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Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos: Five Players, Things to Watch

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COMMENTARY | It may be a truly beautiful city at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, but Denver, Colorado is one of the last places NFL teams want to visit. The Broncos have one of the great home-field records in NFL history, a league best 191-65-1 between 1974 and 2006. They also have one of the best quarterbacks of this generation in Peyton Manning.

But the NFL schedule says the Philadelphia Eagles still must play the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday (to be televised by FOX).

The Eagles enter the game after opening the season with an impressive win over the Washington Redskins, then following it with two disappointing performances in home losses to the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos come in after three lopsided victories, each by more than two touchdowns, over the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders.

Five Players to Watch

Peyton Manning, Broncos - In three games, he's completed three of every four passes and thrown for just under 100 more yards and four more touchdowns than any other quarterback in the league. He's done all this without throwing an interception. At 37, he's determined to claim at least one more Super Bowl ring before he concludes his Hall of Fame career.

Trent Cole, Eagles - Listed as an outside linebacker in Chip Kelly's 3-4 defense, Cole doesn't have a sack yet this year after averaging nine sacks a season entering 2013. The Eagles have to find a way to pressure Manning and Trent Cole has to lead that effort.

Wesley Woodyard, Broncos - When your team is averaging 42 points a game and leads the NFL in total offense, your team's defense can be overlooked. The linebacker has a team-high 25 tackles and a sack for a team that's first in the league against the rush and 30th against the pass after three games. Denver's offense will score. The unknown is how much the Broncos' defense can slow down Philadelphia. The Eagles are second in the NFL in total offense.

Riley Cooper, Eagles - At some point, the embattled wide receiver has to become more than the guy who spewed a ridiculous ethnic slur on camera at a concert. He has to present a deep receiving option other than DeSean Jackson for Michael Vick. Six catches in three games won't get it done.

Wes Welker, Broncos - The five-time Pro Bowl receiver has 19 catches in three games, certainly a respectable total. We also know from his New England Patriots days that he's capable of 19 catches in a game. It's only a matter of time before he becomes Manning's primary option. The Eagles hope that time isn't this week.

Five Things to Watch

The altitude - Watch how it won't make any difference. Balls of any shape may fly higher and farther in the thin air, and some athletes in various sports have been known to suck wind more quickly. But for whatever reason, it never seems to be a game-changer in NFL games. Football players adapt to their environments. It's like they invented the whole mind over matter thing.

Michael Vick's feet - The Eagles quarterback took five sacks against Kansas City. Will Chip Kelly try to have him on the move a little more in Denver? As much as the fragile Vick would like to stand in the pocket and flourish as more a classic passer, he's still as dangerous as it comes as a running quarterback.

The calendar - The Eagles played the Thursday night game in Week 3. The Broncos played the Monday night game in Week 3. Will that disparity in practice time impact the outcome? The Eagles certainly had some kinks to work out and the extra time should have helped them. The Broncos have been playing like they don't need to practice.

The calendar - Sunday's weather forecast in Denver calls for lots of sun and a high of 77 degrees. Back in 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies played an October playoff baseball game at nearby Coors Field in temperatures below freezing. That was a day after that game had been snowed out. You never know what you're going to get weather-wise out there. But the Eagles shouldn't get anything interesting this trip.

Chip Kelly's patience - His high-velocity, intricate offense requires precision execution. The Eagles were anything but precise against the Chiefs. This is only the fourth game in the new Eagles regime. But Kelly is used to his guys getting it right. With a few extra days of practice for this game, chances are mistakes won't go over very well with the coach.

Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Eagles follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.

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