Colts vs Broncos: Breaking Down the Numbers


The floundering Indianapolis Colts host the undefeated Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon. Peyton Manning is making his second trip to Indy, but there won’t be any tearful pregame tributes for the man who changed the franchise.

The Colts are desperate for a win, but they are unlikely to find any solace before the Bye Week. With the upheaval and struggles on offense, it is a bad week for the best defense in the NFL to come to town.

Here’s what the numbers say about this week’s opponent:

The Broncos on Offense

Yardage: 17th overall (pass: 12th; rush: 26th)
Points per Game: 24 ppg, 13th
Efficiency: 30th overall (pass: 31st; rush: 22nd)
Third down: 32.7%, 28th

The Broncos have relied heavily on their defense this season while they try to figure out how to effectively run a sort of hybrid offense. There seems to be a philosophical divide between Manning and coach Gary Kubiak (not that it has mattered all that much). The idea seems to be that the Broncos will focus on running the ball, while Manning takes a reduced role.

It hasn’t really worked, partly because the Broncos offensive line isn’t that great (29th in run blocking) and Manning hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm. But that was before the Broncos Bye Week and the dismantling of the previously undefeated Packers last week. Everything clicked for Denver, Manning was extremely efficient, Demaryius Thomas was dominant, and the rushing attack was fantastic.

This is either a fluke or a sign of things to come for the Broncos offense. The Packers feature a top 10 defense, but were completely ineffective in Denver last week. So while it is tough to say what we will see from the Broncos, the first six weeks might be a better indication.

What This Means for the Colts on Defense

The good news is that Vontae Davis can shut down Thomas. He’s done so a number of times.

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But a receiver like

Emmanuel Sanders

will likely rip this defense apart. There is also the issue of tight end

Vernon Davis

, who was acquired this week via trade. He can be a game changer, but it remains to be seen how much he’ll play.

This game could play out much like the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs last season: stack the box, dare Manning to beat you. It worked then, but that was partly due to a thigh injury that Manning was suffering from.

If last week is any indication, the Colts could have their hands full on defense. That said, they are much better against the run than the Packers are and have a good shot at making the Broncos one dimensional on offense. But that might not matter if the defense is forced into short fields for a third straight game (which will probably happen).

The Broncos on Defense

Yardage: 1st overall (pass: 1st; rush: 4th)
Points per Game: 16 ppg, 1st
Efficiency: 1st overall (pass: 1st; rush: 9th)
Third down: 31%, 2nd

This is the best defense in the NFL. They are dominant at every level and had two games this season where they outscored the Broncos offense. Oh, and last week? They held the defending MVP, Aaron Rodgers, to just 77 passing yards.

The pass rush duo of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller have been outstanding. The two have combined for 9.5 sacks and the team leads the league with a staggering 29 sacks through seven games. It also helps that the secondary has been suffocating (giving up just 2.3 yards per attempt), giving the rushers extra time for a coverage sack. They also are second in the league at forcing turnovers. On average, the Broncos give up just 20 yards per drive.

There really isn’t a weakness on the Broncos defense.

What This Means for the Colts on Offense

Well, it is going to be a very long afternoon for Andrew Luck and company. Oh, and they might have to do it without T.Y. Hilton. Luck has turned the ball over at an alarming rate, staring down the receivers, and holding the ball too long. Any of those issues by themselves would be troubling, but together? Luck might set a career high for turnovers in a game.

When one of the most efficient and talented QBs in the NFL is utterly dominated, it really doesn’t bode well for other teams.

The Colts will need a patient approach and play a field position battle with the Broncos. But that’s something that hasn’t happened this season as Luck continually forces the ball. There is a good chance that the offense is kept scoreless on Sunday. Even if Luck were playing at his best, this would be an incredibly tough challenge.

With all the turmoil around this organization, they are ripe for a blowout loss. Manning would love to notch a win in Lucas Oil Stadium and this will probably be his last chance to do so. Unless the Colts defense puts in an all-world performance, and the offense dramatically improves, this is going to be a lopsided loss.