Well – we Colts fans knew this would probably happen eventually. The Colts will be taking the field on Sunday in a playoff game and standing on the opposite side of the field will be Peyton Manning.
Anyway – let’s break this game down.
Based on weather reports, it should be very seasonable in Denver with highs in the mid-40s and no precipitation, so weather should not be a factor so the best team will win.
So – how will this game play out? Will it be a repeat performance of their week 1 matchup when Denver dominated the Colts for the first 50 minutes of the game before the Colts felt like playing?
The Colts – honestly – have looked completely horrid for the past few months with a few bright spots here and there. Two of those bright spots came in a pair of victories over the Cincinnati Bengals – but each time the Bengals were not at full strength. Including the victory last week, the Colts posted a 3-4 record this year against playoff teams – obviously, you take away the 2 wins over the pathetic Bengals and they finished 1-4 and were outscored 179-105 – so clearly they have struggled against the true elite teams in the NFL.
This Sunday they are playing one of the true elite teams in the NFL. The Broncos, when healthy, do not have any flaws. Their defense is much improved over last year due to key free agent acquisitions. Their running game has blossomed with previous unknown CJ Anderson emerging into a star. And Peyton is Peyton. Yes, Peyton has not looked at sharp lately, but we have all seen him tear defenses apart at times with the flip of a switch.
Here are the keys to victory:
Pressure Peyton: We all know that Peyton has as much mobility as a pile of rocks so if we can throw a pass rush in his face he will go down or make mistakes. It must be a lightning quick blitz because Peyton has such a quick release he can still be deadly even against pass rush. Whenever Peyton has struggled in the playoffs it is because the opposing defense applied enough pressure to make him uncomfortable. Hopefully the Colts watched game film of the Super Bowl and took notes on how the Seahawks were able to get after #18.
Ignore the Running Game: In a game of this magnitude with everything on the line, the Colts cannot afford to waste time trying to run the ball if it is not successful. Yes, Boom was effective last week against the Bengals, but the Bengals suck. If I was Pep Hamilton, I would give the running game one drive – if they are unable to run the ball and are forced to an early 3-and-out, you have to abandon the running game all together because it will take at least 30 points to defeat Denver on Sunday. Boom definitely has some explosive skills, but he may need to be utilized with wheel routes or screens out of the backfield as part of 4 and 5-wide formations.
Bend, Don’t Break: The Colts must accept the fact that Peyton will probably move the ball at will against our sometimes-pitiful excuse for a defense. But once the Broncos reach the red zone we must come up with schemes to take Julius Thomas out of play. If the Colts can limit the Broncos to some field goals instead of touchdowns then they will have a shot.
Final Analysis: Let’s say the Colts win on Sunday – and then Peyton decides to hang it up – how ironic would it be that the Colts – of all teams – would be the team to end Peyton’s career. I’ve listened to enough media chatter this week to come up with what I believe is a rock solid prediction. I have a strong fear that this game will be a repeat showing of the Dallas debacle. The Colts released Peyton – despite all the circumstances surrounding that decision – it’s a fact. The Colts told Peyton to get lost and you know that deep down there is enormous motivation that Peyton wants to eliminate his former team from the playoffs. Combine that little golden nugget with the fact that the Colts have looked like anything but a worthy playoff team for several months and I would be absolutely shocked if the Colts prevail on Sunday. The Colts will need to play 60 minutes of mistake-free football – and that’s not something we have seen recently. I think the Colts can keep it close but my heart tells me our playoff run will end in Denver.
Final Score: Denver – 38 Colts – 17