The (7-0) Denver Broncos will return to the place that Peyton built to take on the (3-5) Indianapolis Colts in Week 9. Including playoffs, the Broncos are 1-2 vs. the Colts in the Manning era and 0-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts are punch-drunk and reeling, which gives this game all the markings of a trap game. I sat down with Coltz Blitz Publisher Phillip B. Wilson to get a better understanding of what's going on behind the Horseshoe right now and what Broncos fans can expect in Week 9.
You can find Phillip B. Wilson on Twitter @pwilson24.
MHH: Andrew Luck has taken a huge step backward in 2015. On the outside looking in, it looks like he's playing hurt, but there are conflicting reports on the matter. What has held Luck back from being the MVP front-runner many expected him to be in 2015?
Wilson: No doubt in my mind he's played hurt. Worse yet, Luck is obviously gun shy from taking four seasons of hits. He's hesitant, doesn't trust what his eyes tell him and his passes often have too much air in them, they lack zip.
That he has a league-high 12 interceptions is an indictment of the Colts' inability to give him a solid offensive line. Most are quick to blame No. 12, as if it's all his fault. But I see a team wasting the talents of a great player, who is obviously off his game.
MHH: Chuck Pagano is under a lot of heat for the Colts three-game losing streak. How much of that scrutiny and criticism should also be leveled at GM Ryan Grigson?
Wilson: Both are responsible, and barring a complete turnaround, both will be gone at season's end. Grigson has failed to add the right pieces to protect Luck, generate a prolific offense and construct a decent defense. The fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was a Grigson hire.
Pagano finally got his way in replacing Hamilton with Rob Chudzinski. It's one move, but an indication that everything is unraveling in Indy. At least Pagano will get to go out with his own guy calling plays.
Some defend Pagano, saying he's not nearly as responsible, but the Colts always get off to slow starts, have committed too many penalties, had the awful trick play backfire against New England and the coach sounds delusional each time he talks. It's obvious Luck covered up a lot of issues with this team. Pagano and Grigson can't count on the QB to save them anymore.
Wilson: Andre has his moments, but the reality is he's lost a step, just like the Houston Texans said after releasing him. The wide receiver can still make a play now and then, but Luck has struggled to hit wide open receivers and Johnson doesn't always get wide open.
That means passes are often contested and sometimes tipped into interceptions. He's not totally washed up yet, but Johnson is definitely on the downward slide.
MHH: The Colts have just 12 sacks as a team this year. Robert Mathis is back in the fold. Are we going to see a repeat from 2013 when Mathis and the Colts abused Peyton Manning in Lucas Oil Stadium?
Wilson: No, I don't think so. The Colts finally let Mathis play more the last two games and he's had three of his four sacks. The Broncos won't let Mathis dominate this game, especially when considering there's really nobody else to worry about when rushing the passer.
Trent Cole has redefined free-agent bust. He's being paid $7 million and has yet to have a single sack. And because the Colts struggle in covered with their linebackers, it's not like they can blitz extra guys all day long. The simple strategy is double Mathis and Manning should have plenty of time.
MHH: Who wins this game and why?
Wilson: It's great to see Peyton Manning finally have a defense. For years, that's what everyone said in Indianapolis. Imagine what Peyton would be like if he had a defense.
Well, Manning doesn't have to carry the load every week now because that Broncos defense shows up and takes the best in the league apart. What Denver did to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers didn't seem possible.
And now the Broncos are coming after a banged-up, shaken quarterback who is entrusted with saving a bad team's season? The only question is whether Manning or Denver will struggle at all in winning Sunday. The Broncos shouldn't have too much trouble.
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Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.