To say that the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos have history would be an understatement. Prior to the departure of Peyton Manning, the Broncos were the team who was no real threat in the AFC. Following the departure of Peyton Manning, not only were the Broncos a more legitimate contender for the AFC Championship, they also played an important role in the plight of the Colts new signal caller.
In 2015, the Denver Broncos visited Indianapolis and used their vaunted defense to make life miserable for the Colts. Part of the misery was tracking down the mobile and elusive Andrew Luck while he was trying to avoid capture behind a suspect offensive line and make the most out of an offense that wasn’t necessarily talent-rich. The result? Soft tissue damage to Luck’s abdominal muscles and a lacerated kidney.
Fast-forward to today and the Broncos are team without a quarterback — desperately searching for a replacement to an Indianapolis icon. On the other side of the ball, the Colts are also a team without a legitimate quarterback. For Denver, they have three “would-be” starters who have all failed the test. For Indianapolis, they have a potential Hall of Fame contender in the wings who has not recovered from the beating he took in 2015 — from the Broncos, the Titans, and whoever else happened to beat down the key to the Colts’ future.
If you flash-forward to this weekend there are some things that are the same or similar and some that are completely different. Consider that the Broncos are a quarterback away from being dangerous. The Colts have improved their defense but are also a quarterback away from seeing if they are ready to take another step.
In the midst of all of this, a quarterback who played for the New England Patriots, the team who kept the Broncos’ and Colts’ savior from winning more championships is representing Indianapolis.
5 Keys to a Colts Win
- The Colts have to keep Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders honest. No matter who is throwing the football, Thomas and Sanders represent one of the most dangerous receiving tandems in the NFL. This is particularly important given that the Colts have been unable to create consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Rookies Kenny Moore and Quincy Wilson will play a big role in covering two of the NFL’s best receivers and it could have a big role in the outcome of the game.
- Indianapolis has to establish a running game and stick to it. For the longest time, the Indianapolis Colts have struggled to generate offense on the ground. Even with Frank Gore joining the team a few seasons ago, it was short-yardage and goal-line at best when it came to production. Now, Gore does an excellent job creating offense when he gets opportunities. While rookie Marlon Mack is both inconsistent and a liability in pass protection, he too has shown the ability to break big plays. In this game, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will need to remain disciplined and utilize both players regularly to make things easier on Jacoby Brissett.
- Tarrell Basham needs to show signs of development. No matter what happens during tonight’s match-up with Denver, the Colts need to make adding pass rushing prowess to the team a top priority. With that said, rookie Tarrell Basham is entering the final stages of his rookie season with veteran John Simon on the injured reserve. If Basham hopes to convince General Manager Chris Ballard that he is a part of the team’s future, he should capitalize on his final opportunities in 2017.
- Chester Rogers needs to take his big step forward. There is little denying that the Denver defense is still one of the better units in the NFL. While it may not be as dominant as it was during Peyton Manning’s final seasons, taking the group lightly would be a mistake. The Broncos secondary has been a very talent group and has helped to shut down opponents in the playoffs. While neither team is in the hunt for a meaningful playoff run this season, both could afford to see young players separate themselves from the pack. Chester Rogers is a receiver for the Colts who has shown flashes of potential and who has a chance to distance himself from Donte Moncrief. If the Broncos overlook him, which is entirely possible, he has to punish them for doing so.
- Indy’s defensive line must keep the Broncos offense one-dimensional. With all of the difficulties Denver has had at quarterback, Indianapolis must make it a point to force them to win the game on the arm of their suspect quarterback play. Neither C.J. Anderson or Devontae Booker is particularly scary in the backfield and so all the Colts need to do is play to their defensive strength and stifle Denver on the ground. If they do, the Broncos will have to look to win the game through the air. That could provide Indianapolis with opportunities to force turnovers or get the ball back for Jacoby Brissett and the offense on their way to a hard fought — and likely low scoring — victory.
8:25 PM ET on Thursday, December 14, 2017
Lucas Oil Stadium — Indianapolis, IN
NBC/NFL Network (Thursday Night Football) — Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Heather Cox (sideline)
Amazon Prime Video — Ross Dyer, Tommy Smyth (British English), Armando Quintero, Oscar Benitez (Spanish), Flavio Pereira, Nilton Batata (Portuguese)
WFNI (107.5FM/1070 The Fan) and WLHK (Country 97.1 Hank FM) — Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor (sideline)
Westwood One — Kenny Albert, Tony Boselli
TV National Broadcast Map
See which games will be shown in your area, from 506Sports.com.
(Retractable roof stadium) High-to-mid 20’s, cloudy, 0% chance precipitation, wind SSW 6 mph
Terry McAulay. He is in his 20th year of NFL officiating.
Over/Under: 40.5 | Spread: Broncos (-2.5). (topbet)