Manning, arguably the greatest quarterback to ever live, comes back to Indianapolis for the first time since being released after the 2011 season. During his time with the Colts, Manning won a Super Bowl and went to the postseason 11 times, a run of success that is astonishing in any view.
Now, Manning and his undefeated Broncos stroll in to take on the new man in town, Andrew Luck, and his 4-2 team. With two of the more high-powered offenses going at it, the game has a chance to be one of those instant classic-types. Of course, the eyes of a nation will be on Manning, who is making one of the most anticipated returns in sports history.
Meet the Broncos
No team in the NFL scares opponents more than Denver. The Broncos have been an unstoppable juggernaut on offense, rolling up 265 points before any other team has even hit 190. Denver has yet to score less than 35 points in a game, with Manning leading that epic charge. In six games, Manning has thrown 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
The receiving core has predictably been putting up huge numbers. Demaryius Thomas already has 528 receiving yards while Eric Decker has amassed 477. Wes Welker has found the end zone eight times, while tight end Julius Thomas has scored seven touchdowns. Knowshon Moreno has also had a great season, rushing for 373 yards and seven touchdowns to accompany 20 receptions.
However, Denver is vulnerable. The defense has been nothing short of a sieve, getting handled in recent weeks. Against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars, the Broncos gave up 303 passing yards to Chad Henne. On the year, the Broncos has the worst ranked pass defense in the NFL and have given up an average of 26.3 points per game, 24th in the league. Von Miller does return from his suspension this week, which should certainly help.
Meet the Colts
Indianapolis comes into this contest having to listen to all of the Manning fodder, which should give it some added motivation. The again, the Colts should not need much after losing an ugly 19-9 game on Monday night to the San Diego Chargers. Indianapolis was flat out bad in that contest, dropping catchable passes including one by Darrius Heyward-Bey that would have been an easy touchdown.
The offense has been good this season, albeit with a different look under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Hamilton loves to run the ball and play a conservative style, something that Bruce Arians did not do last year. As a result, the Colts are 8th in rushing and only 23rd in passing yardage. Luck has thrown for 1,346 yards and seven touchdowns, compared to three interceptions.
Defensively, this unit has not gotten the credit it deserves. Indianapolis is holding opponents to 16.3 points per game, fifth-best in the NFL. Robert Mathis has been one of the biggest reasons as a co-leader in sacks with 9.5. The Colts' biggest strength on defense has been against the pass where they rank 5th. This portion of their game will undoubtedly be tested this week.
Local take: Denver
Over at Mile High Report, it is shown that blitzing Manning is not the answer:
Peyton has yet to throw an interception when pressured or blitzed. In fact his QBR is the highest when opposing teams have blitzed him. Bring more rushers and there's a better chance several of the four horsemen have one on ones.
Noticed that Peyton has not been sacked on a blitz either. Speaks volumes to the pass protection up front and the pickups by the backs.
Local take: Indianapolis
Brad Wells of Stampede Blue writes that the Colts looked past the Chargers:
Players and coaches will say all the right things, and Chuck Pagano will certainly deny any suggestion that his staff took valuable time away from preparing for the Chargers to study the Broncos last week, but it doesn't matter. What Pagano and the players say on this subject is, effectively, meaningless.
Their play and their coaching did the talking, and the message sent was that they didn't take San Diego seriously enough.
Follow the fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Fran Tarkenton weighs in on Jim Irsay's comments on Peyton Manning: http://t.co/vUT8DznMSK— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) October 16, 2013
NBC people accusing NFL Network people of carrying Irsay's water. And then there is Irsay blasting Polian's waterboy, @mortreport. Love it!— Brad Wells (BBS) (@StampedeBlue) October 17, 2013
On the surface, it is hard to pick against an undefeated team. Truth be told, the Broncos are a better group. However, this is a game that goes deeper than the obvious. Indianapolis is 4-2 and coming off a bad loss on the road. The Colts now return home to what is going to be a very charged environment in a very important game for them, playing a team that everybody wants to knock off. Denver has a streak of 17 consecutive regular season victories, and I believe it will be broken Sunday.
Pick: Indianapolis 31, Denver 28
The Broncos are favored by seven points on the road, according to Oddsshark.com.
Denver returns home to take on the Washington Redskins while Indianapolis has a bye.