The Indianapolis Colts this season, just like last season, are off to another 3-0 start. But there’s a difference. This season, the Colts are undefeated against their divisional rivals (wins over Tennessee and Houston on the road). This week the Colts face a different challenge, as this Sunday they face the 2-1 Denver Broncos at the RCA Dome.
The Colts, as all of you knowledgeable football fans already know, are an offensive juggernaut. Quarterback Peyton Manning is off to one of his usual hot starts (66-for-101, 873 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception); along with Manning, you also have running back Joseph Addai (65 carries, 271 yards, 4 rushing TD’s), and Reggie Wayne (16 catches, 269 yards, 2 TD’s). WR Marvin Harrison has been solid (16/223/1 TD), as well as tight end Dallas Clark (13/175/2 TD’s).
The Colts’ defense has seen marked improvement this season. One of the main reasons has been the play of safety Bob Sanders. Sanders, along with being one of the team leaders in tackles (24, 14 solo), also leads the Colts in sacks (2.5). Cornerback Marlin Jackson (33 tackles, 25 solo) has been solid, along with linebacker Gary Brackett (24 tackles, 18 solo). They definitely will have their hands full with the Broncos’ offense.
The Broncos bread-and-butter has been their running game, and this year isn’t any different. Led by RB Travis Henry (60/302/1 TD), the Broncos are in good hands. QB Jay Cutler is having a solid, if unspectacular season (62-95/795/3 TD’s and 4 INT’s). Their receiving corps is solid as well, led by rising star WR Brandon Marshall (17/267/1 TD) and reliable Javon Walker (19/230). But the key to the Broncos success thus far this season is their pass defense (ranked #1 in the NFL with 88.3 yards allowed/game). Champ Bailey is the undisputed leader of the Broncos’ secondary (19 tackles, 16 solo; 1 INT), with solid contributions from linebacker D.J. Williams (25 tackles, 19 solo) and in somewhat of a surprise so far this season, defensive end Elvis Dumervil (4 sacks and 1 INT).
The Broncos, if they expect to win at the RCA Dome this weekend, will probably need to establish their running game early, with timely passes by Cutler. Expect good efforts by both Bailey and fellow secondary member Dre Bly. The Colts will need to, like the Broncos, establish their running game as well (which happens to be the Broncos’ weak link). Offensive tackle Tony Ugoh will have to ward off Dumervil so Manning can realize some degree of success. I expect the Colts’ gameplan to be slightly different than the one employed vs. the Texans last Sunday, in that they will rely on the running game a bit more this week. And that running game should put the Colts over the top in a game that will be relatively close.