It has been amazing to see how little press the Indianapolis Colts have been getting on their current 12-0 win streak this season. Outside of the Indianapolis media, it seems as though the Colts looking to go 13-0 for the second time in five seasons is second-hand news. Perhaps the Boys in Blue should be flattered that so many people expect such dominance from them. One thing is for sure, the Indianapolis sports football franchise would not want it any other way.
So who stands in their way of 13-0? The on again/off again Denver Broncos. This is a match-up of two rookie head coaches who quickly silenced their critics by starting the season 6-0. While Denver’s Josh McDaniels then saw his team lose four straight, Jim Caldwell has yet to experience the bitter taste of defeat.
After completing his second straight 6-0 stretch of the season, Caldwell would love nothing more than to see the Colts lockup homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. A Colts win this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis will do just that.
In this match-up of equine elite, it is apparent that the younger of the species has pulled ahead in these final furlongs. Translation: the Indianapolis Colts are a better team than the Denver Broncos. So do the Broncos have a chance this weekend against the mighty Blue Horseshoe? Yes.
The Broncos have knocked off two straight wins after losing for a month solid, and have a very good offense in the Mile High City. It was expected that Denver would be able to put up big numbers on offense,–McDaniels was the architect of the ’07 Patriots that seemed to destroy every offensive NFL record–just not this soon.
Leading their offensive charge is quarterback Kyle Orton who knows a little something about playing pigskin in the state of Indiana. Orton played his college ball in West Lafayette, IN as a member of the Purdue Boilermakers. He is joined in the backfield by Correll Buckhalter and Knownshon Moreno. Although he is just a rookie, Moreno is a big powerful back that can break out for a big gain or even a quick six.
Orton has always been dogged by many for not possessing a very strong throwing arm. That may be, but it has mattered little this season when he has thrown in the direction of Brandon Marshall who seems to make one ridiculous catch after another. Marshall is the new prima donna wide receiver of the NFL,–think Terrell Owens back in San Fransisco– so if the Colts cornerbacks can stifle him early, he might check out mentally.
Rounding out the receiver position for the Broncos are Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley. Royal has big play capability and is their #1 return specialist. Stokley is beloved in the Circle City, and will always be remembered as being part of the XLI Super Bowl Champion Colts team.
The defensive product Denver put on the field last year was a joke. So it has surprised many to see such a vast improvement this season. The Broncos boast the third highest ranked defense in total yards allowed with just 288.9 YPG. While stopping the rush has been their biggest problem this season, Denver is still middle of the pack with the 16th overall run D.
Something has to give in this weekend’s showdown in Indy. The Colts have the best overall passing game in the NFL so far this season with Peyton Manning & Co. averaging 302.8 YPG through the air. And have the fourth ranked overall offense, putting up an average of 390.4 YPG. Denver counters that with a pass defense that has allowed only 180.2 YPG, good enough for second best in the league.
Two reasons for Broncos opponents having difficulty airing it out is outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and a veteran secondary. I know he is playing for the visiting team, but how cool of a name is Elvis Dumervil? The man doesn’t just have a good name, he can play too. Elvis leads the NFL with 15 sacks this year…yeah I said 15.
The Broncos secondary could double as a retirement community, but one of those active over 55 types, not the sit and stare out the window kind. Bringing in veteran Brian Dawkins at safety in the offseason has proven quite beneficial for the Broncos. While Dawkins has always been known to have a bigger bark than bite, he can still lay the wood.
Also hawking the ball when the Colts go vertical will be two cornerbacks that Peyton would rather not see. Champ Bailey not only gives Dumervil a run for his money in the great name department, he is still considered a shutdown corner. And, while he was just recently added to the team, Ty Law still causes Manning to wake up in a cold sweat some nights (think New England, snow, 2004 playoffs).
As for your Indianapolis Colts what is left to say? They are 12-0 and only need to win one of their remaining four games to secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. They won’t provide any huge wrinkles in their game; the Colts just come right at you and say,” try and stop us.” Champ Bailey will be taxed with trying to shut down Reggie Wayne, who seems to make at least one or two big plays each week regardless the attention paid to him by opposing teams.
If Reggie is doubled than Peyton will look to Dallas Clark across the middle. The Indianapolis Colts tight end had a very un-Dallas day last Sunday against the Titans, so look for him to make amends. What are these blasphemies of which I speak? In the first half of the Colts/Titans game, Dallas dropped a short pass from Manning on a big third down play. Yes, it is one of those things that because he has been so good in the past you expect him to make the play every time, nonetheless we expect him to make that play every time.
His bigger faux pas came at the end of the game when he muffed, or more accurately put, booted the ball on a Titans onside kick. While it really had no effect on the outcome of the game, you never want to see that from your Colts.
If Clark can’t get open than guess what, here comes the flying Frenchman. Peirre Garcon had a career day last week finishing with 6 receptions for 136 yards. Throw into the mix that Austin Collie is still producing for the Colts and things are looking good through the air. Collie had the only Indianapolis touchdown reception in last week’s game.
What needs to be watched is the Colts running game, or more accurately the emergence of the Colts running game. His numbers are not amazing, but Joseph Addai has quietly become a huge factor in Indy’s offense over the last month and a half. Addai added two more touchdowns against the Titans and has a total of nine this season, six of which have come in the last seven weeks.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Colts prove week in and week out that they are for real. Every week it seems to be a new name called as the difference maker, and maybe this is why they are not getting the attention they deserve. Then again, can anything truly compete with the legend of Mr. Manning?
Dwight Freeney got off the snide with his first sack in over a month last week, and you can bet he would love to show sack-leader Dumervil whose house it is this weekend. Robert Mathis missed all of the second half last week with a Quad injury and is still questionable for this weekend’s affair. In fact, it looks as though he will miss this week as a precautionary measure.
Speaking of hurt players, the Indianapolis Colts injury report could almost double as their roster at this point. Take a look at this, and try not to cringe. You know things are bad when your backup quarterback is placed on IR for the remainder of the season, even without playing in a real game in over a month. I touched on the topic earlier in the week, so check out this link to see what the Colts do without Jim Sorgi.
Well at this point, it is no longer a prediction as much as a statement. I pick the Colts until someone stops them. Do the Broncos have a chance? Sure they do. Does it look good? Nope. The Indianapolis Colts want to lockup home field advantage and start getting guys healthy. It may end up being the Colts themselves that become the only team capable of stopping their winning ways.
With a win on Sunday, the thinking part of the game kicks in, and amazingly, this will be when Colts Country becomes most nervous. Should Indy rest its players, or should they keep playing to hang on to the physical and mental edge they have held all season? History has shown that this tactic while often employed, has hardly worked well come Colts postseason time.
Is it sacrilege to want the Colts to lose a few of these last four games just so they are forced to keep their starters playing? Yes it is. As much as you want to keep the momentum going, you have to wrap up homefield as soon as possible. You can keep the thought in the back of your mind that losing won’t be the worst thing, but don’t mention it out loud.
It comes down to this; the Colts have some of the best veteran leadership in all of the NFL, both on the field and off. They will decide how the franchise proceeds so all you can do is sit back, try to relax and enjoy the ride. Finally, did I have too many questions in this week’s article? I dunno, what do you think?
Monday afternoon will bring you great wisdom and fortune…well maybe not fortune and maybe not wisdom, but you can expect a complete wrap up of this weekend’s game, so you’ve got that going for you.
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