It can be argued that a large part of Denver coach Mike Shanahan's personnel moves over the last several years have been in direct response to all of the drubbings the Broncos have taken from Indy. The result of those personnel moves is the creation of a Broncos defense that has given up two touchdowns and forty-four total points through six games, by far the best mark in the NFL.
The big question now is, can the Broncos Defense continue to dominate against the high flying Colts Offense? Here are my Seven Deys/Prediction to the game.
1. Not Peyton's Place: The Colts are fast. They run fast, they adjust fast and they score really, really fast. They also play half their games in a cozy seventy-two degree climate controlled dome with artificial turf, an environment that lends itself to being fast. Welcome to Invesco Field at Mile High, where it is loud, cold and very likely going to be wet on Sunday. The story of the Colts is really a tale of two teams - at home on turf the are nearly unbeatable. Away, in the cold, on grass, (see playoff games in New England) they are very beatable. Location will play a huge part in deciding who wins this game.
Prediction: It WILL be loud, and it WILL be cold. Those factors will in large part negate the Colts ability to audible and create big plays. Don't count on a shootout Sunday.
2. Elvis is in the building: Elvis Dumervil was too slow and too small to be drafted early in the 2006 NFL draft. Anybody who knows anything about football could see that. All the Broncos could see was a young man that led the NATION in sacks last year still available in the fourth round of the draft. Dumervil has six tackles this season, not something to write home about. That is unless you come to the realization that he has been active for two games, actually played sparingly through six quarters and five of those six tackles came on quarterback sacks. I'm not going to project "what if" numbers but I can tell you that the Colts better pay attention to the rookie or Peyton Manning is in for a long day.
Prediction: Everybody keeps underestimating Dumervil. After a three sack performance against the Colts, that will stop.
3. Silent Assassin: Outside of Denver very few fans know who running back Tatum Bell is. He has quietly put up 522 yards rushing over six games even though he was forced to split carries with rookie Mike Bell during the first two games. Tatum might not have the name recognition of Ladanian Tomlinson or Tiki Barber, but he is just as productive. The Colts don't stop the run all that well and have experienced some injuries on defense lately. That equation adds up to a big game for Tatum Bell.
Prediction: 29 carries 165 yards, one TD for Bell.
4. Not so evil twin: I was one of those fans who lobbied for the Broncos to pick up team-killer Terrell Owens last season. My logic was that every player has a place and that if any team or organization could handle Owens it would be the Broncos. Man, am I glad Mike Shanahan didn't call me for advice. Rather than sign T.O. the Broncos chose to make a draft day trade with the Packers and bring in Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker. In my opinion that was the best second round pick Shanahan has ever used. Walker runs great routes, blocks, adjusts well to poorly thrown balls (Cough, Cough) and catches everything thrown at him.
Prediction: After a nine catch performance against the Browns, Walker is on track. The Colts lost safety Mike Doss for the season and are lacking on defense. Walker will have a good day, six catches for 101 yards and one touchdown.
5. System of success: For years the naysayers have said that the Broncos don't have real talent they just have a great system on offense. With Matt Lepsis' season-ending ACL tear we now are going to see if that is true. Lepsis does not get the consideration he deserves as a premier tackle in the NFL. This week you will see either Erik Pears or Cooper Carlisle at left tackle. Unfortunately one of them will get to face all world defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Prediction: The Broncos only hope of neutralizing Freeney is to run well early. That will happen but won't keep Freeney from having a good day. Freeny's line- two sacks and one forced fumble.
6. Short leash: There has been a ton of speculation in the media recently regarding Jake Plummer's ultimate demise as the Broncos' starter. I myself have let it be known to anyone who will listen (including all three of my regular readers), that I think starting Jake is a mistake. Case in point, last Sunday I'm sitting in my recliner (yes I'm officially old) watching the game. After a flurry of plays during which our favorite number sixteen makes several accurate passes to the guys in BROWN uniforms, I am somewhat animated. I didn't realize HOW animated until I received THAT look from my wife.....you know.....the "Darling, the kid's are watching you scream obscene questions regarding a football player's gene pool at the TV screen, oh and by the way you're slobbering on yourself" look. I don't hate Jake. I kind of like him, but just don't know how many more of those performances I can live through without CPR becoming necessary.
Prediction: Nothing Mike Shanahan has said this week leads me to believe that Jake's job is secure. Jake might not get replaced this week or maybe not even next, but he won't be starting come playoff time. Jakes line- 11-28 one TD two INT.
7. Under Pressure: Yeah, our boys are 5-1 an in sole possession of the AFC west lead. And yeah, the defense is statistically the best the NFL has seen since the 1934 Chicago Bears. What this team does not do is inspire confidence. The only game that I have been confident of this year was the meeting with the Raiders at Invesco, and that's more a function of my innate dislike for all things silver and black rather than a belief that the Broncos were going to win.
Don't get me wrong, I love my Broncos, and after this week we are all going to know where they stand in the hierarchy of the NFL. This might not be one of those cliche "every game is a playoff" games but it will match Denver up against what has become the measuring stick for the franchise. Can the Indianapolis Colts be beat with Peyton Manning starting when they have something to play for? That is the question of not only this week but of this season.
Prediction: Look for the Broncos to slow the game down and limit the Colts' possessions. The Broncos will run the ball well, defend well, and barring five Jake Plummer interceptions will win this game. Broncos 24 Colts 17
Toby Thorp is long time contributor to BroncosUpdate.com. He has experience as a football player and commentator as well as being enough of a Denver Broncos fan that he tried to name his first son "Seven." Unfortunately the child's mother did not cooperate. You can e-mail Thorp at Bighungry71@yahoo.com with your arguments or critiques or post a message for Bighungry71 on our Broncos Hardcore Message Board