Sunday is not just another game day for the Denver Broncos. This week, they play for #11 Kenny McKinley. They play for his family, his friends, and his legacy. Then, the Broncos will play for themselves. As a very tough Indianapolis Colts (1-1) team lands on the tarmac at Denver International Airport, I hope they notice the somber skies surrounding Denver that always follows a Broncos player’s death. As the mental preparations are probably tougher than past weeks, the team will need to harness all of its energy to get this win. The last time the Broncos and Colts met was in December of 2009 where the Colts beat the Broncos 28-16. The game was actually closer than the score indicates as the Broncos made a push for a 4th quarter comeback. The major difference this go around is that the game is now in Denver against a Broncos team that’s never been more motivated to win. My Prediction: Broncos 31 Colts 28
Broncos - The offense clicked last week, and if there’s any chance that the Broncos are going to win, they need to keep pace with Peyton Manning and Co. With the Colts intense pass rush, the offensive line is key in giving Kyle Orton enough time to advance the ball. Veteran linemen Ryan Harris and Chris Kuper returned to practice on Wednesday, but their game day status is unknown at this point. Harris, Kuper, and Ryan Clady have yet to suit up together this season so having the three of them back would be a tremendous help. The Broncos will need to average more than their 1.9 yards per carry that they had against the Seahawks. Keeping Manning off the field is the best way to stop him, so the rushing game needs to be effective.
Colts- Life in the Colts offense is typically plush. So far this season, Peyton Manning has 6 TD passes and 0 INTs. They’ve got running power in the backfield now in addition to Manning’s arm. This team is the ultimate nightmare for defensive coordinator, Don “Wink” Martindale. Wink will certainly be losing winks of sleep before Sunday. Against the Giants, the Colts had 250 yards passing and 160 yards rushing. Both Joseph Addai and Donald Brown who were heavily used (36 carries combined) averaged over 4 yards per carry on the ground. This no-huddle offense knows how to use top receivers Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Dallas Clark. This is a 50,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that the Broncos can only hope to understand.
Broncos - The major factor in stopping the Colts ultimate offense is whether or not starting cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are healthy enough to play. If Bailey (right heel) and Goodman (thigh) can’t go, rookie Perrish Cox and Cassius Vaughn will fill in. The pass rush has got to come from somewhere because giving Manning time in the pocket is as good as depositing money in the bank. Their pass defense (11th) has been much better than their rush defense (22nd). D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins are leading the team in tackles while three players have one interception a piece.
Colts- The Colts have great pass rushers in Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Mathis and Freeny already have 3 sacks a piece on the season. The Colts have forced 4 turnovers and have 9 pass deflections in their first two games. Their pass defense is ranked 4th while their run defense is ranked 32nd. That is the major weakness of the Colts defense. The Broncos have a great opportunity here to advance the ball on the ground while chewing time off the clock. This a.) keeps Manning out of the game, and b.) gives Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter a chance to really get into a rhythm. Antoine Bethea is the team’s leading tackler.
Broncos - Kicker Matt Prater has been on target all season. Kickoff coverage has shown moments of brilliance, but they’ve also let returners break for major yardage. Against the Colts, making Manning work for all 100 yards is important, so coverage has to be spot on.
Colts- Adam Vinatieri hasn’t had many opportunities to kick field goals since he’s mostly kicking extra points. In any case, he’s yet to miss on the season. Devin Moore and Jerraud Powers handle the return duties and neither one has had a breakout run.
Broncos - After an emotionally charged week, Josh McDaniels is ready to take on the business at hand. He is trying to push the win streak to two against an incredibly tough team. Coming from AFC foe, New England, McDaniels has seen Manning enough times to at least know how to trip him up during the game.
Colts- Jim Caldwell’s famous line to his defense after the Colts’ loss to the Texans was “Don’t do more. Do less. Do it better.” That’s been Caldwell’s approach since taking over the Colts. They’ve always got a simple playbook with a few variations. They execute the plays so well that there’s no need to overcompensate.
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