Denver Broncos (7-0)
Indianapolis Colts (3-5)
This looked like a “circle in red” game when the NFL schedule was announced last spring. The Colts, Peyton Manning’s old team who bounced him from the playoffs last year and made the Broncos look inferior while doing so, vs. the Broncos, Manning’s new team that looked as though it had lost a step and had slipped behind the Colts in the AFC hierarchy. What a difference actually playing games makes. The Broncos come in undefeated at 7-0, coming off what might be the most impressive performance by any team in the NFL this season. The Colts come in reeling, making coaching changes and not looking at all like a powerhouse.
So, easy Bronco win, right?
Actually, yes, I think it will be.
The Colts have too many holes right now to go toe-to-toe offense vs. defense with the Broncos and, unless last week’s Broncos offensive performance was a complete mirage, the Colts defense is going to have a hard time slowing down the run and pass game that clicked so well for Denver against the Packers last Sunday night.
This is the fourth and, likely, last meeting between Peyton Manning and his old team. The Colts lead that series 2-1. My bet is the Broncos even the count Sunday.
KEY MATCH UP
Andrew Luck has not looked like an elite quarterback this season. He’s not freelanced well, not taken care of the ball and not won games. However, I suspect he is too good to look this bad for a full season. He’s going to figure it out at some point. I don’t know that it will be against the Broncos ultra-talented and stunningly aggressive secondary, however. Luck has been a turnover machine and this is a defense that likes to take the ball away. If Luck is even pedestrian Sunday, the Colts will lose. It will take an elite performance from an elite quarterback to cause the Broncos issues this year. I don’t believe Luck is that quarterback right now.
The Denver Broncos made the only trade at the NFL deadline this week and picked up tight end Vernon Davis from the 49ers. They will try to get him involved in the offense as soon as Sunday and he could be a great weapon for the Broncos. He has very good speed and may be able to stretch the field and open up running lanes and big plays for the Denver offense. If his presence does that, and I think it will, it doesn’t really matter if he gets in the end zone this week. If he scores, so much the better.
Simple here: the Broncos BIG in this one. Though Manning may downplay the significance of beating his former team in their home stadium (the so-called “House that Peyton Built), his teammates want this one for him. I don’t believe last week was smoke-and-mirrors. I believe the Broncos are hitting their stride on offense and I think the defense has its sights on being counted among the best ever. I don’t see them letting down and I don’t see the Colts keeping up.