18 Things to Watch in Sunday's Colts-Broncos Game
Daddy's home and he's pissed.
Last week, the Colts got a reality check in the form of a bloody nose at the hands of the San Diego Chargers. This week, they take on the Denver Broncos in what is easily the most anticipated NFL game of 2013. So step right up, ladies and gentlemen, the circus is in town and Peyton is back. Here's what to watch for...
1. Watch for the comparison. Obviously Manning and Luck are the stars of the show, so why fight it? The worst comparisons you'll see this week will be comparing Manning through 22 games to Luck through 22 games. It's bad because everyone knows Manning's rookie year was out of line with the rest of his career. LOTS of players are better than Manning through 22 games. However, Manning made the leap before his second season, instead, lets compare the players through the first six games of their second seasons.
Now we are just getting eerie. Manning played in a more vertical offense so his YPA was amazing. But, he threw more picks to go with more touchdowns and had a lower completion percentage. Matching Peyton Manning through year one? Meh. Matching Peyton Manning through year two? Now that's an accomplishment. You want something to feel good about this weekend. Stare at that chart for a while.
2. Watch for the stars. Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James are coming back for this. I have no idea what Irsay has planned, but if he's pulling out those guys, it's got to be something. As I mentioned on the radio yesterday, I don't think Peyton can be happy about this little ceremony. He wants to only focus on the game, so I think there's a little bit of gamesmanship at play here. Regardless of what happens on the field, the chance to see Marvin, Edge and Peyton together again is worth the price of admission.
3. Watch for the price of admission. Tickets are going for double and triple face value, and that number should only climb. Season ticket holders get screwed as they are forced to pay for preseason tickets, but games like this are their chance to make some money back. We sold two of our four seats already and it helped offset the cost of the rest of the year. Ticket prices are a little lower right now than I would have guessed, and you can still get in the game for under $200. That's a lot of coin, but not outrageous. It will be interesting to see if prices climb by game time.
4. Watch the crowd. I've made my feelings on what I'll wear and how I'll cheer on Sunday well known, but I can't wait to see what the crowd will do. Manning is still incredibly popular, and if he lays a whipping on the Indy D, I suspect the crowd will start to openly cheer him late in the game. If the Colts hang tough, they may turn on him. Either way, it's going to be fascinating. There are many reasons I want to be at this game, but as a Colts historian, I want to be there to take the temperature inside the Luke that night. No idea what's going down, but it will go a long way to framing the story of football in Indianapolis.
5. Watch for the fallout. Irsays's comments earlier this week were deplorably and incoherent and Peyton sounds pissed. Manning has an eff-you mode that can rival Bill Belichick's. I have no doubt that he kept throwing touchdown passes on the Ravens because he did not like Joe Flacco's picture hung up in Denver. Irsay had the chance in 2012 to 'bet on' Manning and passed. Don't kid yourself that Peyton doesn't take that personally and use it as fuel. He's mad, and if the Colts manage to beat him, it will be a serious accomplishment. Remember his "I'll kick your ass for the next 14 years" comment to Polian before the draft? Well, he's not here anymore so I'd say the ass kicking is about to begin. Long-term, I worry that Irsay's comments will have a permanent chilling effect on Manning's ability to return to Indy. I'd love to see him be Elway in this city some day, but that's only going down if the boss keeps his mouth shut.
6. Watch the standings. A win by Indy and a loss by the Texans could all but seal up the AFC South before the bye week. The Titans play the 49ers, so a Colts win could extend their lead past where fans have to worry about the postseason. But should the Colts fall back to 4-3 and either Tennessee or Houston post an upset, everyone is going to start feeling uneasy. Next up after Denver is a tough prime-time game against the Texans. Houston isn't a good team, but I can't believe they are quite as bad as they've looked. That's no lay-up game. If the Colts aren't careful, they could find themselves back at .500 before long. If the Colts are truly an elite team in the AFC, they'll get the chance to prove it. A good showing (win or lose) against Denver and a road victory at Houston, and they'll be sitting pretty in the second half.
7. Watch for the 09 Dolphins. The Colts have to be dying to try and play keep away from the Broncos. Remember that 09 MNF game where Miami held it for 45 minutes and lost? That's the script Pagano wants to follow. Maybe Indy will try and go up and down the field with Denver, but I doubt it. I expect a lot of Trent Richardson early and often (side note: If Donald Brown had rushed for 4.0 yards a carry with a dropped pass and blown block, fans would have killed him. /rant). Pagano believes in his brand of football, so look for the Colts to do ball control, short passes and to try and keep Manning off the field.
8. Watch for the weak link. Greg Toler and Delono Howell were abused Monday by Phil Rivers, and we've all seen what Manning does when he spots a vulnerable player. Manning will go after Toler all night as he's been basically terrible in coverage this year (88.9 passer rating against). Vontae Davis hasn't been as good as fans think, but he's been credible. Toler has not. As for Howell, hopefully he won't see the field. LaRon Landry has been practicing, so if he can go, the Indy defense gets a lot tougher.
9. Watch the video. My brother Luke has been aggressive and surly all week. Now that may be cute for those of you who follow him on Twitter, but I have to sit with the dude. He's been in a bad mood and called me several times just angrily rant against those who dare besmirch the name of Manning. I've promised to take video of him during the game and post it on Twitter. I try to keep my feed PG-13, but these posts may come with a NC-17 warning. Of course, it could go the other way. He could be so bummed by watching "Pey-Pey", that he slumps in his seat all catatonic. Either way, I'll be entertained.
10. Watch for the aggression. Guess who has two thumbs and hated Pagano's decisions to punt late in the Chargers game? That kind of conservative play will not fly against Manning. Pagano needs to coach this game much the way Sean Payton did in the Super Bowl. He has to steal possessions. If the Colts have the lead late in a close game, they had better stay aggressive, because if they punt back to Manning, they'll lose. This is the kind of game where a coach has to take his game to the next level just like his players. It's an excellent test for Pagano.
11.Watch for the hand off. As much as we all expect Manning to come out guns blazing, don't think he didn't see the Chargers ripping off huge runs against the Indy defense. Manning is going to give his running backs plenty of work Sunday night. The Colts have one of the worst rushing defenses in football, and we know Manning will take what he can get. I'm not saying he's going to play circa-2005 Manning-ball, but there will be plenty of runs.
12. Watch for the response. So, Andrew Luck. Remember him? He's normally the story of any Colts game, but not this week. He's coming off a disappointing game in which his receivers took a collective dump on his reputation by dropping roughly 135% of the passes he threw to them. They dropped so many passes, that at one point Heyward-Bey dropped a pass, picked up the ball and dropped it again just out of spite. So now with all the attention on Manning, it's Luck's turn to come up huge and prove that he's everything that was promised. He wasn't to blame for the loss Monday, but how he responds in a tight spot is worth watching. He's going against a vulnerable secondary, so look for a big game out of him. Denver is the mirror of Indy. Same quality defense, but much better against the run than the pass. Luck will have to win this game if it is to be won.
13. Watch for gap. Denver has the best special teams play in the NFL. Indy is basically average. The Colts have solid kickoff coverage units, but the Broncos have the best return game in football. Trindon Holiday is as much better than David Reed as the gap between any two other opposite players on the field. Pat McAfee has struggled punting, but his kickoffs have been mostly strong. The Colts need him to have a huge game as they can't allow any extra advantages for Denver.
14. Watch for the myths. The misinformation surrounding Manning's departure continues. I've read every one of these myths in the press this week. Many from guys who should know better. If we are going to have a Luck v. Manning debate, can we at least get the facts correct? The best part about going to the game will be not having to listen to the pregame blather. The evaluation of Luck and Manning is a complex one. There's no simple answer, and there may be more than one right answer. Is it too much to ask that we handle the issue with the complexity it deserves? Anyone who tells you that it's obvious what the Colts should have done because of X, is probably not someone to listen to on the matter.
15. Watch for fatigue. I haven't written 18 points in a long time, so I know that point 14 was just a rehash of a column I already wrote, but go easy. I'm out of practice. I forgot how long it takes to do one of these bad boys, so if I cheated a little bit in point 14, I hope you understand. Plus, I wanted to pimp that article, because honestly it's really good, and I wish everyone should read it. I don't always feel that way about my pieces, but I'm aware when I've written something killer, and that one was important. So thanks for understanding.
16. Watch for disgust. I'm not ok with Wes Welker. I never will be ok with Wes Welker. For one, his first name is Wes. You know who else is named Wes? Wesley Crusher. Ok, so also Wes Anderson, but mostly WESLEY CRUSHER. Watching Peyton Manning throw to Wes Welker makes me feel like this. I don't want to feel like that. You want me to turn on Peyton Manning? Having him throw to Wes Welker 200 times a year might just do it. The problem is that Sunday night, it's going to happen a lot. Welker leads the world in DYAR and the Colts aren't very good against second receivers. Things could get...uncomfortable.
17. Watch the first of many. The scene this weekend is going to be replayed every year until Peyton retires. Indy is going to keep winning the South. Denver is going to keep winning the West. They'll play at least once and maybe twice every year. Manning v. Luck isn't going away. I expect Peyton to play another three seasons at least, so we'll see this matchup over and over. If you think this was bad, just wait until the inevitable playoff matchup takes place. That will be delightful.
18. Watch for a reckoning. Manning didn't like getting cut, and there's no way he liked Irsay's insane comments this week. He is going to bludgeon the Colts without mercy. I don't think Indy can keep up. Broncos 48 Colts 31.
Ah 18... I see what you did there.
So, with 20/20 post-game hindsight, I'll point out that their passer ratings were just a hair apart, like the chart above. Something like 99.3 and 99.6. Amazing. And eerie.
Nate, I bet the Star Wars loving Dunlevy clan enjoyed the Samsung telephone commercials with the entire family dressed up, including the dog and the baby hanging off dad's chest as Leia in a bikini. It's no taun-taun sleeping bag, but hey, what is? I understand those things are warm, but smell worse inside than they do outside.
Damn Kravitz for making me read him again. But for all the classic Wormtonguing in there, this quote was worth it:
"I asked if he knew where the Lucas Oil Stadium visitor's locker room was located.
He shook his head.
"I'll just follow the arrows," he said with a smile."
Great one, Nate. Love the fact that it was 18 this week.
I think you're exactly right on #5. Did you happen to hear Barnwell's comments on the Grantland NFL podcast this week? To Irsay's criticism that Polian spent too much on offense, Barnwell wondered what the hell he thinks is going to happen when Luck and Richardson's rookie deals expire the same year? (Plus Allen, Hilton and Fleener...)
At least you're spotting the Colts 31. This week has been terrible. Im getting around to reading everyone's Manning stuff slowly. It's certainly bringing out the best in the CA staff. It's fantastic... torture.
Oh, and if you haven´t read Mike Tanier ´s Game Riffs this week, check it out. The Bills at Dolphins paragraph is eerily reminiscent of the Richardson situation. An extract (about FA signing Mike Wallace):
Rationalization. "He is forcing safeties to play deep, which is totally opening things up for Charles Clay. That's what you really want from your highly-paid deep-threat receiver, after all: opportunities for your tight end."
This should be fun.
I'm not sure Irsay's comments were an indictment of Peyton though...and he clarified that, why the continued punching of the owner?
As far as the game goes, we can't get into a Dallas-like shootout with them, we don't have enough bullets in our chamber BUT I can see a game where last one with the ball wins... Jacksonville did some interesting things despite getting blown out, maybe we can build on that...Love Peyton and support him every week but I'm on the Luck train 100%, #12 WILL stand up and fight, lets hope the coaches let him.
Loved the article, loved point #18.
Broncos 42 Colts 35
Look, I usually like this site, the authors, the articles but this worshiping of Manning at the expense of the Colts franchise is getting me tired and annoyed although I am a Peyton Manning fan as well.
I want the Colts to win this game so bad and I even got myself to believe they will. Go Colts!
I just knew you were going to tell me that Irsay is a naive man/child, who just stupidly Ace Ventura style speaks out of his ass.
Regardless of how contrived his idiotic remarks were, here is something else that occurred to me... will they have any impact on voters for Marvin getting into the Hall of Fame? Will citing those "Star Wars" stats like they were "easy" to achieve and really meant nothing compared to winning Super Bowls, subconsciously effect voters when they are considering #88?
Perhaps I worry too much, as Marvin should absolutely be a no brainer, but it just seems when his owner is making remarks basically disparging his achievements... what it that going to say to voters.
I thought I would never say this, but the good thing about Mad Jack as the defensive coordinator for the Broncos, is he knows what the best way to beat Manning is. So he has built the defense that teams haven't been able to play keep away, by grinding out 3 and 4 yard runs, time and time again.
The ironic thing about this is that by shutting off the Colts ability to run, they will have to put the game more in Luck's hands, which may actually work to the Colts's advantage.
"Remember that 09 MNF game where Miami held it for 45 minutes and lost? That's the script Pagano wants to follow."
I agree. And it's awfully telling that the ideal Pagano script ended with a loss...
So Irsay takes a dump on the previous decades success because he prefers the "Dolphins" model. Hard to disagree with that logic. I wish someone would explain to Irsay that repeatedly smashing your RB out of power formations doesn't only limit the opportunities of the opposing teams QB.
The new philosophy continues to confuse. If the Colts were truly ballanced, wouldn't they attack the other teams weakness rather than being so stubborn in their own approach? SD's pass D is terrible. Colts run it. That isn't balance.
I won't ramble about it. Just to read "watch for 09 Dolphins" and it not be a joke is kinda sad. To think that the "brass" of this teams thinks that running against stacked boxes with a FB helps Luck, the run game, or the teams chances of winning is not only sad, it's stupid.
Good read. I expect a similar result.
Colts win if
Trent carries the ball 20 times, and can move the chains. I'm not a believer that the YPC matter, but he needs to continue to show the ability to get 6 when we need 5 or get 3 when we need 2. He needs to be able to move the chains, and keep the Colts offense on the field.
Colts carry the ball 25-30 times and limit Peyton's possessions.
Greg Toler shows up. Gonna need to be able to play man against the Broncos to blitz Peyton and make him force decisions. Toler has been terrible as of late, and has been the subject of every OC's gameplanning. Peyton will see that, and will test him early and often.
Let Luck play. Let the guy use his ability to make plays.
Lastly, Colts need to win the turnover battle and win TOP.
Reading this column was something I was looking forward to all week long, Nate, and you didn´t disappoint. Thank you. Like you, I´m particularly intrigued by #4. This game will, no matter what happens, stay in the annals of NFL history just for the reactions of the fans, which I suspect will be mixed even at the beginning of the game. And as for #9, curious to see what Luke says when he doesn´t hold back! Watching you two at this game would deserve its own broadcast, no doubt.
As for coaching, we might all be pleasantly surprised and see Pagano up his performance, but I´m not holding my breath on it. Fox, on the other hand, his challenge during the last game notwithstanding, has been more aggressive this year, and has generally done a very good job with ingame decisions, so even if Pagano tries to curtail Peyton´s time on the field, I don´t expect his opponent to help him with that.
Most anticipated game of the season no doubt, and Peyton in Destroy Mode makes it all the more historic. Enjoy this game on Sunday, we all know what Manning means to you, and I´ll follow your Twitter feed assiduously to find out what your impressions on Marvin and Edge´s presence were.
"Bludgeon without mercy"
Ouch. I definitely agree, but seeing the words in print makes me ache a bit.
I'm staring at the chart. I'm thinking about Irasy's stated desire not to build around the QB. I'm feeling sad when I should be ecstatic.
@codrutc 18 didn't, but I actually feel great about the other 17 points. I think this article holds up great afterward.
Denver turned the ball over. The redzone fumble and the punt fumble were huge plays that swung 14 points off the final score.
Point 13 was salient.
You don't always predict the outcome correctly, but the goal of a preview piece is to hit the right notes. I think this did that.
@pierrezombie And there´s also the fact that defense has proved to be more variable year to year, whereas with a great offense, you maintain more continuity in performance. All in all, it looks like the wake-up call is poised to be brutal.
My sincere apologies to GregC , who made the same point on Check it To Authoritarians, in more detail and with a really enjoyable amount of angst. Sorry Greg! I was saving the best for last and just heard it this morning.
@pierrezombie I didn't, but exactly.
@codrutc I hope they do. I just don't see how it's possible. I can't come up with any reasonable path to a close game, let alone victory.
@DougEngland Yuck. I hadn't thought of that. Now you have me worried.
@DougEngland oh my god. i never even thought about that. Mad Jack might actually be a genius after all.
@psvirsky Good Point. That is whole reason I don't quite understand the run and stop the run. People tried to do it to you and rarely succeeded. Why follow an approach that failed against the best QBs, and lets face it at some point in the playoffs you are going to face an elite QB.
Nate, which is more painful? Watching Peyton throw it to Welker, or watching the Colts trying to establish a power running game?
@Fullbacks Win Championships love the ironic name.
@steveb19 Don't forget to use the fullback!
@steveb19 It doesn't matter if they limit Peyton's possessions if they don't score points on theirs. Unless they steal a possession, Peyton will have just as many possessions.
I, too, have been waiting for this all week.
(Oh, and thanks for the link to Nate's BA post you left in the comments for Greg's post. I would not have know about it without you.)
Perhaps step one of the wake up call will be watching Peyton fly up the field in his genetically encoded starship a dozen times tonight.
@hankster @psvirsky Because then you lose by less than a TD 80% of the time and the BCS loves that, and when somebody protests, you can point at the 10% of victories to win the respectability argument.
The concept of underdog teams relying on plays and strategies with a greater variance is anathematic to the traditionalist types, even if it is mathematically irrefutable and empirically sound.
@DougEngland No problem! He posted it on his Twitter account and got a lot of positive reviews for both his articles, so I knew it would be of particular interest to many people in CA.
@pierrezombie I wish I could like (intensely deplore) your comment two hundred times.
Yeah. The contrast between Peyton's apparent sincerity about his years as our QB and Irsay's apparent disregard for them is shocking.
@pierrezombie I can´t even like your reply, pierrezombie, because it hurts too much to even imagine it. Only thing that consoles me is that in his press conference on Wednesday, Peyton (in full possession of the knowledge of what Irsay had said) reiterated that he had enjoyed being OUR quarterback when asked about whether he had a message for Colts fans.
If Irsay keeps this up, it'll end up being the honorary one-finger salute from the podium at Canton.