Whether it is fate, an eerie coincidence or just plain luck, you couldn't have scripted a more enticing pregame setup for Sunday afternoon's tilt between theand at Lucas Oil Stadium.
On the cusp of history, Peyton Manning returns to the place where it all began, the field where he developed into a future Hall of Famer and one of the greatest signal callers of all time. Manning arrives in Indy with a chance to become the league's winningest quarterback as well as the career leader in passing yardage. He is currently tied withat 186 wins and needs 284 yards passing to jump over Favre for the top spot on that list, too.
As monumental as the achievement would be, Manning's assault on the record books is just one of many storylines heading into this game. The Broncos are one of four unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL, and are 7-0 for the second time in franchise history. In 1998, they won their first 13 games en route to a 14-2 record andtitle.
Plus, there's the revenge factor. The Colts knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs last year, and Denver hasn't lost a since then;only other trip to Indianapolis in a Broncos uniform ended with a 39-33 loss to the Colts during the 2013 season.
The Broncos are also coming off a virtuoso performance in handing thetheir first loss of the season last Sunday night. While Denver's championship-worthy defense certainly played a key role in shutting down Green Bay, it was the revitalization of a struggling offense that was the biggest positive takeaway from the game.
Manning returned to form, completing 21 of 29 passes for 340 yards, while the running game produced 160 yards and three touchdowns. Entering Week 8, the Broncos ranked 30th in rush yards per game and Manning was the league's third-lowest-rated passer. Overall, they churned out a season-high 500 total yards of offense and, for at least one week, put to rest the notion that this is a one-dimensional team carried by a dominant defense.
While the unbeaten Broncos head into this game with the confidence befitting one of the league's elite teams, the underachieving Colts are in disarray and look nothing like the AFC contender many pegged them to be before the season. Indy is 3-5 and riding its first three-game regular season losing streak withas quarterback. Somehow, the Colts are 1-5 with Luck as the starter this season, and 2-0 with Matt Hasselbeck.
They just fired their offensive coordinator, a move that seemed inevitable considering how much the unit has struggled during the first two months of the season. The Colts are 20th in points per game and 24th in yards per play, and only thehave more turnovers than Indy. They have a laundry list of offensive problems to fix, and that task that becomes even more daunting with the Broncos' top-ranked defense coming to town on Sunday.
Even with those issues and a defense that is allowing more than 25 points per game, the Colts are tied for the AFC South lead and have the best chance (52.5 percent) to win the division per Football Outsiders.
Those favorable odds, however, hide the fact that the Colts have done little aside from beating up on their weak rivals this season. They are 3-0 versus the AFC South and 0-5 against the rest of the league. In fact, dating back to Luck's rookie year in 2012, the Colts are 19-2 in divisional games and 20-21 when playing everyone else (including playoffs).
Unless the Colts are able to engineer a dramatic turnaround on offense -- against the best defensive team in the NFL, nonetheless -- that trend seems likely to continue this weekend.
How to Watch
When: 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Online: NFL Game Pass
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