It’s a match-up of the young Colt Andrew Luck leading the rest of the Indianapolis Colts against the old Bronco Peyton Manning and the rest of the Denver Broncos. It’s the 3rd match-up of the two teams since Manning moved onto Denver, and the 1st time it’s happened in the postseason.
It’s an Indianapolis team that wants Andrew Luck to find the success that Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks have had. It’s a Denver team that’s hungry to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
The Broncos and Colts don’t have much playoff history to speak of, just two games when Manning was a Colt in 2003 and 2004, and in each of those Wild Card Playoff Games, the Colts blew out the Broncos in high-scoring efforts.
Last year, due to seeding, these teams avoided playing each other altogether.
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Here is what you need to know:
Colts vs. Broncos
January 11, 2015, 4:40 p.m.
Sports Authoriy Field, Denver, Colorado
Broncos by 7.5
Broncos 31, Colts 24 on September 7, 2014 in Denver, Colorado
Andrew Luck has been the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde when it has come to NFL success. He has been wildly successful in the regular season, but a different monster in the postseason:
Luck passed for 376 yards and a touchdown in last week’s wild-card win over Cincinnati. He led the NFL with 40 touchdowns and since entering the league in 2012, his 12,957 passing yards are the most of any NFL player in his first three seasons. In four career playoff games, however, he has thrown just seven touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Luck has proven to be good enough to carry the Colts to victories, but a sustained run in the postseason may take a bit more of a team effort, especially if Indianapolis wants to defeat Denver.
The Colts defense does match up surprisingly well with the Broncos. Corner back Vontae Davis, when healthy, is one of the league’s 10-15 best CBs, and he can shade Broncos wide receiver DeMariyus Thomas and slow him down a bit. The Colts also boast an athletic back-seven that play coverage well.
The Colts offense boast a pair of tight ends in Dwyane Allen and Coby Fleener that stretch the field and excel in the red zone — the best TE combination since the Patriots had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
The Broncos have many interesting distractions this January. Is this Peyton Manning’s last season? If Denver loses, what is the future of head coach John Fox? Also, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has recently emerged as a strong candidate for the vacant Oakland Raiders head coaching job.
The star power the Broncos boast are all healthy and ready to go against Indy. The only noticeable player who is going to be absent on Sunday is linebacker Brandon Marshall.
The most important player on the field Sunday is Peyton Manning. This game is crucial for Manning’s legacy, and this gives him one more chance to silence some doubters about his playoff ability. He has had an abominable 2nd-half of the season, throwing just two touchdown passes since Week 10.
Colts 41, Broncos 34
Despite posting the 3rd lowest yards total during the regular season, the Broncos defense was merely a pedestrian 16th overall in points-per-game. The Broncos unit quietly resembled a Tampa 2, bend-don’t-break defense that regularly either gave up more points to teams that they shouldn’t have or played tighter, low-scoring games to teams that they shouldn’t have.
It’s hard for young players to break the glass ceiling in the playoffs, but few transcendent players find ways to get it done. Luck is a transcendent player and the statistics prove it. Despite being outclasses in most areas in talent, the Colts fit the profile a quietly frisky team with the right leadership in the right areas to put together a string of a few postseason wins.
The Broncos secondary is vulnerable. This game will be high scoring. Manning hasn’t thrown the ball well in favorable conditions in the last two months. Luck and the Colts, with an open game plan, can put up points quickly.
The Broncos will run the ball to the tune of 150 yards, but in the end, Manning leaves us disappointed one more time, failing to match the passing brilliance of his younger counterpart — the player the Colts chose to make the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and move on from Manning with.