Published September 26, 2013
The FOX NFL Game of the Week features the Philadelphia Eagles flocking to the Rocky Mountains to take on the Denver Broncos. Highlighting two high-octane offenses, let's get the lowdown on each team's subplots heading into this Mile High matchup:
Click here for the corresponding report on the Denver Broncos.
Five Things to Watch: Denver Broncos
The aerial acrobatics of Peyton Manning
Even in the pass-infatuated landscape of the NFL, Manning's feats in the early going are head-shaking: 89-for-122, 1,143 yards, 12 touchdowns, zero interceptions. That's getting it DONE, son.
To think, at this juncture last season, after tossing three picks and Lord knows how many wobbly passes against the Falcons, the jury was out if Manning would rediscover his gridiron magic following his return from neck surgery. In truth, the arm strength hasn't returned, and with almost zero mobility, Manning would appear to be a sitting duck behind the Broncos' depleted offensive line.
Yet despite these obstacles, Manning has eviscerated the competition, with his field awareness and cerebral fortitude driving his performance. It's akin to Jack Nicklaus at the 1986 Masters or Adam Richman in the final season of Man vs. Food . The physical talent has deteriorated thanks to Father Time, but the lack of brute skills is alleviated with know-how and experience. Truly a maestro under center, Manning displays have become must-watch theater.
Of course, having the best receiving corps since the San Francisco 49ers in Super Tecmo Bowl doesn't hurt his cause, either.
Matchup Watch: Broncos D-Line vs. Eagles protection
The Denver offense is scoring at a historic rate, but the Philly attack is nothing to dismiss, as the Eagles are second in the league in total offense with over 460 yards per game. The passing game has been relatively effective, quite the accomplishment considering the team lost Jeremy Maclin before the season and its receiving ranks are so decrepit that Riley Cooper is still employed. However, Chip Kelly's up-tempo scheme is fueled by endeavors on the terrain. Led by Shady McCoy, Philadelphia is averaging a league-best 209 yards per contest, nearly 60 yards more than the next highest output. The rushing game has been efficient too, posting a mark of 6.6 yards per rush (tops in the NFL).
Apropos, then, that the Eagles encounter a Broncos resistance suffocating adversaries to a league-low 43 rushing yards per outing. Von Miller's shenanigans have garnered much of the attention concerning this group, but Denver is anchored by a formidable front line in Derek Wolfe and Elvis Dumervil. It's a core that, when coupled with the return of Miller, could be one of the best units in the conference.
It's absurd to think Denver can totally smother the efforts of McCoy and Michael Vick on the ground. Nevertheless, the more the Eagles run, the more time Manning is stuck on the sidelines. For the Broncos to take care of business, the defensive front seven will need to limit the damage from McCoy and company.
Will John Fox continue to troll fantasy owners with his backfield-by-committee approach?
Will he ever! Mike Shanahan was viewed by the fantasy football community as the Prince of Darkness for his penchant of spreading the wealth among his rushers, killing the individual usefulness of the backs unfortunate enough to be in his stable. But with Alfred Morris taking the lion's share of work in Washington, Fox is challenging Shanahan for residence in a similar vestibule of rotisserie hell. Remember, this is the same cat from Carolina who featured DeShaun Foster over Stephen Davis and slaughtered DeAngelo Williams' career by bringing in Jonathan Stewart. Now he's letting his backfield play rock-paper-scissors to decide goal-line touches? Damn you, Fox. Damn you!
Disgruntled Knowshon Moreno Owner
Does Champ Bailey have any gas left in the tank?
After missing the first three games of the season to a nagging foot injury, Bailey is expected to make his 2013 debut on Sunday. His return is a sight for sore eyes to an exploitable Denver secondary, one that's allowing 327 yards per game (third-most in the NFL).
At age 35, it seems somewhat preposterous to envision Bailey as an premier shut-down corner. Nevertheless, Bailey needs to provide a semblance of consistency if Denver holds aspirations of making a deep playoff run. Likely matched up against DeSean Jackson, Bailey's baptism by fire will be an interesting development.
The Broncos will win if...
The Eagles' spread offense makes for a captivating watch, but Philadelphia is more style than substance at the moment. Throw in the fact that the Eagles are giving up 323 yards through the air and it's easy to picture Manning continuing his brilliance on Sunday.