Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-7, 53 o/u)
The final divisional round game of the weekend features a reunion between quarterback Peyton Manning and his former team, as the Indianapolis Colts visit the Denver Broncos at Mile High (Sunday at 4:40 p.m. Eastern on CBS).
Manning has played exceptionally in his two regular season games against his former mates. But the team knows the playoffs are a different monster.
“We had them the first game of the season and [Manning] was fine,” said Broncos Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. “It’s a playoff game so it’s a little bit different because if you lose, you’re done and if you win, you keep going. I can’t really talk for Peyton, but I think he’s fine.”
The future Hall-of-Famer has struggled of late, however. In the last four games, Manning threw for just three touchdowns against six interceptions and averaged a pedestrian 247.5 yards passing.
But the Broncos ground game, led by running back C.J. Anderson, has emerged during that same period. Anderson ran for 648 yards and eight touchdowns over the last six weeks of the season.
“The biggest thing is stopping the run before you can get to [Manning],” Colts defensive end Cory Redding explained. “We have to focus on that. That’s where all our attention is going to go. Then when it’s time to focus on 18, our coaches will draw up a good game plan, and we’ll attack it the best way possible.”
The Colts, meanwhile, have increasingly relied on their passing game; the team ran very few rush plays against Cincinnati until it was time to milk the clock, instead utilizing running back Daniel Herron as more a pass catcher. (Herron had ten receptions for almost 90 yards against Cincinnati.) That style of play worked well against the Bengals – who have had a meager pass rush all year – and allowed the Colts to cruise to a 26-10 win as six-point favorites.
However, if they come into Sunday with a similar gameplan, quarterback Andrew Luck will have a lot of weight on his shoulders, and a lot more pressure on his heels, as the Broncos boast the tremendous pass rush duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
Denver is currently a seven-point favorite for Sunday. The over/under is at 53.
(Photo credit: Econo Auto Sales (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode].)