The Denver Broncos faced a very good defense last week, and they still racked up 41 points and 568 total yards against the Arizona Cardinals. Next week, they have a marquee, nonconference game against the San Francisco 49ers, so maybe they'll look past the struggling New York Jets. That might be the Jets' best hope Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Let's take a closer look at the Broncos:
Coach: John Fox (110-86 overall, 37-15 with the Broncos)
Offensive coordinator: Adam Gase
Defensive coordinator: Jack Del Rio
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
Peyton Manning, quarterback: Manning returns to the scene of quite possibly the worst game of his professional career -- the 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last February in the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. Maybe the memories will haunt him so much that he'll be off his game; the Jets can only hope. Manning is coming off a career game, a four-touchdown, 479-yard performance against the Cards. He threw the 500th touchdown pass of his career, reaching the milestone in 244 regular-season games. We could fill a lot of blog posts on Manning's career, but let's just say this: He's a five-team league MVP, always finding new ways to beat you. Against the Cards, they spread the field and ran eight plays with an empty backfield, more than the first three games combined. A safe bet: He won't be checking out movie theaters in the East Rutherford, New Jersey, area on the eve of the game.
Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver: The Jets' defense will get a kick out of watching last week's Broncos-Cards tape. Thomas was covered by former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and it wasn't a fair fight. Cromartie called it "probably by far the worst game of my career." Thomas finished with a franchise-record 226 receiving yards on eight receptions, including two touchdowns. He would've topped the 300-yard mark, but a 77-yard touchdown was wiped out by a penalty. Neverthless, he racked up more yardage than the Jets' leading receiver, ex-Bronco Eric Decker, has for the entire season. Thomas entered the game in a mini-slump -- four drops in his first three games. Slump, over. He's one of the elite receivers in the game, a combination of big, fast and scary.
Julius Thomas, tight end: It's not often he makes news with his blocking, but Thomas could get fined by the league for an illegal chop block on Cards defensive end Calais Campbell. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called it the dirtiest play he's seen in more than 30 years in the league. The 6-foot-4 Thomas is a former basketball player, known for his finesse. He'll be a tough cover for the Jets because he's one of the most athletic tight ends around -- 19 touchdowns in his last 18 games. The Jets already have allowed five scoring passes to tight ends. Thomas moves all around, even lining up in the backfield on occasion. He has 20 catches in 24 targets, which means he's money.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
Von Miller, linebacker: Teammate Terrance Knighton said it best after last week's game: "I just feel bad for quarterbacks now." After missing the second half of last season due to ACL surgery, Miller has his groove back. He has recorded a sack in three straight games, bringing his total to 3.5. Miller lines up predominantly at left outside linebacker, meaning right tackle Breno Giacomini has the unenviable task of blocking him. Miller uses exceptional speed, burst and leverage, making him one of the most prolific edger rushers in the league.
Aqib Talib, cornerback: The Broncos paid good money for the shutdown corner -- a six-year, $57 million contract, although only $11.5 million is fully guaranteed. The Jets are familiar with Talib, having faced him with the Patriots. He's a top-5 cornerback, with no glaring weaknesses in his game. He plays predominantly on the left side of the defense -- 214 out of 268 defensive snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That means he'll probably see a lot of former Bronco Eric Decker, who lines up mostly on the right side of the formation. Talib has yet to make any big plays and he's ranked only 47th among corners, according to Pro Football Focus.
DeMarcus Ware, linebacker: Another pricey free-agent grab by team executive John Elway. The former Dallas Cowboys star signed a three-year, $30 million contract. Actually, Jets coach Rex Ryan had some interest, but it didn't get very far. Ware looked like he was finished last season in Dallas, but his struggles may have been due to a scheme change. He seems reborn in Denver (3.5 sacks), but it helps to have Miller on the other side. Ware's résumé will be worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration one day -- seven Pro Bowls and 120.5 career sacks.