New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Denver Broncos (2-0) ============================================
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)
SERIES: 9th meeting. The Broncos lead the series, 6-2, after winning the last two matchups -- both in the Superdome. The Saints have taken just one of four games played in Denver, winning 30-28 on Dec. 24, 1994 in old Mile High Stadium.
PREDICTION: Broncos 30-27
Coach Sean Payton hopes RB Deuce McAllister is ready for an expanded roll this week as he looks for the Saints to be more physical on both sides of the line. Payton wants his offense to be able to pick up the tough yards when necessary, and Denver is allowing 115.0 rushing yards per game. With WR Marques Colston out, the ability to run the ball will enable the Saints to be more balanced. ... Saints CB Mike McKenzie might play for the first time this season, which would be a huge boost against Denver's second-ranked passing attack (320.5 per game). But it's hard to envision New Orleans holding down the big-play Marshall and speedy rookie Eddie Royal for four quarters. Especially with Denver's ability to spread the field with TE Tony Scheffler or be flexible with a running back by committee approach.
Saints: Colston (thumb) is out another 3-5 weeks; SLB Scott Fujita (knee) could miss his second straight game; CBs McKenzie (knee) and Randall Gay (hamstring) and SS Roman Harper (hamstring) could be game-time decisions.
Broncos: WR Darrell Jackson (calf) is uncertain; C Tom Nalen (knee) is still out indefinitely.
FAST FACTS: Twelve running backs around the league have more rushing yards than the Saints' total of 156 through two games. ... Marshall has averaged 131.7 receiving yards his past three home games.
--SLB Scott Fujita did not participate in practice again Thursday with a severely bruised right knee and will likely miss his second straight game Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
--LCB Aaron Glenn, who strained a ligament in his right ankle last week at Washington, did not practice Thursday and could miss Sunday's matchup with the Broncos.
--WR Marques Colston is expected to be out another three-to-five weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb.
--DT Antwan Lake did not practice again Thursday because of a groin problem and will likely miss his second straight game Sunday. --DT Brian Young was held out of practice with an arthritic left knee that bothered him throughout training camp.
--WR Terrance Copper did not participate in practice Thursday with a left hamstring injury and his status for Sunday is unknown.
--LCB Randall Gay, who did not play last week because of a right hamstring injury, was limited in practice again Thursday.
--SS Roman Harper practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day Thursday as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury.
--WLB Scott Shanle was limited with an injury to his right hand, which he sustained in last week's game with the Redskins.
--RB Aaron Stecker, who has missed the first two games with a left hamstring injury, was limited in practice on Thursday.
--C Tom Nalen missed practice on Thursday. He had returned to practice despite some knee problems, but still has soreness. He has been ruled out this week.
--WR Darrell Jackson's calf injury has not allowed him to practice this week. He could miss a second straight game.
--WR Cliff Russell could be active this week, a few days after being signed to the active roster, if Darrell Jackson isn't ready to go. Russell knows the offense after spending the entire preseason with the Broncos and could help on special teams.
--DT Josh Shaw, who had 40 stitches in his lower leg after last week's game, hasn't practiced this week. He could be held out on Sunday.
--LB Louis Green practiced on a limited basis Thursday. If Green has a good day of practice Friday he could be considered for action this week.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
While it was hard to tell Wednesday and Thursday, considering reporters only get to watch a small portion of practice, it's possible that the Saints could take the wraps off running back Deuce McAllister and cornerback Mike McKenzie on Sunday.
Coach Sean Payton went to great lengths this spring and summer to make sure he didn't rush McAllister and McKenzie back too soon as they returned from serious knee injuries suffered last season.
Both were brought along slowly during the offseason workouts, training camp and the preseason. So far in the regular season, Payton has continued to monitor their progress and has chosen to hold McKenzie out of two games while limiting McAllister to two carries in one game.
But with the Saints hurting at both positions, Payton may let them turn it loose on Sunday against the Denver Broncos considering McAllister and McKenzie are itching to help out in any way they can.
The Saints are averaging just 78.0 rushing yards per game (they've gained just 92.2 yards per game since McAllister tore his left ACL in Week 3 last September) and rank 28th in allowing 256.0 passing yards a game.
McAllister said he's ready, which is exactly how he's felt the last two weeks after getting considerable playing time in the final two preseason games.
"Whenever you put on that uniform and go through that (pregame) routine, you want to get in there," he said. "Whether you're 100 percent or 60 or 70 percent, you want to get in. It's going to happen; it's just a matter of when."
McKenzie tore his right ACL in Week 16 last season. Like McAllister, he's been ready to go and the release of veteran cornerback Jason Craft earlier this week could be an indication Payton will do just that.
"I'm feeling how I felt the last month or so," said McKenzie, who played in the last two exhibition games. "Right now I'm going out and working. So hopefully, whatever coach needs to see, I hope I'm showing him.
"If I get the nod, I'll be out there. If not, at some point I'm sure I'll be out there."
Charges of misdemeanor battery were filed against Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall stemming from an incident with his then-girlfriend in Atlanta this March, but that in itself likely won't lead to further discipline by the NFL. The league knew about the case when Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Marshall in July.
The NFL did say that it will monitor the case. A court date has not been set. Marshall, who has already served a one-game suspension for violating the league's conduct policy, faces the possibility of further discipline depending on the outcome of the case.
"We have been aware of the potential charges," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We will continue to monitor the case and review it under our policy as appropriate."
Marshall hasn't let any off-field issues affect his play. He had 18 catches in his season debut against San Diego last week.
Marshall has tried to put his problems in his past, saying repeatedly that he has changed some things in his life and won't be in trouble again. He has been arrested three times since the beginning of 2007. He did address the latest charges in Atlanta.
"That's my past," Marshall said. "Everything that came out in camp was from last year and there was an incident in March, but that's still an open case and we've been waiting six months for those charges to be filed, and it's finally here."
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