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Colts vs. Broncos Week 5 preview: No Taylor, no Williams, low scoring?

Oddsmakers expect a close game in Colts and Broncos contest for TNF

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

As of this writing, Draftkings Sportsbook has the Colts at 3.5 point road underdogs as they face off against the Denver Broncos at Mile High for Thursday Night Football.

There is no sugar-coating or rose-colored glasses allowed amongst Colts fans in 2022, and we’re only four games into a 17-game regular season slate. A few things are extremely likely, although none necessarily apply to the Colts.

The darlings of the NFL in Week 4 are rarely so heading into the season’s final stretch. Multiple playoff teams that will be feared heading into the playoffs are getting mentions in way too early top pick projection stories for next year’s NFL Draft. Few teams who make changes at the quarterback position over the offseason come out of the gates hot.

Perhaps getting acclimated to a new offensive scheme, players, and other personnel takes longer than fans expect.

All those things said, the Colts have failed to put things together to this point, and they’ll now be without their best offensive skill player (Jonathan Taylor) and arguably the heart of their defense (Shaquille Leonard). The Denver Broncos have injury issues of their own, including to their second-year running back Javonte Williams. Many thought Williams would thrive with Russell Wilson’s arm giving opposing secondaries reason to pause. Instead, an ACL tear will cost him the remainder of the season. Similarly, one of Denver’s best defenders Randy Gregory has been placed on injured reserve.

What to make of this game? Tough to say. Both teams are in the same position. The Broncos have shown signs of life on both sides of the football but have never put a full game together or seen both sides of the ball playing well at once. Denver’s offensive line has been bad, and Russell Wilson has had little time to throw. Matt Ryan and the Colts are a mirror image.

I suppose it’s no surprise that oddsmakers are stuck with a 3.5-point line that favors the Broncos at home. In betting parlance, the oddsmakers are giving the Broncos a half-point edge. It could be a nail-biter. Or boring. Or both. Will there be any scoring?

This means it’ll probably be a fun game! If you’ve watched the Colts for any period, you’ll understand.

With that said, the odds that Frank Reich and/or Chris Ballard might be looking for a new job will grow if the losses pile up. There is too much money invested on the offensive line to see Taylor unable to move the football and to see Matt Ryan as one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the NFL. Even Quenton Nelson, the highest-paid guard in NFL history and perennial All-Pro, hasn’t looked great. There was too much attention given to the defensive side of the football to not see Gus Bradley get something going with the weapons around him. Stephon Gilmore was praised as ready to return to his Pro Bowl or All-Pro ways, and he hasn’t done much.

Jim Irsay has been a patient man numerous times. We have seen him patiently slog through the Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano years, even if it ultimately cost Andrew Luck his career. We have seen him show plenty of understanding when Chris Ballard shared a long-term vision of building from within, not unlike Hall of Famer Bill Polian, who helped build a team that won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. He has also shown plenty of restraint with Frank Reich, who has faced challenges without continuity at the quarterback position but has regularly put uninspired football teams on the field, even when a playoff berth is on the line. His teams have earned a tragically comical early-season reputation for digging a hole that has been nearly impossible to recover from.

And yet, the Colts have a chance to turn it all around. A win on Thursday Night gives them a mini-bye week to heal. Following up a win with back-to-back AFC South victories would push them to a winning record and right back into the running for the Division. Is it too much to hope for something like that?

Why so serious?

Colts fans will have to see it to believe it. A lot of jobs may well depend on it.