Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos
Sunday – January 11 – 3:40 pm CST
Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Denver
How the Colts Got Here
Indianapolis (12-5) is coming off of a 26-10 win over the Bengals in the Wild Card round of these NFL Playoffs. This game was not an all around crisp game for the Colts but it was enough against a fragile and banged up Bengals team that was also fighting playoff demons of its past.
The Colts defense had one of their more impressive games of this season. The defensive line was able to get consistent pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, as they racked up two sacks and a forced fumble which they recovered as well. The secondary also was stout as they were able to blanket the Bengals wide receiver group and sealed off any chance Dalton and the Bengals had of creating any big plays through the passing game.
Andrew Luck and the offense did not have its A-game in that matchup but were able to push through some of the doldrums they had at times in the game to move the ball and score more times than not. Luck had a solid all around game as he completed 31/44 for 376 yards with a touchdown pass. He got great pass protection from his offensive line all game long as the Bengals pressure never got close to him.
Wide receiver T.Y Hilton had a field day against the Bengals secondary as he had six catches for 103 yards. It did not matter who Cincinnati put on him, he easily was able to separate and get open for Luck to find him for big plays.
How the Broncos Got Here
Denver, with their 12-4 regular season record and AFC West division title, were able to earn a first round bye as the number two seed in the AFC. The week off was just what the doctor ordered for this Broncos team that was beat up and missing key parts of their team.
The regular season finale, for example, listed 22 players on their injury report. Now everyone at this time of the year has injuries to some part of their team but to have that many can take a toll on a team that is not necessary a young group of players.
Peyton Manning certainly took advantage of the week off to recharge his batteries as he sat out all of last week’s workouts before returning this past Monday.
Leading tackler on the team Brandon Marshall also was able to return and participate in practice for the first time since suffering a foot injury in week 15.
This was a much needed break for Manning also in that he could shake off what was not a spectacular finish to his regular season. Over the last four games, the Broncos signal caller has only averaged 247.5 yards passing a game, a passer rating of just 76.8 and even more disturbing thrown three touchdowns and six interceptions.
It was polar opposite to how a majority of his season went when he was in a rhythm and nearly unstoppable at times with the pinpoint accuracy and throwing touchdowns passes with ease. He will need much better numbers in order to beat the Colts. His play at home in Denver and on the road are pretty stark, just look at his quarterback rating which is 117.5 at home compared to 89 on the road.
Julius Thomas is expected to be back for the team, which is a huge addition for this offense that missed his ability to make every catch and be a bad matchup for the opposition. He was having a great season as he had 12 touchdown catches in the first nine games he played before suffering the injury to his ankle in week 11.
The Colts will somehow have to account for him which will stretch their defense even more, allowing Manning to have larger windows to work with to throw down the field. Left tackle Orlando Franklin is also expected to return to the lineup, further solidifying the Broncos offensive line.
The week off and the addition of Julius Thomas back really puts the juice back in this Broncos offense and will make it very difficult for the Colts defense to slow down even a little bit.
Indianapolis does have Andrew Luck and an offense that can be very productive and dangerous, but I do not think they have enough firepower to out duel Manning and his surrounding cast.
Also the Colts offensive line will have trouble against the pass rush of the Broncos and keeping Luck away from feeling the pressure and or getting sacked. I am going with the Broncos 31-20.