By Christian S. Kohl
With the Colts and Broncos squaring off this week on Sunday Night Football, some are wondering if Indy, at home with a 4-2 record, can deal the juggernaut Broncos their very first loss of the season. Is this the week Denver falls?
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It goes without saying that Denver revolves around Peyton Manning. That team can survive any individual injury to any given player…except for Manning. The season obviously rests on his shoulders. So two points concerning Manning are worth noting this week. First, very obviously, this is not exactly a conventional road game for him. Not only is he intimately familiar with the stadium and setting, there is enough love for him remaining in that city that, suffice it to say, more hostile environments could be found.
Second, his focus and preparation is unrivaled. He may not be one who needs “bulletin board material” for motivation, but the comments this week by Jim Irsay could not have helped matters at all. Any additional determination by Manning to deliver a victory is not something the Indy defense needed in their lives.
In addition, the Denver defense now finds itself at full strength. Von Miller returns from suspension this week, and the nagging injury to Champ Bailey appears to have subsided as well. Every aspect of this Denver attack is as formidable as ever. The Indy defense is not easily trampled, however; they are fifth in the league in points allowed, and that will be the pivotal factor in a contest against an opponent who seemingly scores a touchdown on every possession. If Luck can attack the Denver secondary with deep strikes and big plays, as the Colts D generates stops or FG attempts, this could turn into a hard-fought affair. If nothing else, this is the best chance to see Denver play in a game this season that is not a route.
The instability of the Indy run game along with the unshakable steadiness of Manning tips the scale of this one in favor of the Broncos. The Colts will need not just some, but all the breaks to go their way to come out ahead by the end of Sunday night. Such a victory will involve throwing a great deal at Manning he is not ready for, and to this point in the year, absolutely nothing has. Look for Denver to score in the high 30′s and Indy to battle hard for at least two quarters but fade late. There is no doubt at this point that Peyton Manning wants this one, and Indy doesn’t quite yet possess the tools to stop him a high percentage of the time. If Trindon Holliday finds any way to contribute as well, the ballgame is over. Denver wins this week, both here and on the field in Indianapolis.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.