The Colts are a big name team and there is a reason for this: they routinely win 12-14 games a year. And they've owned the Broncos for multiple years (why does Denver have to play them every friggin year?).
They come to town early in the season, which is both good news and bad news for Denver. The bad news is that Denver does not appear to be ready for such a worthy opponent; injuries have all but decimated this team. The good news is that Denver is coming off a confidence-boosting, butt-kicking of Seattle, in which pieces of the team played very well, even if Seattle did make it easy.
It would be easy to gameplan around a strong rushing attack and model what the Texans accomplished in Week One. If only Denver had the personnel.
No, Denver is going to have to play their game—high probability plays that move the ball down the field. Some matchups could get interesting:
Robert Mathis versus Ryan Harris/Zane Beadles:
This is going to be a crucial matchup, seeing that both Mathis and Harris have sustained injuries, and Beadles is a rookie. Whoever holds up his end of the bargain will make a big difference in this game.
Dwight Freeney versus Ryan Clady:
I have faith that Clady will come through, but Freeney himself is a Pro-Bowler and could wreak havoc at a critical time.
Denver receivers versus Indy secondary:
This is where Denver can keep itself in the game. With an injury sidelining Bob Sanders, Indy is relying on average players to hold down the fort. Among the positive developments of this offense is Orton's ability to spread the ball around. Against JVille it was Brandon Lloyd. Last week it was Demarius Thomas with a sprinkling of Eddie Royal. Who will it be this week?
Knowshon Moreno versus Indy LBs:
In my opinion, Denver may try to run the ball, but Indy will be able to hold Denver's running game to below average numbers and only allow a few 5+ yard gains. If McDaniels is smart, he will try to use Moreno in the passing game and have Moreno make his living with four to seven yard passes that make second and third downs easier to convert. Perhaps Moreno can bust off a long screen pass like he did against Seattle.
On defense, Denver is going to have to get creative (and lucky). While Indy lost a game already, it was not because of a bad outing from this group. Manning is averaging over 300 yards per game and continues to be one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in the league.
Dallas Clark versus Wesley Woodyard/D.J. Williams/Mario Haggans:
This has mismatch written all over it. Clark murdered Woodyard last year. Do you stick Dawkins on Clark and leave Denver's corners on an island? I wish I had Clark on my fantasy team this week...
Champ Bailey versus Reggie Wayne:
This is a heavyweight battle, but it might not even happen. If Bailey is on the sidelines with an injury and Parrish Cox is the guy, Reggie Wayne is a guy you want on your fantasy team as well. Manning isn't going to telegraph an interception to Cox like Hassleback did.
Andre Goodman versus Pierre Garcon:
This is another trouble spot because of injury. Goodman might be out, leaving another untested corner in Cassius Vaughn/Nate Jones/Syd'Quan Thompson on a very dangerous second receiver. Trouble...
Joseph "Live And Let" Addai versus Denver front seven:
The Colts don't pound the ball, as this is not their game, but Addai is a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and can abuse a linebacker group like the one Denver possesses. Additionally, Manning is the master of audibles and can recognize an opportunity to run the ball. In these situations, Addai usually does fairly well and can give the Colts 2nd-and-4 or 3rd-and-short opportunities.
Robert Ayers versus Ryan Diem:
If there is going to be any pass rush, it looks like Ayers is going to be the guy to provide it. Blitz Manning and there is an even money chance that he will hit a receiver on a go route matched up in single coverage. Denver defenses have learned this the hard way over the years.
The Colts offense can strike from anywhere, but generally, they take teams apart with quick throws where the receiver racks up yards on the YAC. Unless something drastic happens, Denver will probably not register a sack on the day due to Manning's quick release and a lack of a pass rush. However, with all of the injuries, Denver is going to showcase some players that Indy has not yet seen and who knows, a rookie might step up and create a key turnover.
Denver's kick-and-punt coverage team versus Devin Moore and Jerraud Powers:
This is an area that Denver cannot continue to screw up. In order to have any chance in this game, Denver has to make Indy work its way down the field and not give the most dangerous offense in football short fields. Forcing another turnover here would be a big help.
Denver will have to perform flawlessly in all three phases of the game to be competitive in this one. Even though it is generally not a good idea to get in a shootout with Indy, Denver's offense could be up to the task. Denver will have to have no turnovers and few penalties, and Indy will have to make some mistakes for this one to be close. Will Denver rise to the challenge and honor Kenny McKinley with a win? If so, they could take the momentum and beat a few more teams that they're supposed to lose to.
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