Analysis

Stacking the Box Key to Broncos TNF Victory vs. Colts

Broncos vs. Colts

This week, the Indianapolis Colts (1-2-1) visit the Denver Broncos (2-2) on Thursday Night Football. I hate to say it, but this is a must-win for the Colts. For the Broncos, they have to figure out how to move forward at running back with the loss of Javonte Williams for the season. It will be interesting to see if the Colts can get the run game going without Jonathan Taylor versus a stout Denver defense that ranks fourth overall in yards allowed through four weeks.

Here’s how I see the game breaking down:

Colts Offense vs. Broncos Defense

The Colts enter this game averaging an NFL-worst 14.3 points per game. They have struggled to get the ground game going, averaging only 87.8 yards per game, which ranks 27th in the NFL. The offensive line has struggled opening holes for Taylor and Nyheim Hines while allowing 15 sacks on the season. Taylor (ankle) has been officially ruled out for the game, so they’ll have to rely on Hines to get the running game going. Quarterback Matt Ryan continues to be careless with the ball; through four games he has thrown five interceptions and lost three fumbles.

Unfortunately for the Colts, they will face a Denver defense that is playing at a high level. The Broncos are only allowing 17.0 points per game, which is fifth in the NFL. Look for them to copy the Titans’ game plan and load the box on early downs to take away the running game and force the Colts’ offense into third-and-long situations. This would allow first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero to cut pass rusher Bradley Chubb and company loose to hunt Ryan in the pocket.

Denver’s secondary is one of the best in the league. Although the Broncos have not created many turnovers to this point (only one interception), they have allowed just three passing touchdowns and are the league’s best defense in the red zone. With all the communication issues surrounding the Colts’ offensive line and Ryan, Indianapolis will have to be on point. It will be extremely difficult to operate in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.

Broncos Offense vs. Colts Defense

Denver’s offense and Russell Wilson have struggled mightily this season. The Broncos have averaged just 16.5 points per game (30th) and rank 21st in total yards per game. Where they have struggled has been on third down and in the red zone. They have converted only 35% of the time on third down, ranking 23rd in the league. They are last with only a 30% conversion rate in the red zone.

First-year coach Nathaniel Hackett has also had his share of miscues while trying to call offensive plays and manage the game. He hired former Ravens associate coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg to help with game-management decisions. This is no easy task for even experienced head coaches in the league, let alone a first-timer like Hackett. To compound the offensive woes, the Broncos lost Williams to a season-ending knee injury.

On the Colts’ side, they come into the contest ranked sixth in total defense. Their play under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has kept them in every game. They are stout against the run, don’t allow many points and don’t give up big plays. In fact, they have only allowed five explosive runs (+12 yards) on the season. Indianapolis will also be without linebacker Shaquille Leonard again, who is in the concussion protocol.

While the Colts give up very few explosive plays, look for Denver to challenge this unit down the field. Wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are both capable of getting behind the secondary and creating huge plays for Wilson. The Colts have only tallied three turnovers and seven sacks this season. These numbers will have to change in order for them to pull off the upset.

WATCH MORE: Jordan Vanek, Greg Jennings on Fantasy Impact of Sutton and Jeudy

 

 

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