In many people’s eyes, this is the game of the week. Peyton Manning returns to Lucas Oil Stadium to face his successor, Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, the Colts have never lost two straight games in the Luck/Chuck Pagano era. Throw in the fact that Von Miller is back on the field after sitting through a six game suspension, and toss in some spicy Jim Irsay comments. Now you have enough dramatics to even make Days of Our Lives’ characters stutter.
Here are our five keys to a Denver Broncos victory:
1. Make Robert Mathis irrelevant
Perhaps no one on the Colts’ defense wants to hit Manning as hard as Mathis. They played together for eight seasons and Mathis wasn’t allowed to lay a finger on his teammate in practice. Now the NFL’s sack leader (9.5 sacks through six games), Mathis has his opportunity. This often-changing (due to injuries) offensive line has to stay the course and protect Manning. They’ve only given up five sacks on the year thus far.
2. Let Von Miller attack
Denver’s blitzes haven’t been well disguised the past few games. They can do more with Miller in the lineup, however. Miller is bigger and stronger, adding about 15 pounds of muscle while dropping 2% body fat. He’s reportedly just as fast, too. Andrew Luck is a cerebral player with a great ability to recognize the blitz and get the ball out quickly. The disguises will have to be better, but Jack Del Rio will have to release the beast. Once Miller is let loose, guys like Derek Wolfe, Shaun Phillips, and Robert Ayers should see plenty more one-on-one matchups.
3. Get a handle on the turnovers
The Broncos’ turnovers kept Jacksonville hanging around until halftime last week. This Colts offense is a lot more potent, so if they have extra time opportunities, they’ll take advantage of them. Manning and Manny Ramirez have undoubtedly worked extra hard this week on the delivery from under center.
4. Moreno up the middle
The Colts are giving up 132.0 yards per game on the ground, and they’re particularly vulnerable in the middle of the field. Moreno is putting up 4.7 yards per carry, and he leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (7). Once Moreno can get a few big carries, the team’s four big passing targets will be available.
5. Keep it business-like
This is a game where emotions for everyone involved could run exceptionally high. A pregame tribute to the opposing team’s quarterback before the game? That’s almost unheard of in the NFL. Manning should remain cool as the other side of the pillow, but his young teammates could catch the jitters.