The Spread and Total
Denver Broncos (-2.5, O/U 40.5) at Indianapolis Colts, courtesy of sportsbetting.ag.
Despite not winning a road game all season, on the heels of breaking an eight-game losing skid, the Broncos are short favorites in Indianapolis. The Colts have lost four straight and seven of eight, however, they are 3-3 against the spread over their last six games. More on this in the “Trends” section, below.
Denver Broncos: 4-9 SU (3-9-1 ATS); 4th AFC West
Indianapolis Colts: 3-10 SU (6-7 ATS); 4th AFC South
S Justin Simmons (ankle), out/IR; QB Paxton Lynch (ankle), out; NT Domata Peko (knee), questionable; S Jamal Carter (shoulder), practiced in full/no official designation.
TE Darrell Daniels (hamstring), out; CB Nate Hairston (concussion), out; C Ryan Kelly (concussion), out; CB Rashaan Melvin (hand), out; WR Donte Moncrief (ankle), out.
Sept. 18, 2016 (Mile High Stadium, Denver): Denver 34, Indianapolis 20
Nov. 8, 2015 (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis): Indianapolis 27, Denver 24
Jan.11, 2015 (Mile High Stadium, Denver): Indianapolis 24, Denver 13
Sept. 7, 2014 (Mile High Stadium, Denver): Denver 34, Indianapolis 24
Significant ATS Trends
The Broncos 3-9-1 mark against the number is tied with Tampa Bay for the second-worst in the NFL. The Browns are 3-10.
Denver is 0-6 ATS on the road. They have missed covering by an average of 13.8 points per game.
The Broncos were short road favorites in Miami in Week 13 and lost 35-9.
Indianapolis has gone under the total in five straight games. They have missed the number by an average of 9.8 points per game.
This is the ninth straight week the Colts are underdogs. Indianapolis has been a favorite just once all year, when they covered in a three-point win against San Francisco in early October.
The Colts are 1-4 SU and ATS in games where they are underdogs of four points or fewer.
What at one time was a heated rivalry — the franchise that drafted, loved, and then let Peyton Manning go against the team that the future Hall of Famer helped lead to a Super Bowl in his final campaign — has become two also-rans playing out the string. Both teams are going nowhere in 2017, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t intrigue from a betting perspective.
The Colts’ season has been a mess from the start. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t played a down all year due to a shoulder injury. Indy dealt for Jacoby Brissett just before the opener, and after Scott Tolzien quarterbacked Indianapolis in a 46-9 loss to the Rams in Week 1, Brissett took over and has generally kept the team competitive. That said, their only wins are against Cleveland (31-28), San Francisco (26-23 in overtime), and Houston (20-14). Indianapolis enters Thursday Night Football off of four straight losses: at home to Pittsburgh (20-17) and Tennessee (20-16), in Jacksonville (30-10), and in blustery conditions against the Bills (13-7).
It is hard to take much out of the loss in Buffalo on Sunday. Weather conditions prevented any semblance of a normal approach. The Colts did not throw a pass until midway through the second quarter, neither team eclipsed 100 yards in the air, and veteran running backs Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy rushed 36 and 32 times, respectively.
Though it would be a mistake to glean too much from a game played in an avalanche, it is troubling that Indianapolis allowed the Bills to go 10 for 18 on third down, and lost a game in which Buffalo committed the only two turnovers.
Third down defense has been a problem for the Colts all year. The Bucs are the only team in the NFL allowing a worse conversion rate than Indy’s 44.6-percent. Two weeks ago in Jacksonville, the Jags went nine for 15 on third down against Indianapolis.
The Colts have been equally poor on offense and defense, allowing over 26 points a game while scoring only 16.3. However, during the four-game losing streak, the offense has been the primary problem. They have tallied just 12.5 points a game over the last month, and Brissett has seen his yards per game decrease in five straight outings, while his completion percentage has sunk under 60-percent for the year. During Indy’s three victories, Brissett managed at least 9.24 yards per attempt in each game. He has eclipsed that figure in just one of the Colts’ losses. The last three weeks, his yards per attempt have gone from 6.76 to 4.83 to 3.14.
How will Brissett fair against the Bronco defense? Denver is 10th in the NFL allowing just 6.8 yards per attempt. But on the flip side, the 26 touchdowns they have given up through the air is tied for the most in the league. Brissett has not thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game all season, and over the last three weeks, has just two scores while being picked off twice.
Though it is hard to remember, the Broncos actually got off to a 2-0 and 3-1 start this year. They beat the Chargers (24-21), Cowboys (42-17) and Raiders (16-10) during the first month of the season. Then the roof caved in. After giving up just 18.5 points a game during September, the Broncos went on an eight-game losing streak, surrendering 30.1 points per game. That came to an abrupt halt last Sunday with a 23-0 shutout of the Jets.
While it’s important to note that they were facing a talent-poor New York team that lost its starting QB part way through the game, the Jets’quarterbacks (Josh McCown and Bryce Petty) managed just eight completions in 21 attempts for a total of 41 yards. New York’s rushing attack wasn’t a lot better, averaging only 2.6 yards per carry.
The Bronco defense wasn’t actually that bad in the Week 13 blowout loss to Miami. The Phins’ Jay Cutler was 18 for 31 passing for 235 yards with two scores and two INT’s. In the prior two games, Derek Carr hit at a high percentage but didn’t kill the Broncos, and Andy Dalton connected on three scores, but managed just 154 yards. Though it has mostly gone unnoticed, the Broncos defense has righted the ship to a point.
On the flip side, Denver’s offense is a mess. Trevor Siemian has started the last three games under center, completing less than 53-percent of his passes with three TDs and three picks. Brock Osweiler’s four appearances were no better, and Paxton Lynch’s one start may have been the worst of all. This year, only the Browns have completed a lower percentage of passes than the Broncos. Denver ranks among the worst teams in the league in passing touchdowns, interceptions, yards per attempt, and sacks allowed.
Denver’s rushing attack has been somewhat better than the passing game. But CJ Anderson’s best games came early in the year; Devontae Booker has been dropped in virtually all fantasy leagues; and Jamaal Charles looks his age (30). In other words, the Bronco run game only looks good compared to the passing attack.
On special teams, the Colts have been the better squad. Indianapolis has better numbers in punts, punt returns, and field goals.
Though neither team has a lot to play for, Colts coach Chuck Pagano is fighting for his job. On the Broncos’ side of things, they lost eight in a row, but a strong finish could make management believe their problems are quickly solvable, say by signing someone like Eli Manning or Kirk Cousins.
Though Denver’s win last week is encouraging, that followed a blowout loss to a bad Miami team. The Broncos are 0-6 straight up and against the spread on the road. Meanwhile, the Colts are 4-2 for ATS at home. The wrong team is the favorite in this game which seems very likely to feature a lot of punts.
Pick: Colts (+2.5) and UNDER (40.5)