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Broncos 49ers preview: Peyton Manning may need touchdown record Sunday night

The Denver Broncos (4-1) will host the San Francisco 49ers (4-2) in a Championship-caliber primetime game on Sunday Night Football in Week 7.

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Ezra Shaw

San Francisco 49ers


Record: 4-2
Streak: Won 3
All-time vs. Denver: 7-6-0 (including Super Bowl XXIV)
Last time: at S.F. 24, Den. 16 (London) (10/31/10)    
The Line: Broncos by 7
Kickoff: Sunday, October 26, 6:20 p.m. MDT

With 506 career TDs, two shy of Brett Favre's all-time record, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are on the verge of history when they face the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night. But that isn't what the Broncos are talking about.

"Probably the only time I talk about (Peyton breaking the record) is when you guys ask," Julius Thomas said. "Peyton doesn't talk about it, so we just keep playing football... We won't discuss it as an offense, but we'll be extremely happy for him when it happens."

"Tremendous player," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of Manning. "He's done it and done it and keeps doing it at the highest level."

Manning will have to be playing at his highest level this week, as the 49ers boast a tough defense that is supported by an offense whose talent rivals the Broncos' own. Let's take a closer look at the second-most-recent team to lose a Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers.

Who's Hot?

QB Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick might have the strongest arm in the NFL, and he's aging like a fine wine in his third season as starter. He's on pace for career highs in yards and touchdowns, and his 97.5 passer rating is nothing to scoff  at. What's even more impressive is his ability to beat the blitz - he has a 117.3 passer rating when facing a blitz, according to ProFootballFocus.

The Broncos will play it conservative and smart on defense as far as blitz packages go, but that still will not help them if Denver's pass rushers can't reach the Niners' QB. Kaepernick boasted a 118.7 passer rating when not being blitzed on Monday night against the Rams.

Who's Not?

RBs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. After averaging over five yards per carry the previous two games, Gore was stuffed by the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night, thanks largely to St. Louis stacking the box and selling out to stop the run. Hyde's output was even worse, as Bleacher Report notes --

Now, this is pretty atypical, and it would seem Kaepernick got hot because the Rams did so much to stop the run. The Broncos will have to try and find a way to stop both. It won't be easy. When the Chiefs held Kaepernick to 201 passing yards, tying his season low, Frank Gore tore them up for 107 rushing yards and a 5.9 average.

"It's about matchups," Fox said, seguing nicely into our next segment. "I think the dilemma you have with the 49ers is they've got a very good offensive line, they've got a very good receiving corps, including the tight end and they've got a very good running game. Both backs, [Carlos] Hyde and ‘21' (Frank Gore) are very good backs and proven. Frank Gore's been a Pro Bowler. So any time you have the dimensions to be able to both run and pass-a mobile quarterback in Colin Kaepernick-they present problems. So we'll definitely have our work cut out for us."

Matchup to Watch

49ers receivers vs. Broncos secondary. The 49ers boast a horde of skill-position players that rivals the Broncos' own talented fantasy-football-esque pass-catchers.

  • WR Michael Crabtree has ridiculous chemistry with Kaepernick and is their primary receiver.
  • WR Anquan Boldin is tall, tough, and catches everything.
  • WR Stevie Johnson is No. 1 in yards per route run (3.03) among wide receivers with 25+ targets.
  • WR Brandon Lloyd is enjoying a resurgance as a 49ers' deep threat, averaging 27.0 yards per catch.
  • TE Vernon Davis almost made my "Who's Not", having a bad game last week and having not scored a TD since Week 1, but he's always a threat.

Plain and simple, the Broncos secondary will be challenged. Denver arguably has the best cornerback duo in the NFL in 2014 in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., but that is still a lot of weapons from San Fran, and they love to rotate these guys in and out. Keeping all of these weapons disarmed will be a Mile High task for Jack Del Rio and the Broncos defense.

The Broncos may need Manning to break the touchdown record with three TD passes Sunday night.


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