SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 8-2. Broncos have won four straight. Most historic meeting between these two teams was on Nov. 20, 1988, when the Saints drubbed the Broncos 42-0 in a loss that helped lead to the dismissal of long-time defensive coordinator Joe Collier, who had been on the Broncos' staff for 20 seasons and was the primary architect of the famed Orange Crush defense.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Saints balanced their top-ranked offense beautifully the past two weeks, rushing for 123 yards against the Seattle Seahawks and 248 yards vs. the San Francisco 49ers. While they want to throw, they won't mind trying to repeat their running success considering the Broncos allow 128.6 rushing yards per game to rank 29th in the league.
Defensively, the Saints are better in recent weeks, which is good news considering the Broncos are struggling a bit in both running and throwing the ball. Denver has rushed for more than 100 yards just once in the last seven games and only once in nine games this season have the Broncos surpassed the 300-yard mark in net passing. They are counting on hard-running rookie Devontae Booker (80 carries, 320 yard, 2 TDs) to find his stride.
The Saints rank last in the NFL in allowing 300.0 passing yards per game, which should be an invitation for the Broncos to get QB Trevor Siemian going with wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The Saints use a lot of three-safety looks and will likely employ that tactic this week and hope the front seven can handle a Broncos' running game that ranks 23rd with just 96.3 yards per game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Saints offensive line vs. Broncos SLB Von Miller. This is the biggest key for the Saints this week, especially for the left side of their offensive line, after coach Sean Payton said Wednesday that Miller was the best pass rusher in the league. Left tackle Terron Armstead will likely be questionable, which means that left guard Andrus Peat will likely move into his spot. That would move Senio Kelemete into Peat's spot. Despite numerous injuries along the line, the Saints have given up just 12 sacks in eight games. That means keeping Miller away from Drew Brees will be essential to their success.
--Broncos WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas vs. Saints CBs Delvin Breaux and B.W. Webb. Sanders has 49 catches for 614 yards and three TDs and Thomas has 47 receptions for 591 yards and four scores and both are obviously capable of going off at any time. Breaux and Webb and nickel back Sterling Moore would love to get some help from a pass rush to make Trevor Siemian a little uncomfortable in the pocket, but the Saints have just 11 sacks this season. If the Saints can generate any kind of pressure, it could go a long way to having Breaux, Webb and Moore do their job against two formidable receiving threats.
Broncos RB Kapri Bibbs. He is in line to get more work after showing a flash of brilliance with his 69-yard catch-and-run through Oakland's defense in the fourth quarter last Sunday night. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said he wants to give Bibbs more opportunities, but that is likely predicated on the offense being able to sustain the kind of lengthy drives it has failed to produce in recent
Denver -- Out: CB Aqib Talib (back), DE Derek Wolfe (elbow).
Broncos QB Trevor Siemian completed only 48.6 percent last week. Over the last three games, his completion percentage is 52.0, lowest in the NFL in Weeks 7-9 (minimum 50 attempts). On the road in 2016, Siemian has eight TD passes, one interception and a 97.5 rating.
WR Demaryius Thomas had 137 yards receiving, TD catch in last meeting. He has 47 catches (6.7 per game) for 640 yards (91.4 per game), TD receptions in 7 career games vs. NFC South and is fourth fastest in NFL history (94 games) to reach 500-plus receptions (503) & 50-plus yards receiving and TDs (51) in career.
WR Emmanuel Sanders leads team with 49 catches, 614 yard receiving.
Saints RB Mark Ingram rushed for 158 yards, including a career-long 75-yard TD, and added a TD catch in Week 9.
Something must give between the Saints' prolific passing game and the Broncos' brutal defense. The key to the game may be on the other sides of the ball, where Denver must find a running game to keep their defense rested and help their young QB keep the game close.
OUR PICK: Saints, 34-21.