There are two unbeaten teams left in the NFL. One of them comes to Indianapolis this Sunday. The Denver Broncos, sitting at 6-0, are widely regarded as the league's best team and have unquestionably the league's best player in Peyton Manning. And oh yeah, Jacob Tamme and Winston Justice also return to Indy, so that's cool. Seriously, though, this game is one of the biggest in the NFL this year and is the biggest regular season game in Colts history. Peyton Manning returns. NBC will broadcast the game on Sunday Night Football, with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth calling the game. Westwood One Sports radio will broadcast the game nationally with Kevin Kugler and James Lofton doing the game, but for Indy folks, the legendary Bob Lamey will call the game with Jim Sorgi on WFNI and WHLK. Here's your primer getting you ready for Sunday's game.
What Happened Last Week?
The Colts laid an egg, that's what. They stunk. They absolutely stunk. They were out coached. They couldn't catch. Their defense couldn't get off the field. Their special teams was outplayed. In nearly every aspect, the Colts were outplayed, and that resulted in a 19-9 loss that could have been a lot worse. But here's the positive - the Colts are still 4-2 on the season, a very good mark. They also are first in the AFC South and have notched wins over the 49ers and Seahawks, among others. They'll be fine.
After being a record favorite, the Broncos were actually booed at home for their showing in a win. Seriously. The Broncos were expected to crush the Jaguars, but people connected to the NFL should realize that any team can hang with anybody on any given day. The Jaguars put up a good fight, but the Broncos were just clearly the much, much better team and they won 35-19, bringing their season record up to 6-0.
The Biggest Regular Season Game in Colts History:
Think that's an overstatement? Nah. Start with the greatest player in Colts history, and that's undoubtedly Peyton Manning. Then imagine him going to another team and then coming back to Indianapolis to play against the Colts. That's big. The stakes are huge for Jim Irsay and Andrew Luck. The stakes are huge for Peyton Manning. The Colts will honor number 18. The fans will cheer number 18. A lot of them will be behind the Colts when the game starts. But a significant amount will still cheer on Peyton Manning. You won't find these type of story lines anywhere else in NFL history, really. And to top it off, it's a game between two of the NFL's best teams too. I am absolutely comfortable with saying this is the biggest regular season game in Colts history.
Are the Broncos Beatable?
Yes. The answer is yes. But it's really hard to do. Look, I think the defense is beatable and not nearly as good as some people do. The Jaguars showed that last week. I've made my thoughts known that the Colts need to let Andrew Luck throw the ball. The Colts can score against the Broncos, there's no doubt in my mind. The real question is whether they'll be able to outscore the Broncos. I watched every game Peyton Manning played and dissected them like crazy. If you try to get inside his head, well, you won't. [As a side note, if anybody could get inside Peyton's head it is the Colts. Peyton will be super emotional before the game Sunday and that's about the only way to get in his head.] Too many teams focus too much on stopping Peyton. The focus actually needs to be on stopping his receivers.
Let me explain: there is only one team and one way that I have ever seen consistently beat Peyton Manning, and that is the Patriots early on in the decade. How'd they do it? They tackled the Colts' receivers before they even got the ball. That will no longer work, as the NFL has turned completely around and now favors the quarterbacks in calls like that. But getting in his receiver's heads and stopping them is an easier task than stopping Peyton, though it's still a very hard one. Another note is that teams try to stop Peyton by sending blitzes, and that certainly works some. But you need to get pressure with a standard rush to have consistent success against him - that's why Robert Mathis will be key. He's pretty much the only one on this Colts team capable of doing that and getting consistent pressure [Another side note, I'm really really hoping Mathis gets a sack on Peyton. He really wants to.]
At this point, you may be thinking: "Josh, that sounds impossible." Yes, it would seem that way. But if you play great against his receivers, pressure him with a standard rush, and add a little bit of Luck in to it, then you have a recipe for beating the Broncos. And luckily for the Colts, they have the best Luck in the league.
- Bjoern Werner, LB (foot)
- Darius Butler, CB (groin)
- Kelvin Sheppard, LB (hamstring)
- Jerrell Freeman, LB (concussion)
- Delano Howell, S (neck)
- LaRon Landry, S (ankle)
The Colts absolutely have a shot in this game. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't be surprised to see them pull out the win. This is an extremely emotional game and a game between two good teams. The Colts can win Sunday, and I explained how above. I wouldn't be surprised if they win. That said, I'm taking the Broncos in a close one. For all of the reasons why the Colts can win it, there's the part about me not thinking Peyton Manning will let his team lose this one in the "House that Peyton Built." Colts 27, Broncos 31