-three games. Against only three out of those thirteen have the Broncos failed to compile a winning record in games played the week after the bye"

Local Takes: New Orleans Saints

Dave Cariello from Canal Street Chronicles offers a few interesting stats for the game:

RB Pierre Thomas had two rushing TDs in his only meeting against the Broncos.

WR Marques Colston has five TD receptions in the past three games. He Aims for his 4th game in row with a TD.

WR Devery Henderson aims for his third game in row with a 40+ yard catch.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@MileHighReport

@CSCtweet

Prediction

From the Week 8 picks:

Sunday Night Football loves its superstar quarterbacks, the thinking being that average Americans can most easily relate to two men possessing an ability level far beyond that of any average American. Of course, NBC can always sell this one on the comeback stories. The Saints, already long on comeback stories, are trying to claw back into relevancy. Peyton Manning has that whole neck thing; I'm sure you've heard about it. Drew Brees needs two more touchdown passes to leap over John Elway, who had 300, on the all-time list. Subplots!

The pick: 38-35, Saints

Odds

The Denver Broncos are favored by six points, according to OddsShark.

Next Week

The Denver Broncos head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals while the New Orleans Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles.

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