A stunning and historic 24-point comeback and one bye week later, and Peyton Manning has the Denver Broncos in first place of the AFC West.
The Broncos hope to keep that momentum as they battle the New Orleans Saints Sunday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Manning threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, leading Denver back from a 24-0 hole in the first half with 35 straight points, for a 35-24 win and first place in the division.
The comeback was the fourth-biggest in the regular season in NFL history, with Manning connecting on touchdown passes of 29, 7, and 21 yards. Denver’s defense also contributed with four interceptions, bringing back two for touchdowns.
Denver survived their difficult six game stretch to start the season with a 3-3 record, but have to be disappointed with losses to possible playoff teams in Atlanta, Houston, and New England.
Still, Manning has the Broncos primed for a playoff run, with eight of their last 10 opponents below .500, though New Orleans may be better than their 2-4 record suggests.
In two straight weeks, Drew Brees and the Saints have shown an 0-4 start does not rule them out as a threat in the NFC. New Orleans survived a wild 35-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Brees firing off four touchdowns, 377 yards, and his best passer rating of the season.
Brees hit a different receiver for each of his scores, and Lance Moore had nine receptions for 121 yards, but the New Orleans defense showed no signs of improvement.
Ranking 30th in pass defense and 31st in rush defense, the Saints have surrendered 30.3 points per game and 25 plays of 20 or more yards.
Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson had seven receptions for a career-high 216 yards and a touchdown against New Orleans, despite the emotional lift from the return embattled linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Vilma didn’t play much against Tampa Bay, only recording a quarterback hit, but is expected to play more against Denver with much of his rust shaken off.
Betting Odds: Denver is favored by 6.5 points
Over/Under: 55 points
Prediction: Since his arrival, the Saints have gone as far as Brees’ arm would take them. But even he can’t be expected to score on every possession. New Orleans needs their defense to step up against Manning and the Broncos’ No. 4 passing offense. Even with Vilma in the lineup, Denver should win in convincing fashion.
Predicted Score: Denver 34 , New Orleans 24