The marquee matchup that will be highlighted in this game will be left tackle Ryan Clady against Dwight Freeney. Clady is a very gifted athlete and has nifty feet for a big man. David Diehl struggled to get into his backpedal fast enough in Week 2 and Freeney ate him alive. Clady will not have the same issues and will not receive much in the way of help against Freeney in Week 3.
What will be interesting to watch is how much the significantly larger Clady leans on Freeney in the running game. After falling behind early, the Giants were not able to run the ball much last week, but the Broncos will be looking to keep the game close — or take an early lead of their own — so that Clady can wear Freeney down over the course of the game.
Starting right tackle Ryan Harris has been held out of practice this week, which means that reserve Zane Beadles should get his third start of the season. Beadles played tackle and guard for Utah and was originally slated to play guard at the NFL level given his size and agility level, but was pressed into service when Harris went down with an injury.
He has held his own thus far this season, but has yet to face a player of Robert Mathis' caliber. Mathis needs to make an impression early in order to force a tight end or running back to his side of the field. If Denver is forced to pass frequently, Freeney will eventually break Clady down like he did in their 2009 matchup.
Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir need to build on the success they had against the Giants in Week 2 and forget about their failures in Week 3. Fili Moala has joined the tackle rotation and needs to continue to disrupt the running game through penetration. Above all, they need to continue to keep their pad level low, as center J.D. Walton and guards Chris Kuper and Stanley Daniels are not particularly big and tend to rely on leverage to get a push.
The Broncos will look to create running lanes with a clear sightline for Knowshon Moreno, clear of obstacles such as Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt. Johnson and Muir need to disrupt those lanes using sound gap discipline and keeping their center of gravity low. The longer they make the tailback hesitate and try to pick a lane, the more time the Indianapolis defense will have to come up in support.
Brandon Lloyd is a crafty receiver with deceptive deep speed. He is the author of the longest passing play of the season for the Broncos, at 41 yards. Though the Colts have proven to be uncharacteristically susceptible to the long pass, Kelvin Hayden has stepped up as the best deep cover cornerback they have on the roster.
If Denver can isolate Lloyd in man coverage, either in the slot or split wide, they will take a shot down the field. Jerraud Powers has fully participated in practice this week and is expected to play. He should draw third receiver Jabar Gaffney in coverage, though, as Jacob Lacey is more adept in man coverage and will be able to blanket Eddie Royal more effectively than Powers. Royal is targeted on more screens and slants in the short area and Lacey is better at covering and shutting down those routes.
Most likely, Denver will open up in more of a power formation with two tight ends, two receivers, and one running back, with the tight end motioning into the weak side of the formation. Denver hides its tendencies in the running game and could run to either side of the formation regardless of where the tight end lines up. They do not use their tight ends much in the passing game, though, so Daniel Graham and Richard Quinn should be seen more as extra blockers than receiving threats.
Knowshon Moreno fits the mold of what the Broncos have had at the running back position for the past 15 years. He has excellent vision, nimble feet, and an explosive first step. He is a one-cut back that is looking for a lane to explode into when he gets the ball. Thus far this season, he has not been successful and is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
Moreno had an impressive day running the ball for fantasy football purposes against the Seahawks in Week 2, but has yet to find his groove, much like the Denver running game as a whole, as the Broncos currently rank 27th in the league in rushing.
Conditioning was an issue in Week 1 for the Indianapolis front seven and was not tested in Week 2. In the thin air of Denver, the Broncos hold an advantage in the fourth quarter, particularly early in the season. Philip Wheeler and Kavell Conner may find themselves needing to take a knee at different points of the game, but they cannot relent.
If the offense does not jump out to an early lead, Denver will continue to run the ball in order to capitalize on their conditioning advantage. If the game stays close, the advantage falls to the Broncos running game and their ability to wear down the Colts front.
Kyle Orton has graduated from the ranks of game manager and is now fully entrenched in the realm of good quarterbacks. He is not a player that can single-handedly will his team to victory, but he has the weapons and system in place to do a great deal of damage if given the opportunity.
He is throwing the ball with more confidence and velocity now than at any point in his career. He will attack the deep seam and has proven himself capable of and willing to throw the 15-yard out, which are two areas where the Indianapolis pass defense is particularly vulnerable. Orton is currently averaging 34 attempts and 301 yards passing per game, but the game will have escaped the Broncos control if he is required to carry that much of the load on Sunday.
Jacksonville and Seattle do not have the talent on pass defense that the Colts possess. They also don't have the pass rush that Indianapolis enjoys and Orton was still sacked four times in the first two games. If the Broncos find themselves in an early and Orton is forced to run a one-dimensional offense, the Colts pass rush will be able to tee off on him, though not to the level that they were able to against Eli Manning.
Orton is capable of winning the game in the final two minutes, but he is not capable of winning the game on his own. Denver needs to keep the game close and maintain balance on offense if they are to win.
Talk about it in our Insider's Forum!
Follow ColtPower's updates on Twitter!
Scouting the Broncos: Offense
Colts Blitz Top Stories
10 worst NFL plays of all timeBoneheaded mistakes that these 10 NFL players will never live down.
Scout NFL Network08/22/2016
Three-and-out: NFL’s best matchups of Week 4From an early-morning Sunday game from London to Sunday and Monday night games, some of the best matchups will have the national spotlight in Week 4.
Scout NFL Network6:41 AM
Trevor Siemian's Orange ReturnThis Sunday, Trevor Siemian will throw his first touchdown pass in the state of Florida since high school, when he was known as Mr. Olympia.
Mile High HuddleYesterday at 12:16 PM
Daily Dr. Roto: Week 4 Waiver Wire WednesdayGet out the insurance card, get out the co-pay because the office is open my friends. It's Waiver Wire Wednesday so let's find out who to target in Week 4!
Scout FantasyYesterday at 10:43 AM