New Orleans at Denver
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver - TV: NBC
*TV announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
*Keys to the game: The Broncos haven't been Jekyll & Hyde from game to game - more accurately, they've changed personalities from half to half. Denver has a minus-56 point differential in the first half compared to a whopping 88-point advantage in the second half. The Saints' offense is on a three-game roll, so the Broncos need to avoid the turnovers and penalties that have plagued them through the first 30 minutes. Broncos QB Peyton Manning has thrown for 300-plus yards in four consecutive games and the Saints' secondary has been plagued by poor coverage and tackling all season. If New Orleans doesn't shut down the run with its front seven and find a pass rush that has been lacking most of the season, the Saints' defense will be hapless to get off the field. Saints QB Drew Brees has been equally prolific of late and could get TE Jimmy Graham back from an ankle injury. New Orleans' ground game has been barely an afterthought most of the season, and Denver allows only 3.7 yards per carry. The Saints have a quick-strike attack, but the Broncos also have a fearsome pass rush and New Orleans would be wise to strive for more balance and help keep its beleaguered offense off the field.
*Matchup to watch - Saints FS Michael Jenkins vs. Manning: Jenkins has been a focal point for critics breaking down the struggles of the Saints' pass defense. Jenkins, who had an excellent hustle play to save a touchdown last week, is responsible for getting the secondary aligned and diagnosing where Manning is looking to attack.
*Player spotlight - Broncos rookie LB Danny Trevathan: The Broncos will likely spend a good portion of the game in their nickel defense, and the rookie sixth-round pick was the option to replace Keith Brooking over disappointing Joe Mays in the last game.
*Fast facts: Brees has thrown for 370-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns in three consecutive games. ... Manning's 47 career game-winning fourth-quarter or overtime drives is tied with Dan Marino for the most in NFL history.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The Broncos are rested coming off their bye and facing a defense ill equipped to cope with Denver's slew of weapons in the passing game. As long as the Broncos avoid self-inflicted wounds, they slowly pull away in a high-scoring battle.
*Our pick: Broncos 37-31