Colts at Broncos: What to Watch For


The Indianapolis Colts open the season Sunday night at the Denver Broncos. Its Peyton Manning vs Andrew Luck, round two.

Or, it would be if quarterbacks were ever on the field at the same time. Maybe its time to put a rest to this idea that QBs go “head-to-head” against each other.

Sunday is more like Manning vs the Colts question mark defense and Luck against Denver’s offseason spending spree.

Somehow, Denver was able to add DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and TJ Ward to the defense. Is Bernie Madoff the team’s financial advisor?

Meanwhile, the Colts could have made a run at any of these players, but didn’t. And they still $12.5 million in cap space.

The national picks are in and NO ONE is picking the Colts to win. And honestly, I don’t blame them. Everything is stacked against the Colts in this game: on the road, without their best defensive player, and Manning is in one of “those” moods.

Here’s what fans should be on the lookout for:

The Pass Rush

The Colts are banking on Bjoern Werner having a coming out party Sunday night. The second year player is getting the start while Robert Mathis serves out his suspension. Is there a chance that Werner turns into Jared Allen? Sure, but its only slightly more likely than Erik Walden actually setting the edge. The Colts will have to get to Manning with four players, otherwise he’ll have his way with the coverage.

Offensive Potential

The Colts offense could be a thing of beauty this season. I’m already working up the courage to ask it out to dinner, but I’m not sure if I’m being catfished by the preseason. There are so many good things to like about the offense, and then there’s the offensive line and Trent Richardson. There’s an idea that the Colts have to play ball-control and keep Manning on the sideline, and that will mean not using the no-huddle offense.

Guess what? You can do both! For some reason the team believes that when you don’t go with the no-huddle you have to line up in obvious run formations and pound the ball, but the team does everything better out of a spread set and with a quicker pace. It won’t matter if the Colts can’t score points. Manning can score quickly and often, the Colts have to keep the score close because this won’t be a game where Luck can hero his way to another victory (yes, the Broncos DO run a more competent offense than the Chiefs although Rahim Moore still plays safety, so, things can happen).

The Secondary

This goes hand-in-hand with the pass rush, as the secondary was able to lock down Manning’s receivers on a number of plays last time around which led to him getting sacked and hit. The Colts have solid corners, but the safeties are pretty awful. Last season, LaRon Landry and Antoine Bethea were at safety and both had good games (although Bethea wasn’t so great in coverage). Now we have Landry, who hasn’t played well against a quality opponent since Denver, and no Bethea (don’t underestimate the loss of Manning’s former teammate in this game either).

Thankfully the Broncos will be without Wes Welker, which will make that job slightly easier. Now the team just has to lock down Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders (and Montee Ball, and Jacob Tamme, oh, and that IU kid Cody Latimer). Should be easy.

Handling Pressure

The Broncos can send Ware and Von Miller screaming towards Luck, but there are a few reasons that might not work. Ware isn’t the player he used to be and posted just six sacks last season. He was average in the preseason and not very good at rushing the passer.

Miller is coming off an ACL tear late last season and it remains to be seen how well he’ll play this year. Its likely he’ll have some rust to work off early and he only had nine snaps in the preseason. The Colts can effectively stop Ware with Anthony Castonzo, and Miller could be offset by Dwayne Allen.

The pressure is more than likely to come up the middle where the Colts have three questionable players likely to start. DT Terrance Knighton can wreck through the line and is fairly good at rushing the passer. The Colts should keep an extra blocker in to give Luck more time and roll him away from the pass rush. The Broncos secondary has some issues, and Luck should be able to find receivers open down field, especially with this start trio.

There is a shot for the Colts to come away from Denver with a win, but its a small one. Its going to be incredibly difficult to stop Manning and I don’t think the coaches are 100% committed to an offense that’s goal is to score points.

Playing keep away from Manning only works for so long, and the Colts don’t really have to run game to pull that sort of gamble off. I don’t believe in the team’s game planning ability enough to think they can beat the Broncos at home, and Manning under the lights. The good news is that Manning will expose all the defense’s flaws and give the staff an idea of what to work on.

Broncos send the Colts home with a loss and a lesson to learn.