Colts Key Matchup: Harrison vs. Bailey

Greg Talmage takes a look at one of the most spectacular one-on-one matchups for this weekend's game in Denver. Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey will be challenging each other one-on-one throughout this game. Who will win this key matchup?

One matchup in this Sunday's between the Colts and the Broncos that quickly peaks the interest of football observers is WR Marvin Harrison vs. CB Champ Bailey. When two of the best players in the entire league at their respective positions go up against one another, it's hard to ignore.

Marvin Harrison should -- for the first time all year -- see plenty of single coverage on Sunday due to Denver's confidence in their stellar pass defender. Champ Bailey is simply one of the best cornerbacks in the game today — many teams don't even bother throwing his way. He had a tremendous season last year, which only helped cement the growing sentiment that he is the best cover corner in the NFL. In 2005, Bailey had nine interceptions with 239 return yards (26.6 yards per return), two touchdowns and was a single yard away from a third score.

Coming into this weekend's game he has three picks in six games which puts him on pace for 8 interceptions this year, but so far he's been wrapped up immediately following two of the interceptions and ran the third one back for 30 yards.

But Bailey's value to the Denver defense goes well beyond his big-play ability. A key component to Denver's defensive scheme success has been based on their ability week-in and week-out to leave Bailey one-on-one against the league's top receivers at almost any juncture in a game. This allows their linebackers the freedom to blitz more, allows for the occasional safety blitz since they know Bailey will blanket his man even if the receiver goes deep, and it also gives Denver's safeties the opportunity to help elsewhere on the field in run support or with other receivers.

Bottom line, Champ Bailey is a big reason why the Broncos' defensive unit has allowed just 5.72 yards per pass attempt this year, second-lowest in the NFL.

Bailey has that rare blend of size and athleticism required in a shutdown corner. He plays with very good strength and game speed, has great quickness and technique, and excels in bump-and-run coverage. He is not afraid to get physical and make tackles.

A lot has been written of late about how Marvin Harrison, even at age 34, is showing no signs of slowing down. He is coming off another outstanding Pro Bowl season with 82 catches for 1,146 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Harrison knows how to get open because he understands coverages, prepares for every game, communicates with Manning very well and runs precise routes.

Honestly, there is no better receiver in the league when it comes to precision route-running. Just a slight slip-up by a corner and Harrison will make you pay. And he knows how to disguise each route so they all look the same; defenders never know whether he's running a stem, out, curl, streak or comeback. By the time you figure out what he's running, it's likely too late to adjust

That's why when ESPN asked nine defensive backs, "Who is the toughest player to cover in the league," eight of them picked Marvin Harrison.

Was Champ Bailey one of those eight? In the past, Bailey had a tendency to gamble and lose occasionally. But that seems to be a thing of the past as he has become increasing more patient.

Undoubtedly, Manning and Harrison will need to be careful and pick their spots. If Harrison can catch Bailey in a one-one-one situation misreading a route or biting on a move, it should present the chance for a big catch that could cost the Broncos dearly. Will Bailey let himself be drawn into a mistake like that?

Something has to give this Sunday when these two go at it.

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