Peyton Manning (117/156 1470 16 TD 0 INT) and the unbeaten Denver Broncos (4-0) visit Tony Romo (110/152 1017 8 TD 1 INT) and the Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at AT&T Stadium this afternoon. This will be Manning's first appearance at the new stadium and is set to deliver a performance similar to that of the cost which was $1.2B. With a rating of 138, Denver features the league's most explosive offenses against a pass defense and secondary that has proved to be extremely vulnerable despite the Cowboys atop the NFC East with a squared mark. The Broncos are averaging league bests of 44.8 points and 483.0 yards of offense. Last week's win was a team-record 15th straight in the regular season, and Manning extended his streak of throwing at least one TD pass to 27 games.
While Manning has looked immortal, Denver is looking to get more out of the running game. The Broncos are averaging nearly 120 yards per game and are balanced with 3 backs taking the load of the carries. Knowshon Moreno (46-238 5.2 3 TD) ran for 78 on 12 touches (6.5) and a score in last week's 32 point rout over Philadelphia. Montee Ball (39-123 3.2) needs to hold on to the ball and is still looking to find the end zone. The last time Manning faced the Cowboys, he went 36 of 48 for 365 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw four interceptions in Indianapolis' 38-35 overtime loss Dec. 5, 2010.
The acquisition of Wes Welker (26-266 6 TD) has proved profitable thus far. Manning has connected with Welker for a team high in TD passes and certainly enhancing each's fantasy value. Against Philadelphia he caught 9 more passes for 76 yards and seems unaffected by the recent ankle injury. Manning also seems to be on the same page with Demaryius Thomas (29-393 4 TD) who could have a career afternoon on the stat sheet. Eric Decker (24-340 1 TD) and Julius Thomas (18-234 4 TD) complete the core and give Manning numerous options to spread the wealth. Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and DeMarcus Ware will have their hands full on the outside and over the middle if Manning's quick drop and release throws their timing and set patterns off. This is where Anthony Spencer is missed most with Bruce Carter struggling as well.
The good news for Romo is that he is capable of being as effective and keeping up the tempo if his receivers are on the same page. Against San Diego last week the Charger defense clamped up after allowing all 21 points Dallas scored in the second quarter. That means no cases of the dropsies for Dez Bryant (23-282 4 TD) who could be a worthy test for Denver's secondary. Jason Witten (21-192 2 TD) also needs to have a big game considering his opportunities have descended to excel in the open field. If the approach is to utilize DeMarco Murray (72-356 4.9 1 TD) to slow down the Denver momentum, Romo could also use him as a slot or screen receiver (21-138) methodically. Miles Austin (15-125) continues to nurse a sore hamstring and is listed as doubtful.
For Denver on defense, they could also have their hands full especially if the game is close in the 4th quarter. With Von Miller still suspended and no Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos are without their top two pass-rushers. Champ Bailey will be a game-time decision, and Ryan Clady is on injured reserve with a lisfranc injury to his right foot. That could enhance protection for Romo, who is as accurate as they come against weaker pass defenses but must convert given the opportunities deep in Denver territory.
Don't expect to see Manning throw up a clunker on Sunday for how well the Broncos have been over the course of four weeks. He just seems to be in a zone of his own and actually needs 405 yards passing (60‚957) to move ahead of Hall of Famer Dan Marino (61‚ 361) for second-most in NFL history. but the Cowboys will be amped for this one and would enjoy knocking off one of the few unbeaten teams around the league. But Dallas has to extend drives‚ convert on third down and protect the football on offense. Sustaining those tasks will be a tall order as Denver pulls away in a toe t toe shootout.