AFC West: Eli Manning

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- No longer a one-hit wonder when it comes to the rap game, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wasn't quite ready to call himself a professional in that arena.

Manning
"I would not say that. I don't think Jay-Z and Kanye West have anything to worry about, let's put it that way," Manning said after practice Tuesday, his first comments since his latest video effort went viral.

His teammates understand Manning's profile in the advertising world, but they have given him the business a bit for Manning's latest DirecTV commercial with his brother Eli. The Broncos even played the soundtrack for the ad, a music video for the network's new fantasy football channel, over the loudspeaker when the team went through its pre-practice stretch.

Peyton and Eli Manning had appeared in a similar video -- "Football on Your Phone" last season. This year the Mannings again shot the video in New Orleans, but each of the quarterbacks brought their offensive linemen along for the ride.

"Eli brought his own outfit," Manning said Tuesday. "It was very disturbing that he had it in his wardrobe. Mine were all props, not sure on the offensive linemen. I think (Ryan) Clady, (Louis) Vasquez, and Orlando (Franklin) had some props as well. We had a good time. We were down in New Orleans, and of course Eli and I any chance we have to be together it's enjoyable, but Eli had three of his offensive linemen as well so you can imagine how many laughs were taken place in between takes on one day deal down there in New Orleans. It was a fun deal."

Asked how the two quarterbacks added some of their teammates to this year's version, Manning said; "They said they wanted some other people in it with you so Eli and I both wanted to bring linemen in there. Orlando has been on me for a while to get him into a commercial. So I thought those guys did a good job, they looked the part, looked tough there, and like I said we had a lot of laughs as well."

"I was happy and thrilled about it," Franklin said. "I didn't really know what was going to be going on. I think they could have made it a bit more funnier. (There were) a lot funnier things when we were videotaping out there in Louisiana."

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- As brothers who are NFL quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning compare notes. With older brother Peyton and the Denver Broncos in New Jersey this week to play the Super Bowl in the New York Giants' home stadium, little brother Eli has said he's trying to offer as much local-knowledge help as possible. But when the topic turns to how to beat the Seattle Seahawks, Peyton joked Sunday, Eli's not going to be much use to him.

"Yeah, he told me he couldn't help much with Seattle," Peyton Manning said in his news conference shortly after the Broncos arrived Sunday afternoon. "That wasn't one of the Giants' best games."

Eli Manning threw five interceptions in a 23-0 Giants loss to the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in Week 15.

How will Raiders defense respond?

November, 8, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver insists he's "excited" to see his defense take the field again.

The embarrassing showing against the Philadelphia Eagles, in which the Raiders were torched for an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes by Nick Foles, was more aberration than the norm, Tarver said.

"Nobody wants that taste in their mouth," Tarver said Thursday. "We've had two good days of practice.

"There are some basic things that we've done pretty well for six for sure, and part of seven weeks, and then one week we just didn't do it and that's what it comes down to. It's not what you do; it's how you do it … when you're supposed to set the edge, set the edge. When you're supposed to tackle the quarterback or the running back when they do their read scheme, tackle whichever one you're supposed to tackle. And those are the biggest things. That's it. We talk about top-down coverage every day. We had done a great job of top-down coverage for seven games, and we will come right back and do a good job of top-down coverage because we learned our lesson."

The Raiders entered that Eagles game with the No. 10-ranked total team defense in the NFL. After falling 49-20, giving up 542 yards and 21 first downs in 57 plays, they are now No. 18 heading east to play the New York Giants.

But even Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he would glean next-to-nothing from the Raiders' most recent game film.

"It makes you scratch your head, there's no doubt," Coughlin said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "There's a lot of evidence prior to that – let's face it, the undefeated [Kansas City] Chiefs had 216 yards of total offense against the Raiders. So yeah, you've had two teams, the [Denver] Broncos and the Eagles, who've both scored a lot of points against them and the way we look at it is that the Eagles just had one of those days -- guys falling down in coverage … DeSean Jackson runs the post route, he's well covered, the ball falls in his hands.

"So those things just happen and were prevalent on that particular day … it really was a kind of shake-your-head kind of a deal."

Tarver and his defense, meanwhile, will be facing a quarterback in Eli Manning who leads the league in interceptions with 15, but who is coming off a bye week and did not throw a pick in his previous two games.

"I just kind of have eliminated that game from my preparation," Manning said of the Raiders' loss to the Eagles. "Philadelphia caught every break and for Oakland, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.

"If you look at the other games this season, their defense plays at a high level. They do a good job getting pressure on quarterbacks and making plays defensively and doing a lot of good things, and not many teams have scored a lot of points on them. You have to understand that they have really good players and a good scheme and we have to play really well."

The Giants also have only the NFL's No. 30-ranked rushing attack, averaging 69.9 yards per game.

"The best part about football is you've always got that next week," Tarver said. "There are 16 weeks that you get, so you look at it, you learn, and you put it to bed and you say, ‘We've got another opportunity.'

"These guys, they're professionals … they learn from their mistakes. They want to be great, and that's how they've practiced for two days."

But will it translate on Sunday?
Eli Manning and Charles WoodsonGetty ImagesEli Manning's Giants aim to maintain their momentum when Charles Woodson and the Raiders visit.
It will be a battle of teams looking to climb out of the cellar of their respective divisions as the 2-6 New York Giants host the 3-5 Oakland Raiders at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants have won two games in a row after an 0-6 start and are coming off their bye week. The Raiders just suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season, 49-20 at home to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Which last-place team will get the win Sunday at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII? ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Giants reporter Dan Graziano break it down for you.

Dan Graziano: Paul, I was a little surprised by how poorly the Raiders played Sunday. I knew they were a sub-.500 team, but I didn't think they were a terrible one. What was up with that defensive effort against Nick Foles and the Eagles?

Paul Gutierrez: Dan, you're not the only one who was surprised by what the Raiders in general, and the defense in particular, put on the field against the Eagles. Everyone from coach Dennis Allen to veteran safety Charles Woodson wondered out loud if the defense got caught reading its clips from the week before. After all, the Raiders' D was playing lights out and was the team's strength, entering the game with the No. 10-ranked defense, despite 10 new starters.

Like boxing, styles make fights, and the Eagles' high-octane offense worked to near-perfection and dropped Oakland early and often. The Raiders were a step behind all game long, especially top draft pick D.J. Hayden, who was given the Elvis "Toast" Patterson treatment (I'm sure that name will elicit varied responses from Giants fans) by Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson and gave up three completions to the two for a combined 139 yards and two touchdowns. In short, it was a complete meltdown by the entire defense, which had been feeling itself a little too much.

The Giants, though, seem to be heading in the opposite direction after that ghastly start. Do you get the sense they have righted the ship, or is it fool's gold after beating the hapless Vikings and then-hopeless Eagles?

Graziano: It's unquestionably fool's gold. They beat the Vikings when Minnesota foolishly and inexplicably started an unprepared Josh Freeman at quarterback and beat the Eagles when they started a clearly injured Michael Vick and had to replace him with unprepared Matt Barkley. And it's not as though they looked especially good in either win. Eli Manning hit clumsy Minnesota defenders in the hands three times in that Monday night game and somehow still didn't get intercepted, and the Giants didn't score a touchdown in that 15-7 victory over the Eagles. They are a bad team with major problems at almost every position, and the fact that they've won two in a row after starting 0-6 doesn't make that go away.

That said, it's possible they'll get a gimpy Terrelle Pryor this week, right? (And maybe an Aaron Rodgers backup next week.) Pryor left against the Eagles with a knee injury. Do you expect that he'll play, and assuming he does, what kind of special problems does he present for a Giants defense that has been getting fat on the likes of Freeman and Barkley?

Gutierrez: Pryor said after the game that his knee was fine, that treatment and ice and the like were all "precautionary," that his knee was not "wobbly" or anything like that. The Raiders were going to take him out of the game for those last two series of a blowout anyway. While Pryor did not speak at the facility Monday, he was walking around the locker room and was not wearing a brace. He should be ready to go.

Then again, if there is even the slightest hitch in his giddyup, that could spell trouble since his running game is his strength. The problems he presents defenses are not unique for a team like the Giants, who already face the read-option from Washington's Robert Griffin III (when healthy). But Pryor's combination of size and speed is what makes him unique, or did you miss his 93-yard touchdown run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in which he looked like he was coasting but actually was pulling away from defenders? Earlier in the year, the Raiders' coaches wanted him to run more to take advantage of his strength. Now, Allen said Pryor has to trust the process more, from the protection to his reads. This should be interesting to see how Pryor soaks it all in.

Then again, it will be interesting to see how the Giants' defense responds to Pryor. The Steelers and Eagles had some success in keeping him under wraps by putting a spy on him, challenging him to beat them with his arm. Would the Giants employ such a tactic and who would that spy be, or would they rather play him straight up?

Graziano: It's a good question, though they don't seem interested in giving away the answer just yet. In the past year, they have played guys like Vick and RG III without a spy and have paid the price. Vick ran for 79 yards against them in the first half in Week 5 before pulling his hamstring.

If they do change it up and decide to spy Pryor, the most likely candidate would be linebacker Jacquian Williams, who has good sideline-to-sideline speed. They tend to like to use him to cover tough tight ends, but it's possible that the Raiders' receiving options will allow them to get everyone covered with their nickel-safety or nickel-corner package with Week 8 NFC Defensive Player of the Week Terrell Thomas covering the slot. That might free up Williams to spy Pryor, which I think would be a good idea. But the Giants can get stubborn at times, and it's possible they'll decide to play him straight up. I would like his chances of picking up yards on the ground on the outside if they did.

Manning hasn't thrown an interception in his past two games, but he still leads the league with those 15 he threw in the first six weeks. The Giants have been vulnerable to A-gap pressure due to the fact that they're using backups at center and right guard, and as a result, Manning has been uncomfortable in the pocket all season. The lack of a run game has hurt his play-action passing game too. Are the Raiders going to be able to pressure him better than they did Foles? Or will Eli have an easy day?

Gutierrez: Using the past-is-prologue approach and sprinkling in the notion that hindsight is always 20/20, the Raiders simply have to put pressure on Manning. Allen acknowledged the Raiders did not bring enough pressure to disrupt Foles, and when they did, he simply rolled out and found a target downfield. The Raiders seemed to have learned their lesson, but we'll see. Against the Eagles, they went away from being their normal, blitz-happy selves by rushing just three at times and sitting back in coverage. Foles ate them up. And Foles is no Manning. (You can't spell "elite" without "Eli," right?)

I would expect defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to dial up the blitzes again and send anyone at any time -- unless the Giants start running a no-huddle, hurry-up offense to rattle the Raiders. Keep an eye on right defensive end Lamarr Houston, who leads the Raiders with four sacks but was slowed by a right hamstring issue against the Eagles. In fact, 11.5 of Oakland's 23 sacks have come from their front four.

The Raiders -- Hayden in particular -- had problems in coverage against the Eagles. Whom would the Giants deploy to take advantage of Hayden, who usually plays on the outside in nickel packages? Might the Giants put the physically imposing Hakeem Nicks out there?

Graziano: Yeah, Nicks plays on the outside with Victor Cruz in the slot and Rueben Randle on the other side when they go three-wide. But Nicks hasn't been himself. He's still capable of outfighting defenders for the ball and could be a tough matchup for Hayden, but he doesn't seem able to separate anymore and has had uncharacteristic issues with drops. He won't admit it, but he's playing like a guy in his walk year whose long-term future is on his mind. It's been one of many problems the Giants didn't anticipate, and if he has a big game against the Raiders, it'll be his first. He still doesn't have a touchdown this season.

Anyway, nice chatting with you, Paul. Travel safely, and I look forward to seeing you at the game Sunday.

Double Coverage: Giants at Chiefs

September, 26, 2013
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Alex Smith and Eli ManningUSA TODAY SportsThis matchup may hinge on which team gets more pressure on the quarterback.
The Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants seem like two teams going in opposite directions. Kansas City is off to a 3-0 start for the eighth time in franchise history, while the Giants are 0-3 and coming off a lopsided loss to the Carolina Panthers.

ESPN.com Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Giants reporter Dan Graziano break down Sunday's matchup.

Adam Teicher: Last week's blowout loss against the Carolina Panthers caught me by surprise. Is this another of Tom Coughlin's slow-starting teams, or are the problems really that deep that the Giants could be serious contenders for next year's No. 1 draft pick?

Dan Graziano: Caught me by surprise, too, Adam. And I'm pretty sure it caught Coughlin by surprise. But the alarming thing on this end is that Coughlin's teams are not traditionally slow starters. He was 5-2 or better in his first seven games in each of his first nine seasons as Giants coach -- a streak that obviously ends this year. The only other time a Coughlin team has started 0-3 was 1995, when the expansion Jaguars lost the first four games in franchise history. So this is uncharted territory for Coughlin and many of his players. If there's a coach in the league who can hold things together through a time like this, even if turning things around is impossible, it's Coughlin. And starting in mid-October, the schedule eases considerably. But the issue is getting to that point. The Giants' next three games take place in a span of 12 days, and two of them are on the road against unbeaten teams, including this one Sunday. The Giants' offensive line was completely shredded Sunday by a very tough Carolina defensive front.

Having watched the Chiefs last Thursday, I'm expecting something similar this week. Do you agree?

Teicher: The front seven for the Chiefs is playing very well. That group has controlled things for large portions of games this season. One thing that's helped is the Chiefs have played mostly with a lead. It would help the Giants if they can get off to a quick start and force the Chiefs to honor their entire playbook. The Eagles rushed for 264 yards against Kansas City last week, so the Chiefs could make some improvements in that area. Tackling at times was more sloppy than it has been all season. Another thing the Chiefs have done is pick on the rookie tackles. They mostly had their way with Jacksonville's Luke Joeckel and Philadelphia's Lane Johnson, so that is an issue for the Giants because they start a rookie, Justin Pugh, at right tackle. Outside linebacker Justin Houston leads the league in sacks with 7.5. He had three against the Jaguars and Joeckel and 4.5 against the Eagles and Johnson, so the Houston-Pugh matchup is one to watch.

Thirteen turnovers in three games is enough to choke any offense. Obviously, there are other problems, like a feeble running game. But assuming the Giants don't cough it up a bunch of times against the Chiefs on Sunday, isn't it reasonable to expect them to score some points?

Graziano: Yes, the Giants' offense should be scoring points. With Eli Manning at quarterback, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz at wide receiver, Brandon Myers at tight end and a very talented, if star-crossed, David Wilson at running back, they have the weapons to score against anyone. Some week, they will. However, the blocking problems up front are so significant right now that the offense is completely choked off. Manning did not even have time to get to his first or second read on most plays Sunday before he was getting hit, and Carolina's front four got into the backfield on running plays as well. I would expect the Giants to play around with formations a bit to try to help out the line -- maybe run more plays from the shotgun or the pistol. That could be a problem if center David Baas (who had an MRI on his neck Monday) is unable to play. The Giants sure look as though they're capable of outscoring the Chiefs, but they have to find a way to keep those Chiefs defenders off Manning long enough to give him time to throw the ball.

I'm curious about the Andy Reid Revenge Tour aspect of the game. The Giants hammered Reid's Eagles in Week 17 last year in his final game as Philadelphia's coach. Obviously, he had a dead team at that point and his fate was sealed. But Reid was 8-3 the past five years against the Giants, sometimes with inferior Eagles teams. Do you think ol' Andy's got something up his sleeve for his old rivals from New Jersey?

Teicher: Hard to say what Reid will have the Chiefs do this week. The Chiefs had nothing special for another of his old division rivals, the Cowboys, two weeks ago. Dallas was the better team for much of the game. The Chiefs were able to survive that day with plenty of grit and the backing of a loud home crowd. But it appeared he coached with some inside knowledge against the Eagles last week. The Chiefs seemed to dial up consistent pressures that played to Michael Vick's weaknesses. Other than one long pass, the Chiefs were also able to eliminate DeSean Jackson as a threat. Regarding the Giants, I would think Reid would realize, as you point out, that New York is better equipped to win a scoring war than the Chiefs. It plays to Kansas City's strengths if the game is a low-scoring one. It may be instructive that the last two times while coaching the Eagles that Reid beat the Giants, neither team reached 20 points.

The Giants have allowed a ton of points this year, but how much of that is a factor of lousy field position given the 13 turnovers? The one thing I'm most surprised about with the Giants defensively is their lack of a pass rush, which is usually a staple for that team. The pieces still seem to be in place. What explains the inability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback?

Graziano: That is, for me, the most significant issue facing the Giants. The Panthers had more sacks Sunday (seven) than the Giants have in their past eight games (six) dating back to last November. Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 16.5 sacks in 2011 and 6.5 in his first nine games of 2012, has only one in his past 10 games. He played with a back problem last year and had surgery to correct it in June, and he admitted last week that he hasn't been able to play like his old self because of the physical limitations. But he needs to, or else this Giants' pass rush will be ineffective and the defense will be ordinary as a result. Justin Tuck isn't what he used to be, Mathias Kiwanuka isn't consistently creating pressure and rookie Damontre Moore has not practiced enough because of a preseason shoulder injury. If the Giants aren't getting to the quarterback, they're not a good defense. And Pierre-Paul needs to elevate his game or else they're just too easy to stop.

What about that Kansas City passing offense? The Giants are familiar with Alex Smith from his recent San Francisco days and had some success against those teams. How do you describe the way Smith is functioning in Reid's offense?

Teicher: Efficient is the best way to describe Smith. He’s not making mistakes and putting the Chiefs in bad situations. He has four touchdown passes and hasn’t thrown an interception or lost a fumble yet. In large part because of his solid work, the Chiefs were 5-for-5 scoring touchdowns inside the red zone. He has been able to identify some favorable matchups and take advantage. That changed last week against Philly when the Chiefs were only 1-for-6 getting a touchdown while inside the 20. The Chiefs have used mostly a short passing game, which plays to Smith’s strengths. But most of their big passing plays have happened because the receiver made significant yards after the catch. Even at that, Smith is completing only 61 percent of his passes, a low number given the high-percentage nature of a lot of those throws. Smith has been able to put pressure on opposing defenses with his ability not only to scramble out of trouble but also to gain some yardage on the option and other running plays.

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QB Watch: Raiders’ Terrelle Pryor

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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A weekly analysis of the Raiders’ quarterback play.

Pryor
Rewind: Terrelle Pryor was not the electric playmaker against Jacksonville he was in the Raiders’ season opener at Indianapolis. Then again, he did not have to be. Not with running back Darren McFadden taking over and rushing for 129 yards. Oh sure, Pryor broke off a 27-yard run against the Jaguars, but he was more in game-manager mode in completing 15 of 24 passes for a relatively pedestrian 126 yards. What was huge for him, though, was this: no turnovers.

Fast-forward: Against the Colts, Pryor was 1-for-7 on passes of at least 20 yards. Against the Jags, he was 2-for-6 on passes of more than 10 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos don’t figure to let him beat them with deep passes either. They just picked off New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning four times and would love to dare Pryor to beat them downfield after Manning was just 1-for-7 on throws of more than 20 yards. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Denver is averaging twice as many passes defended or intercepted per game this season (5.0) than last year (2.5) when rushing four or fewer player. That allows the Broncos to spy on Pryor and his running game as well.

Feeling the pressure: Against Jacksonville, Pryor was pressured 12 times in his 31 drop-backs, per PFF, and he was sacked three times, took off running four times and threw five passes, with three completions and two balls thrown away.

Prediction: The bright lights of "Monday Night Football" and competing against a future Hall of Famer in Peyton Manning will have Pryor antsy. How well he handles his nerves will go a long way in determining his personal success, even if the Raiders’ fortunes ultimately reside on the defensive side of the ball.

Mannings hope this one is a wrap

September, 16, 2013
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ManningsAP Photo/Kathy WillensBrothers Peyton and Eli Manning appear ready to put the Manning Bowl behind them for good.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When it comes to this whole brother versus brother thing, Peyton Manning is certain once, twice, three times are enough.

More than enough, really, and that when you get right down to it, three times were probably three times too many.

“It’s strange, strange situation, strange circumstance," Peyton Manning said following Sunday's 41-23 win over the Giants, and his younger brother Eli. “A good team win, but I don’t know how, it’s kind of hard, it’s a unique situation. Not many other players have to go through this so you can’t really ask too many people for advice on it."

No, there aren’t any other brothers who have each won Super Bowls as starting NFL quarterbacks to ask what it all is supposed to feel like. And everyone always seems to want to know if the older brother wants to beat the younger brother, if the younger brothers wants to beat the older brother, if there will be teasing involved and if Eli’s two Super Bowl wins trump Peyton’s one. In the end, Peyton looks miserable talking about it. Which makes you wonder what it would be like for the two Mannings, if by some football miracle, they ended up in a Super Bowl against each other.

But in reality after Sunday’s Broncos win, that’s probably it for the Brothers Bowl. Or as Peyton put it following the game:

“I think both of us are glad that it’s over with. Postseason’s one thing, but I don’t believe I’ll make it to the next regular-season one. I think this will be the end of it. I know I’ll be happy about that and I think my family will (too)."

“With family it’s got to be triple tough," Broncos coach John Fox said. “For Archie and Olivia, and maybe even [brother] Cooper, you don’t know who to root for ... it can’t be easy for a family."

The quarterback who started it all, Archie, looked just as relieved it was over following the game and had just as difficult a time summing it all up. Since the Giants made the draft-day trade in 2004 to acquire Eli, this was the third meeting. Peyton’s Indianapolis Colts won the previous two -- in 2006 and 2010 -- to go with the Broncos' victory Sunday.

Peyton has thrown for six touchdowns combined in the three wins against his brother, while Eli has thrown six interceptions in the three games, including four Sunday. Both had their first 300-yard passing game in the three meetings on Sunday -- with Peyton going for 307 and Eli for 362 yards -- but for a family that works tirelessly to maintain its composure in the public eye, you didn’t need any tea leaves to see how they felt about it.

“It’s not like beating another team, it’s probably not quite as enjoyable as it would be if you had beaten somebody else," Peyton said. “A good team win, Coach Fox put a lot of emphasis on being a good road team, we didn’t start out well on the road last season."

Asked following the game if he thought it would be something he would hear about when all of the prying eyes were elsewhere, Eli simply said:

“I don’t think so. I think this is something that we’re both passionate about. What we’re doing is our job."

A job where they can now, probably gratefully, move on to other things. Some day, maybe, when the gray hair comes and years go by, perhaps they will appreciate the history and significance of two brothers winning Super Bowls at the same position.

Maybe they’ll remember the look across the field with their sibling looking back. Maybe someone will simply show them the math, the staggering odds of doing exactly what they have done in their vocational lives. But that's for later. Because right now they likely appreciate only one thing.

That it’s over.

Locker Room Buzz: Denver Broncos

September, 15, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the Denver Broncos' 41-23 win over the New York Giants:

Clady
Clady injured: The Broncos are slightly less daring on offense without left tackle Ryan Clady, as they were when the starters played in the preseason when Clady was held out after offseason shoulder surgery. Clady was sporting a significant limp following Sunday's win because of a left foot injury he suffered against the Giants. Clady will be evaluated when the team gets back to Denver and will have an MRI at some point Monday.

Ihenacho in boot: Safety Duke Ihenacho wore a walking boot on his injured right ankle when he left the stadium. He was jogging on it as he rushed back to his locker, but things are usually a little more difficult the next day. He will be evaluated as well.

Relief for Manning: Quarterback Peyton Manning looked visibly relieved to have the third, and likely last, career regular-season game against his brother Eli over and done. Manning certainly understands the history of it all, but it is an uncomfortable situation for both him and his family. “I think both of us are glad that it’s over with."

Flag day: The Broncos expected a tough scrap with the Giants' receivers, and in the end Denver’s defensive backs were called for eight penalties in the game, including four for pass interference, two for defensive holdings and one illegal contact. “That was a battle," cornerback Chris Harris said. “Sometimes the flags are going to come."

#Manningvote: Who gets more rings?

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
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Sunday's Manning Bowl is the matchup of the weekend and a lot of folks are comparing the two decorated quarterbacks. In a head-to-head battle, most people would chose Peyton over little brother Eli based on pure talent.

SportsNation

Who will finish his career with more Super Bowl rings?

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    47%
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    20%
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    33%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,430)

But what if we gave Eli a head start? As we know, the younger Manning has two Super Bowl rings to big brother's one.

The Broncos look destined for playoff glory this season, but Peyton needs one more ring just to catch up to Eli -- who has come to be known as a clutch quarterback in the postseason. So who will finish his career with more? It's the question we asked on Twitter Thursday night. We chose our favorite answers and posted them below.

You can still weigh in using the hashtag #Manningvote or vote in our handy SportsNation poll.

And in case you missed it, check out some more of our coverage of the Manning Bowl:

What to watch for: Broncos-Giants

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – It can be tough to follow such a high-end opening act, but that is the Denver Broncos' task this week as they make their first road trip since an Aug. 17 preseason game in Seattle.

“And our last outing wasn’t too positive,’’ said Broncos coach John Fox about that 40-10 loss to the Seahawks. “I think we’ve got a little bit to learn from that.’’

By the time Broncos jog onto the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., it will have also been 10 days since Peyton Manning carved out another slice of football history -- and carved up the Baltimore Ravens' secondary -- with seven touchdown passes in a 49-27 opening victory. So, in that light, here are some things to consider about the third, and perhaps last, time Peyton will face his brother Eli’s team:

  • What comes after seven? Manning tied an NFL record with his seven passing TDs against the Ravens and became the first player to reach that mark in a game since 1969. Tough to top that. The Broncos would like to run the ball a few more times -- and a lot better -- against the Giants than they did against the Ravens, but Manning will still put the ball in the air plenty. The Giants have some uncertainty at cornerback -- Prince Amukamara suffered a concussion in the opener against the Cowboys -- and their linebackers struggled in coverage against Dallas. That’s a recipe for Manning to push the ball up the sidelines at times, especially out of play-action, and work the middle of the field with tight end Julius Thomas or Wes Welker. Running back Knowshon Moreno, who has the running back of choice in the three-wide-receiver set, figures to be busy in the passing game as well -- Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 18 passes to his backs and tight ends, who consistently found room in the short to intermediate zones.

  • [+] EnlargeManny Ramirez
    AP Photo/Paul JasienskiDenver center Manny Ramirez could get a stiff test from the Giants' interior defensive line.
    Four of a kind. The Giants have always believed in the benefits of a four-man rush to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- “That’s been true going all the way back to when I was coaching there,’’ Fox said. That allows the defense to use seven players in coverage in these pass-happy times -- and it's especially true for a Giants team with some uncertainly in its defensive back seven and that likely needs to play it a little more conservatively. Against the Cowboys, with end Jason Pierre-Paul still working his way back from offseason back surgery (he played 50 snaps in Dallas), the Giants did most of the consistent damage when they won on the inside. Defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins, a combined 628 pounds, repeated pounded away at Cowboys rookie center Travis Frederick. The two also made life difficult for right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, so much so many in the league believe recent signee Brian Waters will be manning the position the next time the Cowboys play. The Broncos struggled at times against the Ravens' defensive front, particularly in the run game on the interior. The Giants figure to test left guard Zane Beadles and center Manny Ramirez plenty.

  • Short and not so sweet. The danger in all of the up-tempo frenzy going on in the league -- and the biggest reason the jury remains out on all of it -- is what it does to a defense when the team’s offense doesn’t get a first down when running at warp speed. The Broncos had a 48-second three-and-out possession in the second quarter against the Ravens, to go with a 59-second possession in the fourth quarter. “We have to avoid that,’’ said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “When we go to our up-tempo stuff, we have to make sure that we’re staying on the field and put the (opposing) defense in a bad defense.’’

  • Three-pack. What the Giants could do with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks at wide receiver was already a significant challenge for opposing defenses. And if Rueben Randle can consistently be that third option -- all three topped 100 yards receiving against the Cowboys -- it spreads things out even a little more. The alignment to watch was one that was repeatedly effective against the Cowboys, with Nicks and Cruz lined up to the offensive right and Randle as the lone receiver to the left. The Giants consistently got all three into open space with that set. It will be a significant challenge for the Broncos' defensive backs. “Real good third option," said Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Randle. "I described him to our guys, he’s like a No. 2 in the league, I think he’s a legitimate starting-caliber wide receiver (who) happens to be the third guy in their rotation."

  • Be in a rush. In of the rose petals tossed at the Broncos’ feet after what was a high-quality victory over Baltimore, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that Denver did not have a sack, or hadn’t really even stressed Joe Flacco all that much in the pocket, until right tackle Michael Oher suffered a severely sprained right knee on a 1-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice with 8 minutes, 3 seconds to play in the second quarter. All four of the Broncos' sacks, including the 2.5 for defensive end Shaun Phillips, came after the Ravens had to slide protections at times with Oher out. The Giants have had their own struggles in the offensive front, but the Broncos have to find a way to get some heat on Eli Manning -- or Manning will find the soft spots in coverage.

  • Adapt or punt. You don’t spend $12 million of Pat Bowlen’s dollars on Welker if you don’t want to go with three wide receivers on offense most of the time. But the Broncos struggled mightily early against Baltimore until they went to a two-tight-end look for five plays. They found their flow, played a little bigger for a few snaps ... and away they went. They have been more efficient at times over the past two seasons out of the two-tight-end look, especially early in games. The Broncos had eight plays among the first 20 that went for one yard or fewer or were an incompletion. The first 20 snaps, including penalties, resulted in three punts. The Broncos didn’t score the first touchdown until they went to two tight ends, then got back in the three-wide set on their fifth possession of the game. They scored a touchdown on a one-play drive, in three-wide, to close out their fourth possession after they got the ball on the Ravens’ 24-yard line, thanks to a Chris Harris interception.

Broncos report: Eli Manning is elusive

September, 12, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – There aren’t NFL personnel people lining up to talk about how they remember Eli Manning's workout numbers before the 2004 draft, at least the parts that didn’t include throwing the ball.

And yet throughout Manning's career, he has consistently frustrated the defenses trying to chase him. He has accumulated a surprisingly significant pile of plays that includes the David Tyree touchdown in Super Bowl XLII when Manning escaped the Patriots pass rush to make the play. The new age of sprinters with cannon arms like Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III stress pass-rushers with the threat of the run, but the younger Manning stresses with his intent to throw after the escape.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Layne MurdochEli Manning has learned to extend plays by being elusive in the pocket.
“He’s probably deceivingly athletic, he’s not like some of the quarterbacks out there that are going to win a footrace, but he’s mobile enough,’’ said Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. “And obviously he’s very smart, got a great live arm, got a terrific cast of characters he distributes the ball to. He buys the time he needs and does the things he needs to, including with his legs, he’ll run for first downs from time to time. He’s mobile enough.’’

The Broncos have faced Manning twice previously, in 2005 (a 24-23 New York victory in Giants Stadium) and in 2009, a 26-6 Broncos win in Denver. In the ’05 meeting, a season the Broncos won the AFC West with a 13-3 record, Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer with five seconds remaining in the game. The Giants went 83 yards in 15 plays on the game-winning drive and the Broncos did not sack Manning in the game.

In ’09 -- a Thanksgiving night game -- the Broncos sacked Manning three times.

The challenge Manning presents for opposing rushers is he has taken fewer sacks recently . He was sacked just 16 times in 2010 and 19 times in 2012 as compared to 30 times in '09. Former Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil said he believed Manning was among the league’s best at sensing pressure from behind and also efficiently escaped to keep himself in position to reset his feet to throw.

Del Rio has described them as quarterbacks who “escape with their eyes down the field.’’

In the Giants’ opener, a loss to Dallas on Sunday night, the Giants often let left tackle Will Beatty work in 1-on-1 situations while pushing the help and double-teams elsewhere along the offensive front. That could put Robert Ayers or Shaun Phillips in some 1-on-1 rush situations against Beatty.

  • In a week when the Broncos tried to, publicly at least, temper at some of the hoopla after a win that saw Peyton Manning throw seven touchdown passes, wide receiver Wes Welker joined the one-week-at-a-time parade Thursday. Asked if there could any similarities with what Peyton Manning does this season and 2007 when Welker was part of a Patriots offense that featured Tom Brady setting the NFL single-season record with 50 touchdown passes. “[You’re] talking about Week 1, there’s no telling at this point, it’s one game,’’ Welker said. “You’ve to do it every single game.’’
  • Peyton Manning isn’t the first Broncos quarterback to wear No. 18. In fact when Manning arrived in Denver after signing in free agency in 2012, the No. 18 was retired. The man who first wore the number for the Broncos -- the franchise’s first quarterback -- was Frank Tripucka, who died Thursday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Tripucka was 85. The No. 18 had been one of just three numbers the Broncos had retired, along with John Elway’s No. 7 and Floyd Little’s No. 44. Elway and Little are both Hall of Famers while Tripucka was put into the team’s Ring of Fame in 1986. Tripucka’s family, after a phone conversation with Manning shortly after Manning has signed in Denver, said they would “be proud’’ for Manning to wear No. 18. Tripucka had been originally hired as a coach when the Broncos began play in 1960, but it wasn’t long before the team could see he was the best option as its quarterback. He led the AFL in passing in 1960 with 3,038 yards and his 447 yards passing against the Bills in 1962 is still tied for the fifth-highest single game total in franchise history. Manning threw for 462 yards in last Thursday’s season opener.
  • The Broncos have plans for an indoor practice facility on the drawing board, but they could have used one Thursday. With widespread flooding throughout the state after several days’ worth of downpours, the Broncos took to the outdoors Thursday and practiced outside.
  • Center Manny Ramirez started 11 games at right guard for the Broncos last season and the team went 13-3 with an 11-game winning streak to close out the regular season. This season he is the starting center on a Super Bowl hopeful team who just got a two-year contract extension Wednesday. How is it Ramirez can do that with the Broncos, yet was released by the Lions after playing four games for an 0-16 Detroit team in 2008 and starting 12 games for the 2-14 Detroit squad in 2009? Ramirez said he was part of the equation after spending most of the 2010 season out of football. “But it (was) kind of like it put everything back in perspective as far as what you’ve done,’’ Ramirez said. “Have you done enough? At the time I felt like it wasn’t enough that I’ve done. I just felt like it was time to up my game or whatever my routine was, that it wasn’t good enough. I’ve made quite a few adjustments and they’ve worked so far.’’

One more time, 'family is family'

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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Eli and Peyton ManningBrian Spurlock/US PresswireBrothers Eli (left) and Peyton Manning last met on the field during the 2010 season.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There is plenty in life's tapestry that Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning have in common.

Both were raised in the South, consistently credit their parents for showing them the importance of doing things the right way, played in the football-mad Southeastern Conference, and belong to the ultra-exclusive list of players who have been named to 12 Pro Bowls. Oh, and each understands what it is to look across a football field, with thousands in the seats around him and the last notes of the national anthem echoing in his ears, and see his brother on the other sideline.

“I've always said there’s a lot of pride in that," Champ Bailey said of facing teams his brother, Boss, played on. “Family is family. Our thing was you don’t drift apart; you play hard that day, in that game, because you want to win. You always want to win, to be the best, but it’s hard to explain to people because it’s never, 'I've got to beat you' -- because when the game was over, we were still brothers."

Boss and Champ Bailey were even teammates with the Denver Broncos for the 2008 season -- a year in which Boss Bailey played only six games because of injuries in what turned out to be the last season of Mike Shanahan's Denver tenure. The Bailey brothers felt the interest and dealt with the questions, but they weren't quarterbacks.

They weren't Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. And they weren't Super-Bowl winning, "Saturday Night Live"-hosting quarterbacks who also happen to be two of corporate America's favorite pitchmen. So when football nation wants to see all there is to see, hear all there is to hear about a game that includes Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, it’s a little different deal.

So much so that when Peyton was asked this week about what his parents -- Archie and Olivia -- think about all that will come with watching two of their sons in Sunday’s nationally televised affair between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants, the Broncos' QB said:

“I don’t think they enjoy it all that much."

Since the Giants made the draft-day trade with the San Diego Chargers in 2004 to acquire Eli, this will be the third, and perhaps because of NFL schedule rotations, last meeting between the brothers. Peyton’s Indianapolis Colts won the previous two -- in 2006 and 2010. The 2006 game was the season opener for both teams.

“Well, I think the best part about this one is that it’s not the opener," Eli said. “It’s much better when it’s the second game -- or later -- just because you don’t have to be asked about it for three months. You get a week of questioning that you have to deal with."

Peyton was asked this week if Sunday’s game was one he had been thinking about through the offseason, and he did what he usually does when the well-honed deflector shields are up -- he tried to move on to something else.

“We knew we were going to play them, and based off of last year I knew we’d probably be on TV," Peyton said with a laugh. “So when it was, where it was, Week 2 or whatever -- I’m glad we only have to talk about it for one week. … But I did the New York conference call and there was not one question about the Giants’ defense. I had to force it in there myself."

Yes, he did, in the traditional conference call with the opponent’s media. After several questions about facing Eli, Peyton simply said:

“I haven’t been asked one question about the Giants' defense. That’s where the focus is for me as a quarterback and for our offense. It’s a good defense. They were put in some tough spots due to some turnovers against Dallas, but they were outstanding last year in creating turnovers, outstanding in the red zone, and so those are things that they’re very capable of and that’s where our focus is, is getting ready to play a tough defense on the road. At the same time, you do know because of their explosive offense, they’re capable of scoring some points, so you better be on top of your game from an offensive standpoint."

It could all be a product of a wired world and 24/7 news cycles, with so many in the populace armed with cellphone cameras, but the Mannings publicly wrestle with this game. They are brothers, they are close, and they spend a great deal of time together. They talk plenty, though not about football this week, and they have even stood pop culture on its ear together with a little football on your phone. In short, they live with the idea, as Champ Bailey put it, that “family is family."

And even as they have tried to keep the rarity of it all at arm’s length, to live in the week-to-week moments of the NFL, they both say they have taken time to appreciate the rarity of what has happened in the past -- it is unprecedented for quarterbacks of their stature in the game -- and will take a moment Sunday night to appreciate it once again.

“The past two times we have, for whatever reason, lined up across from each other during the national anthem," Peyton said. “So you do take a moment to realize that it is your brother over there that is a quarterback for the New York Giants in the NFL, and it is the same person that you grew up with. So it is unique, and I think you do take a moment to realize that it is special. But once the game gets started, all week the focus is on their defense, and you can go out there and just play."

“When I look back at the times we played against each other, I think you remember the national anthems and looking over and nodding at your big brother, talking to him before the game a little bit, the handshake after the game," Eli said. “Those things are special moments. … I’m proud of Peyton and his football career, also just proud of the way he’s handled himself off the field and all the great things he’s done. He’s my big brother and one of my best friends."

Double Coverage: Broncos at Giants

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
12:00
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For the third time in their careers, brothers Peyton Manning and Eli Manning will oppose each other as the starting quarterbacks in the same NFL game. Peyton's Denver Broncos travel to East Rutherford, N.J., to take on Eli's New York Giants at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Both of these teams have dreams of playing in the Super Bowl in that very same building in February. But while Denver looked the part of the contender in its Week 1 rout of the defending champion Ravens, the Giants turned the ball over six times in an ugly opening-week loss in Dallas. Broncos team reporter Jeff Legwold and Giants team reporter Dan Graziano break down this week's Battle of the Brothers.

Dan Graziano: So yeah, Jeff, I don't know if you were able to dig this up on your end, but my research does indeed confirm that the two starting quarterbacks in this game grew up in the same house with the same parents. I wonder if others will catch on and ask some questions and write some stories about that angle this week. I don't expect Eli Manning to admit that he's looking for revenge after his big brother beat him twice while he was with the Colts, but I'm sure there's some element of that going on. I have two little brothers myself, and personally I'd be pretty annoyed if I ever lost an NFL game to either one of them. Do you think this game means a little something extra to Peyton Manning?

Jeff Legwold: Dan, I wasn’t planning to ask about this ... but OK, I'm in. I've been around Peyton since my time in Nashville and his at the University of Tennessee, so I'm fairly certain Peyton isn't a big fan of this from a personal perspective. Plenty of his friends said after the Colts released Peyton they didn't even think he would go to an NFC team, let alone the Redskins (pre 2012 draft, of course) because there was far more potential to face Eli if he did. They’ll talk this week, but there won’t be any football on the phone. From a football standpoint Peyton is in regular-season mode, which is intense, focused and running the show. The Broncos didn't show all of their changes on offense against the Ravens last week -- they have another gear they can hit in the no-huddle they didn't use against Baltimore -- but Peyton has plenty of places to go in the passing game. How do you think the Giants' revamped defensive front will approach all of that?

DG: Yeesh. Another gear? The rest of the league can't be excited to hear that. The most positive and effective change the Giants made on defense this offseason was at defensive tackle, where they believe they've beefed up and are better suited to stop the run than they were a year ago. But while that sounds nice and useful, the plain fact is that the Giants' defense needs a dominant pass rush from the front four in order to be effective. The linebackers are terrible, and Dallas' short-range-passing game plan Sunday night showed that it's not hard for the rest of the league to figure that out and take advantage of it. The cornerbacks are just so-so, and if Prince Amukamara is out with a concussion (still unknown at this time), that unit becomes a liability. The key will be Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul generating pressure on Peyton from the edge. Pierre-Paul looked rusty and didn't play a full game Sunday as he was coming off of June back surgery and missed the preseason. If he can take a big step forward this week in terms of conditioning and practice time, that would help. He's the difference-making player in their defensive front -- the one who has the ability to take over a game if he's 100 percent. They need him as close to that as possible if they're going to pressure Peyton Manning enough to limit the time he has to take advantage of all of those options.

Peyton's brother has his share of options as well. Three different Giants receivers had more than 100 yards in the opener, including big second-year wideout Rueben Randle. With Victor Cruz in the slot and Randle and Hakeem Nicks on the outside, how are the Broncos equipped to cover the Giants' receivers?

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJason Pierre-Paul and New York's pass rush may be the key to containing Peyton Manning.
JL: It is an issue for the Broncos, especially if Champ Bailey (left foot) isn't ready to go. He was jogging early in the week, but did not take part in Monday's practice. He has been in for treatment every day, including Tuesday, and still hopes to get himself back in the lineup. The Broncos signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason because they believed he could take his game to another level and that they could help him do that. He played like the former Pro Bowl pick (2009) he was in the opener and shut down Torrey Smith and showed plenty of athleticism. But take Bailey out of the mix and the Broncos are small when they go into the nickel. When Bailey doesn't play, the 5-foot-10 Chris Harris starts and the 5-foot-9 Tony Carter then comes in for the nickel. Without Bailey that puts Harris in the slot and Carter on the outside and quarterbacks tend to go after Carter in that situation. If Bailey plays -- and he's made no secret he wants to -- that gives the Broncos better matchups. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio likes to mix it up overall and uses a lot of people, and if they get the right down-and-distance situations, he likes to even break out a seven-defensive back look and the rushers come from everywhere in the formation.

When Del Rio is looking at the Giants' running game, what will he see?

DG: Oh, yes. The run game. Better known as "The Only Thing I've Been Writing About Since Sunday Night." I still think the answer to your question is second-year back David Wilson, though his much-publicized pair of fumbles (and his less-publicized issues in pass protection) have the Giants tweaking last week's plan to give Wilson a full starter's workload. They had a bunch of veteran backs in for workouts Tuesday and ended up signing Brandon Jacobs, but Wilson is still the former first-round pick and the big-play threat who's likely to get the bulk of the first-down and second-down work as long as he doesn't fumble anymore. They had planned to use Andre Brown as the passing-downs back and the goal-line back before Brown broke his leg in the final preseason game, and after Wilson's tough opener, it looks as though Jacobs has been brought in to fill Brown's role. But Wilson's still their best running back, and assuming they throw him right back in there, he's someone for whom the Broncos will have to account. When he does hold on to the ball, he's impressive to watch run.

One guy who obviously stood out for the Broncos in their opener was the tight end, Julius Thomas. The Giants had no answers for Jason Witten on Sunday and, as I mentioned earlier, don't have anyone in their linebacking corps to really cover tight ends. So was Thomas a one-game wonder, or is this a serious candidate for a major role in the passing game?

JL: Dan, the Broncos and Thomas waited two years to see what folks saw last Thursday night. Since the Broncos took the former Portland State basketball player in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, he offered glimpse after glimpse on the practice field of what the potential was. But he suffered an ankle injury on his first NFL catch -- in the second game of his rookie season -- and wasn't the same after. He had surgery to repair the ankle before last season and spent much of the year simply being a game-day inactive. But coming down the stretch last season, players kept talking about what Thomas was doing in practice, and in training camp this summer he consistently ran away from defensive backs. He's great at getting the ball in a crowd and the Ravens did what most defenses figure to do, rotate coverage to the likes of Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas, and leave Thomas with just one defender. Thomas is still raw in some of his route running -- he is in just his fourth year of football after just one season's worth in college -- and sometimes will drop one he shouldn't, but the guy is a matchup problem for defenses, especially since Peyton Manning trusts him enough to throw it to him in almost any situation.

Opposing tight ends did plenty of damage against the Broncos' defense last season with 81 receptions for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns as a position group. They've seen Brandon Myers plenty in previous seasons, how does he fit in an offense with so much output at wide receiver?

DG: Yes, Myers was kind of the forgotten man Sunday night with all of the wideouts going nuts. And as long as those three wideouts are healthy and productive, I wouldn't be surprised to see that continue. Myers is the Giants' fourth different starting tight end in four years. And over the past five years, the Giants' leading tight end has averaged 40.6 catches per season. Martellus Bennett's 55 catches last year were the most by a Giants tight end since Jeremy Shockey caught 57 in 2007. So while Myers was a big receiving threat in Oakland, I doubt he'll threaten 70-80 catches this year as a Giant. They just don't use their tight end as a weapon in the receiving game the way a lot of teams do. Now, might they pick a matchup, such as this one, in which you say the team hasn't been strong against tight ends, and throw it to him more in such a game? Entirely possible. Myers looked like a significant part of the offensive game plan in training camp practices, so there are definitely some packages in which they'll throw to him. But right now, with injuries on the offensive line and the problems they're having in general with pass protection, I believe they need Myers to stay in and block more.

Speaking of protection, and getting back to what I think is one of the key points at least from the New York end, what's the state of the Denver offensive line in front of big brother Manning? Are the Giants' pass-rushers in for a challenging day?

JL: That was THE story in the preseason for the Broncos. Two of their starting linemen -- right tackle Orlando Franklin and left tackle Ryan Clady -- had offseason surgeries and Clady didn't play in the preseason. They lost center Dan Koppen to a torn ACL in training camp and spent much of August signing veteran linemen to address depth issues, before finally bringing two of those signees -- John Moffitt and Steve Vallos -- onto the final 53-man roster. They want the three-wide set to be their base formation on offense -- they ran their first 20 plays from scrimmage out of it against the Ravens -- but can't play it if they can't protect. Their first target in free agency, because they felt like they surrendered far too much pressure up the middle, was guard Louis Vasquez, who got the longest deal (four years) the Broncos gave to any player they signed in the offseason. They had some bobbles early against the Ravens, went to a two-tight end set briefly in the second quarter to reset things and kept themselves together when they went to three-wide after that. Center Manny Ramirez is the key; when he plays well, the Broncos can stay in that three-wide look and they can consistently pressure defenses out of it.

Rushing a Manning is something the Broncos have to consider as well. What do the Giants think of a pass rush without Von Miller in it for another five games?

DG: I'm sure they wish he was coming back in time to face the Eagles in Week 4 and the Cowboys in Week 5. But as a Week 2 development, the Giants will take it. Preseason injuries shook up the Giants' line. They have rookie first-rounder Justin Pugh starting at right tackle, which wasn't the plan. They have left guard Kevin Boothe playing center and backup tackle James Brewer playing left guard for the first time in his life. Add in the blocking downgrade at running back, and Eli Manning's protection is one of the major issues the Giants are having right now. Like his brother, Eli has an insanely quick release, so he doesn't need a Hall of Fame line in front of him in order to be successful. But he does need some level of comfort back there, because he's not at his best when he has to move his feet. George Selvie and a cast of backup rushers had success against the Giants' line Sunday night and helped rattle Manning into three interceptions, so it's not as though the Broncos necessarily need Miller to get the job done. What are they doing with their pass rush to overcome that significant loss and the loss of Elvis Dumervil to the whims of a fax machine?

JL: With Dumervil now in Baltimore and Miller suspended for five more games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the Broncos are missing 29.5 sacks from last season's defense that tied for the league lead (52) last season. The Broncos talked to plenty of veteran pass-rushers in the offseason and, after deciding John Abraham and Dwight Freeney wanted too much money, they signed Shaun Phillips during the draft weekend. And it's Phillips who is going to have to be the biggest part of the solution in the pass rush until Miller comes back. He was up to the challenge with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against the Ravens. Del Rio likes plenty of pressure packages when the Broncos get the lead and will rush players from anywhere in the formation The Broncos are particularly aggressive and creative out of their dime looks as well as the seven-defensive back look. They still have to show they can win one-on-one matchups in the rush when the game is tight, however. The rush didn't really kick in against the Ravens -- Flacco was largely untouched in the first half last Thursday -- until the Broncos had built the lead and the Ravens had to open things up some.

The Giants will be one of three NFC East teams the Broncos will play over the next four weeks, so do the Giants believe the Broncos' no-huddle look will be an kind of preview for what's to come with the Eagles?

DG: Good question. The Cowboys showed some no-huddle Sunday, and obviously the Giants are going to have to expect it from the Eagles, so perhaps these are some good early tests for them. Makes me think it really would help if they had some better all-around instinctive playmaker types in the linebacking corps. But they don't prioritize that position, and they think if they can get to the quarterback they can make up for deficiencies there and in the secondary. We'll see. It's a lot to ask of Tuck and Pierre-Paul, but they've both been great players at times in the past.

Anyway, I think that about covers it. Should be a fun one Sunday at the Meadowlands. See you there, Jeff.

QB Watch: Broncos' Peyton Manning

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
9:00
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A weekly analysis of the Denver Broncos' quarterback play.

Manning
Rewind: After an offseason’s worth of questions about the relative strength of his right arm, Peyton Manning opened the regular season by adding another rather significant bullet point to his already Hall of Fame-worthy résumé. Manning finished with 462 yards passing against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens -- with seven touchdown passes, which tied an NFL single-game record.

Fast-forward: Manning will have to work his way past the obvious storyline Sunday when he faces younger brother and New York Giants counterpart Eli. The Giants didn’t surrender any pass plays longer than 23 yards in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, but they didn’t consistently pressure Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, either, letting Romo pick away with the short and intermediate stuff. That’s a bad recipe against Peyton Manning, who absolutely owned the intermediate routes against the Ravens: Four of his six completions of between 21 and 30 yards went for touchdowns.

Serve and protect: The Giants certainly hope defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul -- who looked somewhat rusty in 50 snaps against Dallas after being limited throughout the offseason and training camp following June 4 back surgery -- is ready for a little more impact against the Broncos. Left tackle Ryan Clady has to handle Pierre-Paul, the Giants' most threatening defensive playmaker, for Denver's offense to move the ball.

Prediction: The Giants configured coverages in their 4-3 look to keep the Cowboys from going downfield, and should be expected to do the same against the Broncos. Romo had 36 completions for 263 yards, just 7.3 yards per completion and 5.4 per attempt -- not the numbers of a dynamic passing attack. But the Broncos have more athleticism in the slot with Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas -- they sometimes even line Demaryius Thomas up there -- and Manning has a quicker release, so the catch-and-run opportunities will be there if Manning makes the right reads.
Victor Cruz AP Photo/LM OteroThe Broncos will likely deploy more defensive backs when taking on the Giants and Victor Cruz.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Fresh off the feel-good season opener the Denver Broncos' secondary will get an entirely different kind of test Sunday against the New York Giants.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had limited options on the outside -- once Jacoby Jones left with a knee injury on a second-quarter punt return. Brandon Stokley is 37 years old and was signed after training camp opened; Dallas Clark is 34, has struggled with injuries in recent seasons and was signed after training camp open; Marlon Brown is a rookie; and Ed Dickson struggled mightily in a receiving role last Thursday night. So, despite not having either Champ Bailey (left foot injury) or Von Miller (suspension) in the lineup, the Broncos did not surrender a pass play longer than 34 yards in the game.

The Giants, however, present a different set of troubles. In their turnover-marred loss in Dallas, New York still had three wide receivers finish with at least 100 yards in the game -- Victor Cruz with 118 yards on five catches, Hakeem Nicks with 115 yards on five catches and Rueben Randle with 101 yards on, yes, five catches. Cruz finished with three touchdowns in the game.

“Their receivers are dynamic,'' said Broncos safety Rahim Moore. “ … They have so many targets.''

“Honestly, Cruz is getting the bulk of the attention, but they have weapons all over the place,'' said safety Duke Ihenacho.

The challenge will be how the Broncos matchup with the size the Giants have on the outside, especially if Bailey isn't ready to return to the lineup this week. Randle is 6-foot-2, Nicks is 6-foot-1 and Cruz comes in at 6-0. The Broncos can counter with 6-2 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the 6-0 Bailey, if the 12-time Pro Bowl selection is ready to return to the lineup.

Cornerback Chris Harris, an aggressive player who consistently fends off the challenges, is 5-foot-10 and cornerback Tony Carter, who has routinely come in when the Broncos go to the nickel in games Bailey doesn't play and the dime when Bailey is in the lineup, is 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. When Carter plays in the nickel, he lines up in one of the outside positions and Harris goes inside to the slot.

Flacco sought Carter out in coverage on several occasions in last January's playoff win as well as last Thursday night. This is especially true if Carter allows the receiver to get a free release off the line of scrimmage, and Eli Manning would likely do the same.

The Broncos will also use rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster at times in some of their specialty looks and if they get into some of the longer down-and-distance situations, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will use a seven defensive back package. The Broncos used it for two snaps against the Ravens, but figure to use it more against the Giants' attack.

  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin's peers in the league have long considered him one of the more aggressive coaches in the NFL, whether it be during his tenure in Jacksonville or now with the Giants. He signs players who once worked for an upcoming opponent in the days before his team plays that opponent. And if things go well for former Broncos running back Willis McGahee Tuesday, he could join the list. Per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, McGahee will be one of three backs -- Brandon Jacobs and Joe McKnight are the others, who will work out for the Giants Tuesday. The Broncos released McGahee in June after McGahee had skipped the majority of the team's offseason workouts. The running back cited “family reasons.'' McGahee will turn 32 next month and hasn't played in a game since tearing an MCL on Nov. 18 against the Chargers on a hit from now-Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer. McGahee had two years left on his deal when the Broncos let him go with a scheduled $2.5 million base salary this season and $2 million base salary in 2014. But with the Broncos having used a third-round pick on Ronnie Hillman in the 2012 draft to go with the second-round pick they used on Montee Ball in April's draft, the combination of McGahee's injury and contract pushed the Broncos toward the young guys at the position. So much so, the Broncos were willing to take a $1 million dead money hit against the salary cap to release McGahee. The Broncos had some concern about McGahee's ability to stay healthy over the long term and after he took part in the team's mandatory minicamp in mid-June, they released him. The Giants benched running back David Wilson Sunday after two fumbles and some bobbles in pass protection.
  • Wide receiver/kick return Trindon Holliday (left lower leg), cornerback Omar Bolden (left shoulder) and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (right ankle) were not on the field for the Broncos' workout Monday. The practice was essentially an extra opportunity for some on-field work for the Broncos -- what coach John Fox calls “a Broncos on Broncos practice.'' Wide receiver Eric Decker, who suffered a right shoulder injury in last Thursday's game, did participate in the practice. Bailey (left foot) did not take part. Tight end Joel Dreessen, who had two arthroscopic surgeries on his left knee since May, is closing in on returning to practice on at least a limited basis. Dreessen worked with strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson. Rookie running back C.J. Anderson also did drills alongside Dreessen, work that included some short sprints.
  • The final Manning tally for the season's opening week: 912 passing yards -- both finished 27-of-42 passing in their respective games -- and 11 touchdowns. Peyton Manning was 27-of-42 for 462 yards with seven touchdowns without an interception in the Broncos' 49-27 victory over the Ravens on Thursday night. Eli Manning was 27-of-42 for 450 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in the Giants' loss to Dallas Sunday. The two brothers will face each other Sunday at MetLife Stadium -- it's the third time they have played each other in the NFL.

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