KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Bonnie Bernstein
SERIES: 9th meeting. The series between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants is even at 4-4. The Giants did win the only postseason meeting, their first Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XXI over the Broncos at the end of the 1986 season.
2005 RANKINGS: Broncos: offense 14th (3rd rush, 25th pass); defense 22nd (5th rush, 26th pass). Giants: offense 12th (17th rush, 11th pass); defense 31st (11th rush, 31st pass)
PREDICTION: Giants 24-23
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos finally opened up the deep passing game a bit last week and got WR Ashley Lelie involved with a 55-yard reception. Even the threat of attacking the Giants' weak secondary could be enough to keep New York from providing extra help against RBs Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell. With his ground game working on all cylinders, Broncos QB Jake Plummer has been avoiding mistakes -- and Denver has no turnovers in its past four games. Continuing that trend will be essential as the Giants have the ability to attack Denver's 26th-ranked pass defense. CB Champ Bailey's return from a hamstring injury helps, but Giants QB Eli Manning will go after rookie CBs Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth. The Broncos have been able to protect their secondary when getting consistent pressure on the passer, but Patriots QB Tom Brady had success downfield when he had time to sit in the pocket last Sunday.
FAST FACTS: Broncos: Have not committed a turnover in 17 consecutive quarters. ... Are 11-1 when Anderson has 20 or more carries and 6-1 when Bell has 12 or more. Giants: In 13 carries, RB Brandon Jacobs has produced eight first downs. ... Manning has a touchdown pass in six consecutive games, during which he has 13 TDs and 4 INTs.
--CB Champ Bailey's practice routine hasn't changed, even though he's probable on the injury report. He's still a little limited during practice because of his hamstring injury but he expects to play on Sunday.
--S Nick Ferguson was upgraded from questionable to probable on the injury report. Ferguson has an ankle injury but will likely play on Sunday against New York.
--T George Foster practiced Wednesday and Thursday and will start against the Giants and DE Michael Strahan unless he has a setback before game day.
--WR Darius Watts is no closer to getting on the field than he was earlier this season. Watts, Denver's third receiver last year as a rookie, fell down the depth chart during training camp and is now stuck behind new No. 3 wide receiver Charlie Adams.
--CB Darrent Williams hasn't gotten loose for a long punt return since his long return against San Diego in Week 2. His three returns since then have gained 3 yards.
--QB Eli Manning, who continues to improve, leads the NFC in fourth-quarter passing statistics with 20-of-28 completions for 373 yards and three TDs. His brother, Peyton, leads the NFL.
--Jeremy Shockey leads all the TEs in the NFL with 380 receiving yards on 22 catches. He also has seven receptions for 20 or more yards.
--The Giants have 11 total sacks, led by DE Michael Strahan's 51/2. They had 14 all of last season. Strahan had only four last season after missing the final eight games with a torn pectoral muscle.
--Shockey is on pace for 70 receptions and 1,216 yards. The yardage total would be a career high while his career high for receptions is 74 as a rookie in 2002.
--WLB Nick Greisen, who started the last two games, has 23 tackles, two forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles and a defensed pass in addition to five special teams tackles.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Ron Dayne figures the New York Giants fans will not greet him fondly when he makes his return Sunday with the Denver Broncos.
"It doesn't really matter, but they'll probably boo," Dayne said.
Dayne was New York's first-round pick in 2000, a New Jersey native who won a Heisman Trophy at Wisconsin. But Dayne never panned out with the Giants, leaving after five disappointing seasons. Dayne signed with the Broncos in the off-season, but he is now buried behind Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell on the depth chart.
Dayne came off the bench to lead Denver on a game-winning drive against San Diego in Week 2, gaining 38 yards on six carries to set up a Jason Elam field goal. But he has only five carries since then and hasn't played tailback in two weeks.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has said that Dayne's downhill running style is a good fit for the offense and he could be a factor in the offense sometime this year. But for now, he is waiting his turn.
"They're both playing well, Tatum and Mike," Dayne said. "I'm just there whenever they need me."
Dayne said he wasn't frustrated about his role, and said that he had no extra motivation to play well against the Giants. He didn't want to say much about returning to New York.
"It don't matter what team we're playing," Dayne said.
The Giants may have to dig deep to find enough linebackers with the ability to run and make plays Sunday when they host the Denver Broncos.
Three of them - SLB Reggie Torbor, WLB/SLB Carlos Emmons and WLB Barrett Green - are all listed as questionable with sprained ankles. Emmons and Torbor did not practice Wednesday while Green went through minor work.
He has indicated to the media that he might have to go through more surgery, but coach Tom Coughlin, clearly disturbed, responded: "I don't know anything about that. He hasn't talked to me."
In addition, SS Gibril Wilson didn't practice, also saddled with a sore ankle, and RCB Will Peterson is still in limbo with his lower back problem, thought to be a stress fracture of his transverse process. He may not play for the remainder of the season and, if and when that becomes clear, could e placed on injured reserve.
At the moment, then, the starting linebackers will be Antonio Pierce in the middle, flanked by WLB Nick Greisen and ... take your best guess. It is possible that free-agent rookie MLB Chase Blackburn will get an emergency start on the strong side, but it is far more likely that Torbor or Emmons will be ready by Sunday.
The situation in the secondary is almost as bleak. With Peterson definitely out, LCB Will Allen playing poorly and the possible unavailability of Wilson, only free safety Brent Alexander can be counted on. Curtis Deloatch has been filling in for Peterson with mixed results, while Shaun Williams, once a first-round draft choice, should move into the strong safety position.
Despite all that, the Giants lead the NFC in takeaways with 17.
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