It was another perfect start to the weekend in this column, as yesterday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens gave the New England Patriots all they could handle in their playoff encounter. Baltimore let the game slip away late in the 4th quarter, but comfortably covered the spread. New England did however show some holes in their defense, and they’ll need to fix those before taking on either Denver or Indianapolis, two squads with prolific attacks.
Today’s AFC showdown features the old Colts franchise quarterback vs. the new franchise QB. Manning and the Broncos host Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in what is always an exciting match-up. The Colts are fresh off a dismantling of the Bengals, while Denver enters this contest with some questions surrounding their star quarterback in Peyton Manning. Manning seemed to have faded down the stretch, and we’ll find out today if that was just a blip, or a true sign of things to come. This should be a great way to close out the best weekend of football, and let’s try and stay perfect with another winning selection! Read on below for a detailed game breakdown and our fourth official wager of the post-season.
Colts vs. Broncos Betting Odds:
Indianapolis Colts +7 (+100)
@ Denver Broncos -7 (-120)
Over 54 (-110)
Under 54 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
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Colts vs. Broncos Pick:
While it seems silly to say it, you can’t help but wonder what kind of status Peyton Manning is entering today’s playoff game in. His play down the stretch seemed very odd and erratic, and we’ll find out a lot today of whether or not he’ll continue performing like that. His last four games, the future Hall of Famer threw for just three touchdowns, while giving up six interceptions. Those are numbers that you’d typically associate with Eli, not Peyton. Despite all this, Manning still is an excellent game manager and knows how to win. If his skills are deteriorating, Manning is still talented enough to propel his team to victory, and look for him to do just that again today. One of the big reasons for that, is the Denver offense has become increasingly run-focused in recent weeks. The Colts are not good at defending the run, entering this contest at 21st in the league, and look for C.J. Anderson to take full advantage of that. Keep in mind, the Colts secondary will still be terrified of what Manning could potentially do downfield. And even though Indy kept the Bengals’ running game in check last week, they weren’t all that concerned about that famed Dalton-to-Sanu connection. This week they won’t have that luxury with the talented array of targets Denver possesses. And moreover, for all the fuss entering this game about Manning’s arm strength, he may not need a strong arm to shred the Colts. Indy actually defends deep passes fairly well, 6th in the NFL in that regard. What typically crushes them is how their defense fares against short passes (15 yards and shorter), where they’re an abysmal 30th in the league. Look for Manning to work in a variety of short dump-offs to give this Colts’ defense fits. With conditions expected to be ideal on Sunday afternoon, look for one of the game’s best home offenses to put on yet another show at Mile High.
When the Colts have the football, it’s simply the Andrew Luck show. Luck is fresh off one of his most complete games as a pro, but should face a stiffer test this week against an improved Broncos’ defense. The biggest difference he’ll notice is the ferocious pass rush the Broncos employ. The Bengals had the fewest sacks in the NFL, and Luck as a result had all kinds of time and space in the pocket. This week that won’t be the case as the likes of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will be living in the Indy backfield today. The Colts pass protection is definitely iffy, and look for this to be one matchup that Denver decisively wins. Indy would also be wise to try and just avoid the run game, and put their offense on the shoulders of Andrew Luck. Dan Herron isn’t going to have success running against this 5th-ranked defense, that concedes an average of just 3.6 yards per carry. With their protection and running options limited, the Colts will be forced to be a one-dimensional offense and look for the Broncos to focus on their coverage in the secondary. And though the Colts have some scary deep-ball threats in Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, Denver ranks fifth in covering opposing wide receivers. This Denver defense is vastly improved to the unit that got steamrolled in last year’s Super Bowl, and they’ll be out to prove it again today. For all the talent of the Colts offense, expect the Denver defense to win this battle handedly.
It’s tough to take the Colts seriously going into this match-up. Despite their talents, they’ve yet to show up for a big game all season long. In fact, they often go into full meltdown mode when matched up with a more difficult opponent on the road. All five of their losses came against teams with winning records, and in their most recent three, they weren’t even close in any of them. This is a group that beats up on weak teams within their division, but when matched up against an elite group, it’ll all fall apart. These two teams met back early in the season with a similar point-spread. The Broncos dominated all game, but the Colts fought back in the 4th quarter for a backdoor cover/push depending on which line you had. This time though expect the Broncos to play until the final whistile, and really rout the Colts. In Denver’s last 27 home games, they’ve won by at least 7 points 23 times. They’re better in every facet than Indianapolis and look for them to prove that on Sunday evening.
PICK = Broncos -7 (-120)