Inside The Matchup: Denver Broncos vs. New Orleans Saints

The Broncos take to the road this week to take on the Saints in a must-win game. It's been four years since last Denver faced New Orleans. Join us for a deeper look inside the matchup.

For the 11th time in their shared history, the Denver Broncos will take on the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, this time on the road. The Broncos own an 8-2 record against the Saints all-time, good for the franchise's second-best winning percentage against another NFL team. 

The Broncos enter the matchup at 6-3 and in third place in the AFC West. The Saints own a 4-4 record, which puts them in second place in the NFC South. 

Both teams still have a lot to fight for. This isn't a Saints team already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Following a two-year playoff drought, they're hungry and motivated — and they're at home. 

Drew Brees and the Saints are a different team in the SuperDome. The Broncos are going to get the Saints' best shot. It's easy to look at this matchup on paper and see it as a relatively easy win for the Broncos. That assumption couldn't be further from the truth. 

Right now, the Broncos are reeling. They've lost three of their last five games and are coming off a humiliating road defeat at the hands of the Division-leading Oakland Raiders

I won't go so far as to say Denver's backs are against the wall. But they are in a precarious position. They're teetering on the razor's edge and could go either way. Without the steady hand and leadership of Peyton Manning, the Broncos are re-learning how to overcome adversity. 

The empirical data of the past tells us that the Broncos have the coaches, leadership and personnel to get back on track — even without Manning. But Super Bowl hangovers are a real factor Championship teams face and it's no different for the 2016 Broncos. 

So, let's dig into this matchup and take a deeper look at both teams and how they measure up. 

Offense Broncos Saints
Net Yards Per Game (NFL Rank) 323.3 (28th) 434.5 (1st)
Yards Per Play (NFL Rank) 5.2 (26th) 6.1 (4th)
Points Per Game (NFL Rank) 23.8 (13th) 30.3 (2nd)
Possession Average 27:56 32:10
Net Rushing Yards Per Game 96.8 (23rd) 108.1 (16th)
Net Passing Yards Per Game 226.6 (25th) 326.4 (1st)
Had Intercepted/Yards 6/55 5/187
Sacks Allowed/Yards 20/124 12/78
Fumbles/Lost 13/7 7/4
Third Down Pct. (NFL Rank) 35.1% (28th) 52.9% (1st)
Red Zone TD Pct. (NFL Rank) 50.0% (T-20th)  70.6% (2nd)
Giveaways 13 9
Turnover Margin (NFL Rank) +3 (T-8th) +4 (T-6th)

Analysis: As you can see, the Saints are very good on third down, while the Broncos are one of the worst in the NFL. The Saints have been relatively careful with the football, giving it away only nine times this season, good for a +4 in the turnover differential. The Broncos defense will once again face the No. 1 total yards offense. 

Defense Broncos Saints
Net Yards Per Game (NFL Rank) 311.9 (4th) 408.5 (30th)
Yards Per Play (NFL Rank) 4.6 (1st) 6.4 (32nd)
Points Per Game (NFL Rank) 18.4 (7th) 29.8 (30th)
Net Rushing Yards Per Game 128.6 (29th) 108.5 (19th)
Net Passing Yards Per Game 183.3 (1st) 300.0 (32nd)
Intercepted By/Yards 8/186 4/36
Sacks For/Yards 28/153 11/78
Opponent Fumbles/Lost 11/8 13/9
Third Down Pct. (NFL Rank) 37.4% (11th) 38.9% (14th)
Red Zone TD Pct. (NFL Rank) 50.0% (T-66th)  55.2% (18th)
Takeaways 16 13

Analysis: The Broncos are clearly superior defensively. The Saints are consistently in the bottom third in the league statistically, but we've learned that NFL ranking is meaningless when pitted against the disjointed Broncos offense. 

Special Teams Broncos Saints
Punts-Average Yards (Gross) 46.3 50.8
Punts-Average Yards (Net) 41.8 44.6
Punt Returns-Average Per 9.9 11.2
Punt Returns-Average Per Allowed 6.6 7.8
Kickoff Returns-Average Per 22.5 16.4
Kickoff Returns-Average Per Allowed 16.3 24.2
Field Goals Made/Attempted 18/20 13/18

Analysis: We'll call this phase a wash. 

Penalties Broncos Saints
Penalties Against/Yards 71/597 51/489
Opponent Penalties Against/Yards 62/554 55/482

Analysis: This area isn't even close. The Broncos have been penalized 29 percent more, but in fairness, the Saints have played one less game. 

What To Watch For

• Chris Harris, Jr. needs an interception to become the sixth player to record multiple interceptions in each of the last six seasons.

• With 9.5 sacks this season and 69.5 in 81 games played, Von Miller needs a half sack to join Simon Fletcher as the only two Broncos to post five 10-sack seasons.

• Miller needs a half sack to tie Derrick Thomas (82 GP) for the third-fastest player to record 70 career sacks.

• Demaryius Thomas needs 100 receiving yards to tie Calvin Johnson (34) and Julio Jones (34) for the most 100-yard receiving games in the NFL since 2011.

• DeMarcus Ware needs a sack to tie Richard Dent and John Randle for the eighth-most sacks in NFL history.

• Ware needs three sacks to tie Julius Peppers and Jason Taylor for sixth place all-time on the sacks list. 

The Hard Way In The Big Easy

• Denver has won a franchise-record 27 consecutive games when winning the turnover battle to represent the longest active streak in the NFL.

• The Broncos have scored a league-high 80 points off turnovers (37.4% of their overall point total).

• During Owner Pat Bowlen’s tenure (1984-pres.), the Broncos have posted the best regular-season win percentage (.614) in the NFL and the third-best win percentage by any team in American professional sports.

• General Manager John Elway is the only NFL general manager during the last five years to acquire future Pro Bowl players through the draft, street free agency, unrestricted free agency and college free agency.

• Since Elway was hired in 2011 (and coming off a 4-12 record in 2010), the Broncos have posted the second-most regular-season wins (63) in the NFL.

Gary Kubiak led the Broncos to 12 wins and the AFC’s No. 1 seed in his initial season as head coach of the Broncos. His 12 wins tied Red Miller (1977) for the most by a Broncos first-year head coach.

• Quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 23-of-35 passes (65.7%) for 312 yards with four touchdowns (132.1 rating) against Cincinnati in Week 3 to become the first player in NFL history with 300 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first career road start.

• Demaryius Thomas has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last four seasons, joining Ring of Famer Rod Smith as the only players in franchise history to accomplish that feat.

• Thomas currently ranks fourth in Broncos history in receptions (503) and third in receiving yards (7,212) and receiving touchdowns (50). He is the second-fastest player in Broncos history to reach 500 career receptions.

• Running back Kapri Bibbs recorded his first career touchdown on a 69-yard reception against Oakland in Week 9. The play represented the longest scoring reception in history by a Broncos running back.

Sharp Ends

• The Broncos rank among the league leaders in nearly every significant defensive category through the first eight weeks of the season.

• The Broncos rank second in the NFL with 28 sacks and first in the league with 76 quarterback hits through nine games this season.

• The Broncos have totaled nine total defensive touchdowns (6 INT ret.; 3 FUM ret.) since the start of the 2015 season — including playoffs — to tie for the most in the NFL during that span.

• The Broncos have given up 41 points during their opponents' nine initial drives this season (4.6 pts./drive) to contribute to the team's -44 scoring differential (60-16) in the first quarter.

• However, Denver's defense has regularly put the clamps down its opponents thereafter, allowing just 119 points on its opponents' other 96 possessions (1.2 pts./drive).

• Von Miller currently ranks fifth on the franchise’s all-time sack list with 69.5.

• Miller has recorded six career sack streaks spanning five or more games, including a seven-game streak from 2015-16 that tied for the third-longest streak in team history.

• Miller ranks fifth in the NFL with 17 forced fumbles since he entered the league in 2011.

• Outside linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware each rank in the Top 7 in NFL history (since 1982) in sacks per game among players who have appeared in 50 or more contests.

• Safety T.J. Ward ranks fourth among NFL defensive backs with 20 tackles for a loss since 2013—a total that includes 6.5 quarterback sacks and 13.5 run stuffs.

• Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is one of just five undrafted cornerbacks in pro football history to make multiple Pro Bowls with his original team.

• Broncos kicker Brandon McManus has connected on 57-of-68 field goal attempts with his 83.8 field goal percentage representing the best career mark in team history (min. 20 att.).

Situational Broncos

When leading after 1st quarter  0-0
When leading after 2nd quarter 5-0
When leading after 3rd quarter 5-0
When trailing after 1st quarter 4-3
When trailing after 2nd quarter 1-3
When trailing after 3rd quarter  1-3
When Denver scores first 2-0
When Denver rushes for 100 yards 3-0
When opponent rushes for 100 yards 4-2
When winning turnover margin 4-0
When losing turnover margin 1-1
When Denver passes for 300 yards 1-0
When playing on an artificial surface 1-0
When scoring 20 or more points 6-1
When yielding 20 or more points 2-3

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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