Each week, Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk asks SB Nation questions. He asked Denver Broncos fans this:
Alright, Broncos fans: an undefeated Arizona team comes to town this week. Being Professional Grade is all about preparation, and your quarterback just had two weeks to prepare. Coming off a bye, he never loses. Can this tough Arizona defense be exploited? I think so--and your tight end might have a record-breaking day. What do you think?
Here we go again with the tight end matchup.
2013 was a terrible year covering tight ends. Yes, the Cardinals gave up more touchdowns to tight ends than anyone else.
But let's look at the tight ends against the Cardinals this year.
Week 1: Antonio Gates, six catches, 81 yards, no scores; Ladarius Green, two catches, 24 yards, no scores
Week 2: Larry Donnell, seven catches 81 yards, no scores; Daniel Fells, one catch, one yard, one TD
Week 3: Derek Carrier, one catch, 23 yards
That is one touchdown in three games. Denver has a productive tight end in Julius Thomas. he has 14 catches in three games, but five touchdowns. His Week 1 game was great -- seven catches for 104 yards and three scores. He did that against the Colts, who have a terrible defense. In the two games since? Seven catches for 56 yards, but two TDs.
Now, Faulk says Peyton Manning can exploit the Cardinals defense. There is no doubt about that. He can. However, this Cardinals defense has shown to be very good. They will stop the running game, as they are top five in the league.
But what about the passing game? In terms of yards per game, the Cardinals defense is 18th. But that isn't the whole story. They have only given up four passing touchdown (fourth in the league) and opponents are averaging only 6.8 yards per passing attempt against Arizona -- eighth in the league.
Basically, the defense can be beaten one way -- dink and dunk. Manning is okay with that, but it takes a lot of dinking and dunking to score a touchdown.
Manning is perhaps the greatest ever, but he is not invincible, and Faulk is not completely right with Manning after a bye. The last time he had a "bye" was the week before the Super Bowl. We know how that ended, and it was against a team the Cardinals beat on the road.
The Cardinals offense might not be able to do enough if Drew Stanton is the starter at quarterback, but don't expect the defense to be "exploited." Manning will have to work for every completion and yards he gets.
As for the tight ends, Arizona hasn't given up a "career day" to a tight end since Week 6 of last season, when Vernon Davis went for 180 yards and two scores. That is nearly a year ago.
Arizona has a tough task in winning in Denver, but their tough defense will not go down easy.