Our Indianapolis Colts are in Denver this week for Thursday Night Football. With the team’s first prime-time game approaching, I sat down with Ian St. Clair of Mile High Report, SB Nation’s Denver Broncos blog. Ian can be found on Twitter @IanStClair. We swapped questions about the Colts and the Broncos and what follows is what I learned about this week’s enemy.
Chris: I have to ask this question because it’s at least 50% of what I think about when I think about the Broncos this season. While I’m sure most Broncos fans enjoy having Russell Wilson around, he might be the most cringeworthy personality in the NFL, how are Broncos fans dealing with the “Mr. Unlimited” experience?
Ian: This is one of those instances where you take the good with the cringeworthy. If he was bad like Drew Lock or some of the other QBs we’ve had to stomach since Peyton Manning retired, that would be too much. The thing that makes it even worse is he doesn’t know he’s cringeworthy. Or Wilson does and he’s just playing 3-D chess. But added with the good is what Wilson is already doing in the Denver community. Every week he visits Children’s Hospital and gives those kids a reason to smile. I’ll take the cringeworthy for what he does to help so many kids.
Chris: Through four games the Broncos have given up the fourth fewest yards and fifth fewest points in the NFL, while the offense is 21st and 29th respectively. It seems fair to assume the defense has carried the team until this point. Are the offensive struggles a surprise for Broncos fans?
Ian: That’s a fair assessment. But aside from the win over the San Francisco 49ers, it’s not like Wilson and the Broncos offense has been “bad.” In the first two games in particular, Wilson and the offense just couldn’t finish drives. Of course when the offense starts to put it together against the Las Vegas Raiders, the defense stays at the casino to gorge on the buffet. There was an expectation that the Broncos defense would slip a bit, just not as much as it did against the Raiders. And it was only a matter of time for Wilson and the offense to finish drives. It would just be nice to see both sides of the ball finally complement each other.
Chris: DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos as 3.5 point favorites. Is that fair or should the Broncos be bigger favorites?
Ian: That number seems right to me. When you consider where both teams stand at this point, plus the fact the Broncos are at home. That’s probably the biggest reason the spread sits where it is. If this game was in Indy, I would think the line would be Denver -1 or even a pick’em.
Chris: It has been announced that Randy Gregory and Javonte Williams will miss Thursday’s game (and Williams the rest of the season). Do you expect to see much of a change on either side of the ball given these losses?
Ian: These are both two huge losses for the Broncos, and in completely different ways. The loss of Gregory hurts right now, while the loss of Williams will be felt over the course of the season. Gregory was off to an incredible start and the Broncos aren’t exactly loaded at edge players. To replace the output of Gregory with a rookie or second-year player just isn’t going to happen. But the loss of Gregory will also impact Bradley Chubb. Now instead of having to block two guys who were off to great starts, the Colts can load up to slow down Chubb. As for Williams, he hadn’t really done much through the first four games, but Denver will feel his loss over the remainder of the season. Of course, that also means Melvin Gordon will get the ball more, which means the high probability of fumbles. He’s fumbled four times in four games this season. If you go back to Week 17 last season, Gordon has fumbled five times in five games. The addition of Latavius Murray should help, just not on Thursday.
Chris: Early reports are that the Broncos offensive line has been a liability so far this season, despite a great effort. In what ways have they struggled, and should Colts fans expect to see the defense get after Russell Wilson on Thursday night?
Ian: That’s putting it mildly. Denver’s offensive line has been awful to start the season. There have been a few flashes, especially against that 49ers defense, but for the most part it has just been bad. It’s been bad in pass blocking. It’s been bad in run blocking. So at least it’s consistent in that regard. There have been very few times that Wilson has had a clean pocket or a running back doesn’t get hit at or behind the line of scrimmage. And it’s not like one aspect or player is holding the line back. It’s the interior guys and the tackles. Now, the Broncos have been hit by injuries with right guard Quinn Meinerz dealing with a hamstring injury since Week 1 and right tackle Billy Turner not seeing the field yet this season. If one or both are available on Thursday, that should help. But Colfs fans should still expect to see regular pressure on Wilson throughout the game.
I thank Ian for taking the time to answer my questions and make this article possible. This game seems to be between two teams teetering on the edge. Neither team has played up to their preseason expectation, and both teams have just as good of a chance to win this game.
Thursday night games are awful, and they should be eliminated every week but Thanksgiving. The NFL will never do that, but they should. I believe this game will come down to a war of attrition. These guys just played a few days ago, and players from both teams will get hurt tonight. This game could go either way, I truly believe it’s impossible to predict, and I’m positive it will tell us no more about these teams once the game is over because it’s a Thursday night game.
The only bet I will consider taking is Michael Pittman Jr. to hit his over for receiving yards. No matter what you do with your money, you can find updated lines at DraftKings Sportsbook.