Colts vs Broncos: What to Watch For
The floundering Indianapolis Colts (3-5) host the undefeated Denver Broncos (7-0) on Sunday afternoon. This will be the fourth meeting between the two teams since Peyton Manning left Indy and Andrew Luck entered the league, with the Colts holding a 2-1 record in those games (including last season’s Divisional Round playoff win).
Ironically, the two talented quarterbacks are playing at about the same level (read: poorly). Manning is starting to show his age coupled with being hampered by a lackluster offensive line and an offensive scheme that doesn’t play to his strengths. Luck, on the other hand, has dealt with injuries, mental struggles, and now upheaval in the coaching staff.
The Broncos will be looking to build on a big win last week against the previously undefeated Packers while the Colts just want to stop the bleeding during a three game losing streak.
Here’s what fans should be on the lookout for:
- Change. The Colts decided to fire offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton earlier this week, effectively making him a scapegoat for the team’s offensive struggles. In Hamilton’s defense, he isn’t the one who leads the NFL in turnovers. But he is the one in charge of putting his QB in a position to succeed. Rob Chudzinski will be taking over play calling duties, but we don’t really have any idea what that means. Chud stated that he’s committed to running the ball (ugh) but has a history of getting the tight ends involved (which is sorely needed). If Luck plays better, Chudzinski will likely be praised for it but the simple fact of the matter is that the offensive success starts and ends with Luck’s play.
- Shutout. The Denver defense is ridiculously good. They lead the NFL in sacks by a solid margin, have four defensive touchdowns, and give up under 25 yards per drive. Their defense has outscored the Broncos offense twice this year too. With the offensive struggles of the Colts, points will be at a premium on Sunday. There is a very real chance that the Colts will be shutout at home, which would be a low point for the season. Although they’ll probably manage a garbage time touchdown or two and run out of time again, which has been a theme all season.
- Tight Ends. If there is one area where the Broncos defense struggles it is defending tight ends, where they rank 19th in the NFL. Luckily the Colts have two very talented, albeit underused, tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Getting them involved will be key on Sunday, especially if T.Y. Hilton isn’t there to stretch the field. The Broncos will also be attempting to work recently traded TE Vernon Davis into the lineup. We all know how well Manning works with this position, and if they are on the same page it could be dangerous for the Colts.
- Lockdown. One of the few bright points on the Colts defense has been Vontae Davis, and that rings especially true when it comes to facing the Broncos. Davis has been able to be Demaryius Thomas on an island over the past three years. He hasn’t always lined up against Thomas, but when he does it doesn’t result in too many completions. Watch for Davis to shadow Thomas and take him out of the game (leaving Emmanuel Sanders to take Greg Toler apart) on Sunday.
- No Tears. The Colts won’t be doing another tribute video for Manning, the 2013 iteration was more than enough. While Manning is the most composed QB in the league, that video clearly had him choked up a bit before the game and might have contributed to some struggles that night. Or it was just Robert Mathis beasting all night long.
- Family Ties. Broncos tight end Vernon Davis is the older brother of Colts cornerback Vontae Davis. There is a very real possibility that Vontae will either be lined up on or forced to make a play on his big bro. There are all kinds of family ties in the NFL, but it is rare that we actually get to see two brothers on the field, pitted against each other at the same time.
There is always a shot to win whenever you step on the field, but given the Colts issues, this isn’t exactly an ideal matchup. This could turn into a real defensive struggle, but considering how tough the Broncos defense is, it is tough to not pick them to leave Indy with the win.