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Published on 01/03/2013 at Thu Jan 03 09:00.
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Indianapolis Colts

Record: 11-5
Streak: Won 2
All-time vs. Denver: 8-11
Last time: Colts, 27-13, Sep. 2010
The Line: N/A. Wild Card: Baltimore (home) is favored by 6.5

Today we’re taking a first look at the three teams that could come to Denver to face the Broncos in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on January 12th — the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, and Baltimore Ravens. Next up: Indy.

This is the game the NFL wants. Peyton Manning vs. his former team. The matchup is television drama gold, only made more tantalizing by the journey the Colts are currently on.

The Indianapolis Colts are the feel-good story of the NFL this season following head coach Chuck Pagano‘s return to the sideline last week after leukemia treatment. But before he sends his players against their former field leader in Manning, he’ll need to conquer familiar faces of his own — the Baltimore Ravens, invigorated by Ray Lewis‘ return. These teams know each other.

Who’s hot: Head coach Chuck Pagano. This isn’t lip service — Pagano’s battle with leukemia, and the victory he displayed by being on the sideline last week, is the emotional driving force behind the Colts’ mission this year — win the Super Bowl. The story is invigorating to Colts players, Colts fans, and fans of the NFL in general, and a huge X-factor heading into this game. “I can’t explain it,” Pagano said. “Maybe those guys (Colts players) can explain it.”

“It’s like you’re on fire,” CB Vontae Davis said.

Who’s not: Colts defense. The Colts rank in the bottom third of the league in every defensive category. They’re 21st in points allowed and 29th in rush defense. Playing the Texans twice in the season’s last three weeks, running back Arian Foster ran for 261 yards in two games, while Jamaal Charles ran for 226 yards in one game in between. The Colts manage to win two of these games, but it’s clear they’re susceptible to a strong running attack and a strong offense in general.

Matchup to Watch: Broncos pass rush vs. Andrew Luck. Luck has the passing yards (4,374), the touchdowns (23), and the wins (11) to be listed as one of the most impressive rookie quarterbacks of all time. But his completion percentage is low (54.1%), he has 18 interceptions on the year, and he still has decision issues when in the pocket. Those issues have led him to be sacked 41 times in 2011, a situation that will have Broncos Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil twitching for a week in excitement.

How they come to Denver — The Colts would have to beat the Ravens in Baltimore, and the Texans would have to beat the Bengals in Houston.

How would you feel about a Colts-Broncos matchup? Anything about that potential matchup worth pointing out that I didn’t? Hit it in the comments.

  • Pete Baron

    Nice first look.

    Yesterday I said that the Bengals were the scariest team to the Broncos. Today however, I’m changing my tune. I think the Ravens are now the scariest team. Why? Because of Ray Lewis retiring. Talk about an emotional shot of adrenaline!!! The Colts know that Chuck will be on the sidelines next year. The Ravens know that this is Ray Lewis’ swan song. It’s as if John Elway said “This is my last playoff run”. You don’t think the Broncos would do absolutely everything to win the Championship for him? Even more than they normally would? You better believe it. I think because of this, the Ravens will destroy the Colts and be the hot team that comes to town.

  • TheTroglodyte

    Always living in the past my man. I’m pretty sure Luck wasn’t sacked 41 times in 2011 :p …. Seriously though, good write up. It’s been a great year and story for the Colts. I wish them all the success they deserve until they play us.

  • Monty

    yup. Shrewd move by Ray Lewis.

  • Chip Bennett

    Nice writeup.

    The main thing with which I take issue is your assertion that it is Luck’s “decision issues” that led to his 41 sacks. In reality, it is the Colts’ Jekyll-and-Hyde offensive line (at times brilliant, but most of the time atrocious), coupled with Arians’ all-vertical-all-the-time offense (most of the time, Luck’s check-down receiver is 10 yards from the LOS) that has led directly to 41 sacks.

    Luck’s decision-making and athleticism have *spared* him from taking even more sacks (though it is fair to say that some of that decision-making led to a few of his INTs, as is to be expected from any rookie).

    If the Colts manage to get past the Ravens (something that I believe they can and should do), the Broncos will be a terrible match-up for us. Manning will absolutely shred our secondary. Can Luck make a go of it in a shootout (with all due – and undue – respect to Joe Flacco)? Hopefully we’ll find out!

  • Gary_in_SD

    That team needs any help they can find. Still, anyone and everyone is dangerous come playoff time. If the Colts win in Baltimore though, I’ll be more worried about them than I’d be if the Ravens are the opponent. The Colts are riding a lot of emotion right now and the Ravens are spiraling downward.

  • Cheyenne Kid

    No matter the emotion of the other teams,we are playing at home with a chance to keep making Bronco and NFL history , so I think the Broncos will have tempered emotions, ready to take it to them early and often!

  • Cheyenne Kid

    And,Indy and Baltimore may be a moot point after the first game Saturday. If Bengals pull the upset in the first game they head to Mile-High for the game on the 12th! If they don’t we have to wait until Sunday to find out. I would prefer either Baltimore ot Indy as I think we can limit the emotionality by tough defense and a ball- control and huddleless offense. We need to get an early lead and continue to pile it on. No reason not to leave it on the field. No more games with a loss! Playoff intensity please, Btoncos!!!

  • Doom92

    Yeah it is a shot for them for sure. While I think it would be fun to play the Colts for the obvious match up I’ll take the Ravens in a heart beat over the colts. We already know that Flacco (whom I like a bit) cant come back like the Rookie. BUT even more so, I think we’d smoke there ass again hands down. They would be way more scared of us I think and that “win it for Ray” wont last more than a week…

  • Doom92

    I like what you’re saying here kid…

  • Doom92

    Monty, I think it would be a fun match up if for no other reason that after the game Peyton could simply look at them and say with a Peyton wink “Nice Try”… *Thinking* ~Replace me, huh~

  • Doom92

    I think its more of 50-50, the line and him… But he is a rookie now. He will no question be GREAT, but not yet…

  • Chip Bennett

    Have you watched him play, or do you base that opinion on his stat line? The Colts haven’t exactly enjoyed a prime-time friendly schedule this season, so I wonder how many people have *really* watched him play.

    I can recall about a half-dozen or so (or 1/3 of his total) of Luck’s INTs just being a function of poor decision-making. The rest are directly attributable to defensive pressure, flat-out good plays by good defensive players, receiver drops/deflections, and Luck trying to force plays when playing from behind. (In other words: I don’t think the cause of his INTs is all that different from any other QB in the league.)

    Luck’s rookie stats are, unbelievably, actually *better* than Manning’s rookie stats – and Manning had a better team around him. Looking at the team we were fielding, I think most of us thought that a successful season for the Colts would have been 6-10; and I think most of us are absolutely dumbfounded at what we’ve watched Luck accomplish in taking this team to the playoffs.

    Without Luck, I honestly believe this would still be a 2-14 Colts team. I also fully recognize that what we see on the field is not accurately reflected in Luck’s stat line.

    If you don’t already, you’ll soon know what I’m talking about, because you’ll see the same thing with Manning. The things he does on the field, the way he reads (and mentally pwns) defenses, the way his quick read-and-release covers up a multitude of o-line sins: you’ll see them on the field, but they won’t be directly reflected in his stat line.

    For what it’s worth, I think it’s more likely that we’ll see the Pats in the divisional round. I think the Bengals have more than a fighting chance to beat the Texans tonight. And much to my wife’s chagrin, I’m fairly certain that the Bengals have no chance against Denver. (Not that I think the Colts would have a realistic chance, either – but they’ve been proving me wrong all season.)

    Oh, and the Flacco comment was a reference to his ignorant “I like to get into shootouts” comment in an interview, right before the Ravens got spanked by the Broncos. ;)

  • Doom92

    No you are right I’m far too stupid to watch him play… Yes I have watched him play!!!

  • Chip Bennett

    “Stupid” is a term I neither used nor implied. The Colts haven’t had much television exposure this year, so most people haven’t had the *opportunity* to watch Luck play.

  • Doom92

    I know man I am just giving you a rash of crap ;-).
    You must be a colts fan???

  • Chip Bennett

    Yes, sir – since well before the Manning era (I really started following football in the late 80s/early 90s; so, around the Jack Trudeau era). And as much as I hated to see Manning go, I always knew the day would come, one way or another. I love the guy we have now, and I’m happy to see Manning playing successfully for a solid franchise. While I hope it’s not at our expense, I would love to see Manning win another Super Bowl ring, and cement his place as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

    So, other than should the Colts face you, good luck to the Broncos. :)

  • Doom92

    Things must be really boring on your Colts blog these days… ;-)

  • Chip Bennett

    Nah, just scouting the competition. :)

  • Doom92


  • Chip Bennett

    Well, as it so happened, the Ravens were the better team yesterday. Good luck to y’all against the Dirty Birds! :)