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2010 Colts Game Preview: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos

All the hype from Manning Bowl II has subsided now after the 38-14 drubbing of the Giants last Sunday Night.  Offense, Defense, and Special Teams (5 Touchbacks!) all shined in one of the most complete games from the Colts in recent memory.  The Colts will try to duplicate their performance this Sunday afternoon when they travel to Denver to take on the 1-1 Broncos.

The Broncos had the same Jekyll and Hyde act in the first two weeks that the Colts did, looking bad in Week 1 losses, but dominating in Week 2.  The Broncos lost on the road to Jacksonville 24-17, and beat up on the Seahawks last week 31-14.  The Offense has played well in both games, while the Defense struggled in Week 1 (sound familiar?).

The Colts and Broncos have played each other in 7 of the past 9 regular seasons, with the Colts winning 5 of those games, and one of the Colts losses was a game where Peyton Manning only played one series, throwing 2 passes.  They've also played two very memorable (at least for Colts fans) playoff games in that stretch, which were two of Manning's greatest games (shameless self promotion).  Last season, the Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead against the Broncos, on their way to a 28-16 victory.  The game is probably most memorable for Brandon Marshall catching an NFL record 21 passes, mostly being covered Tim Jennings.  The 2010 version will feature neither player, however.

Speaking of the 2010 version, let's see how the Colts and Broncos match-up:

Here is the statistical match-up through the first 2 weeks of the year (non-adjusted):

Statistic Colts Broncos
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 80.0% 1 72.4% 23 79.4% 3 76.9% 28
ANPY/A 9.174 2 4.362 11 8.236 4 5.862 20
Turnovers 1.00 5 2.00 11 1.00 5 2.00 11
Yds/Drive 41.57 1 27.82 16 38.53 5 37.53 29
ToP/Drive 3:03.0 5 2:32.0 13 3:35.0 1 3:04.0 26
Yds/Play 6.281 3 5.368 22 5.422 12 5.696 26
First Downs/Drive 2.33 4 1.64 19 2.32 5 2.06 27
3rd/4th Down 37.5% 16 41.7% 22 56.3% 2 48.0% 28
Avg Start Pos 28.7 19 26.8 10 26.4 23 29.4 15
3 and Outs 2.00 4 4.50 8 1.50 2 1.00 32
RZ Eff 83.7% 5 81.0% 26 67.9% 14 66.7% 18
Plays/Drive 6.619 4 5.182 11 7.105 1 6.588 27
Penalty Yds / Play 0.921 20 0.658 24 0.778 15 0.991 9
RB Success 47.2% 12 63.6% 31 34.4% 29 47.1% 22
Yds/Carry 3.85 17 5.63 31 2.44 32 4.50 25
Net Punts Yds/Game 34.10 27 40.63 22 33.63 28 44.33 29
Overall 2 17 3 27

Statistical Keys:

  • Like I said above, both offenses have been fantastic so far this season, and the stats agree.  Only the Texans have been better offensively in this young season.  Look for a high scoring, up and down game dominated by the two offenses.
  • When the Colts are on offense, I'm expecting long, 6+ play drives eating away time, as the Colts are very good at Drive Success Rate and Yards / Drive, while the Broncos defense has not been good at those yet this year.  This may also (finally) be the week that 3rd/4th Down Conversions finally get back on track, as the Broncos defense hasn't been good at that yet either.
  • The flip side is a lot more intriguing.  Both the Broncos Offense and the Colts Defense have been good in the passing game, and not good in the running game.  Kyle Orton played extremely well last week against the Seahawks, and he'll have to duplicate his performance for the Broncos to have a chance.  Like the Colts offense, they are Top 5 in the five most important stats, making the task for the Colts defense a little tougher.
  • Why have the Broncos been so successful on offense so far?  Best in the league in Time of Possession / Drive, very few 3 and outs, and consistently converting 3rd downs, which they did not do last year (~38% in 2009).  Getting them in third and long situations, and actually getting them off the field, is a necessity for the Colts.  They did it against the Giants, but can they do it again?
  • Counterintuitive to the high Time of Possessions / Drive is the fact they've been horrible running the ball.  They are last in Yards/Carry and 29th in RB Success Rate.  This is a welcomed change for the Colts defense, who needs to "get the poison out" still from Week 1.  While not as important as the passing match-up, this could be critical late in the game, especially if it is close.

Some other things to watch:

  • The lingering foot injury of Charlie Johnson.  While the Bronco pass rushers aren't at the same level as the Giants, Jeff Linkenbach really struggled last week when he was in there.  If Johnson can't go, look for Brody Eldridge (fresh off his shiny new award) to help protect Manning's backside.
  • Also on the injury front, whether Joseph Addai will be completely healthy.  This, again, is more important for the passing game (blitz pickup), as he's worlds ahead of Donald Brown in that respect.  In terms of running the ball, Brown and Mike Hart, who was a Bronco killer last season, will carry the load just fine.
  • Both Bronco corners did not practice on Wednesday, including Champ Bailey.  Manning is going to go after somebody relatively new, and results should be good.
  • Last year, Orton really only had to look in one direction to complete passes, meaning the pass rush was rendered useless.  Can the secondary force Orton to go through his progressions, letting Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis do their things.  As we learned Sunday night, it only takes 2.5 seconds for them to get to the QB.  Man that's quick.
  • Pat McAfee had 5 touchbacks in 7 kickoffs last week, as well as another one where the Giant returner took the ball out from 8 yards deep.  Now, remember that in Denver, they have that thin air that makes the ball go even farther, so look for some boomers off the foot of McAfee.  He just needs to get them in the air so the coverage team can get down there to cover the returner.  The Colts are giving up way too many return yards.


In my opinion, there is only one team that Manning owns more so than the Broncos, and that's the Ravens.  He always find success, whether it be at home or in Denver, save one game (which I unfortunately was at in 2003).  The Broncos could be playing a Nickel CB on Reggie Wayne because of injuries, which just isn't fair.  Look for the Colts to put up 30+ points again this week, and the defense to just pin their ears back and keep the passes in front of them.  I expect Orton to actually play well, as his style usually leads to success against the Tampa 2.  He must stay mistake free for the Broncos to have a chance.

Colts 34, Broncos 21