Matchups to watch
Broncos WR Brandon Marshall vs. Saints secondary
The biggest matchup of the day is also the most anticipated — Brandon Marshall against anyone wearing a Saints uniform. Quite honestly, Marshall's gunning for another big day, and after giving up over 300 yards to Jason Campbell last week, the New Orleans defense has a lot to prove. Unfortunately, it's going to be pretty hard to prove anything when you've got as many injuries as the Saints do. LB Jonathan Vilma is very solid, but I'm leaning toward this being a field day for Cutler's passing game.
It's imperative that the Saints defense get some pressure on Broncos QB Jay Cutler if they expect to win on Sunday. That will be Smith's job, as he has the more favorable matchup of the Saints' two ends. Clady, a rookie, has been thrust into a starting role from the outset and while he's performed admirably, Smith is a seasoned end who can take advantage of Clady's inexperience. Smith must do so on Sunday if the Saints expect to throw Cutler off his game.
New Orleans Saints offense vs. Denver Broncos defense
On the flip side, the Broncos are fairly healthy defensively; they're just not very good. This one could turn into a shootout with Brees torching Denver's weak secondary. The Saints are in a position where they're going to have to score early and often to keep up with Cutler, and I imagine head coach Sean Payton will definitely open up the playbook for the long ball in this one. Brees vs. Bailey? It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out.
Shockey may be ready to head up. Sure, he only caught two passes last week against Washington, and the Saints have plenty of offensive options. But Shockey is their best bet to stretch the middle of the field and it's only a matter of time before that happens. The Broncos defense is vulnerable to begin with, and Shockey is such a big target that he'll draw football and attention. Webster will probably draw coverage against Shockey in short-to-medium routes, and while he's certainly a tackle machine, he could end up being a liability in coverage. If so, Shockey will take full advantage.
The Broncos will win if …
they control the clock and keep Brees off the field as much as possible. I doubt there's anyone in the NFL that isn't aware of the Broncos' biggest weakness and Brees has got the potential to turn this into a long afternoon if he starts to connect.
The Broncos will lose if …
they roll out with the same inept, prevent defense they brought out last week against the Chargers. Let's face it, without the blown call by Ed Hochuli the Broncos are 1-1 and the whole complexity of the season changes. No excuses this week — Denver has got to break out the blitz and let Champ Bailey, Boss Bailey and Dre Bly do what they do best.
The Saints will win if …
the offense is able to get on top of the Broncos early in the game and if the defense can put pressure on Cutler. This game will feature a lot of scoring, and the Saints need to be the offense that puts the head on early. I expect the Saints to go deep early to try and stretch the Broncos out. Meanwhile, the defense has to keep Cutler on his heels so he can't pick apart the Saints' decimated secondary.
The Saints will lose if …
Deuce McAllister doesn't carry more than 10 times and the secondary gives up at least three deep passes. McAllister should play more this week, and his ability to plow through defenses could prolong drives and keep the Broncos' offense off the field. Meanwhile, the secondary had to make some plays and can't give up the deep pass, as they did last week against Washington.
Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of Saintsinsider.com
Michael Schon John is the editor and publisher of Broncosupdate.com