Indianapolis Colts (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)
SERIES HISTORY: 23rd regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series 12-10, but the Colts won 27-24 last season in Indianapolis and have won three of the last four. The franchises have faced off three times in the postseason, with Indianapolis winning each. The Colts are 7-5 against Denver at home and 3-7 in road games.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Offensively, the Colts can't afford to sit back and let the Denver defense set the tone. The Colts have to be able to convert third down opportunities, which won't be easy against the Broncos. But Indianapolis' offense has had success against Denver in recent years.
As for the defense, the Colts have to be more efficient in their tackling. Indianapolis allowed too many yards after the catch in the loss to Detroit last week. The defense also needs to be more aggressive in terms of trying to get pressure on the quarterback. The Colts had only one sack against the Lions, although they were close on several other occasions. Indianapolis has to win the turnover battle.
Pressure on Andrew Luck did not prevent the Colts from racking up 27 points on the Broncos' defense, a figure surpassed only by the Steelers during Denver's championship season. On offense, the Broncos will try to avoid mistakes above all. Denver had a minus-2 turnover margin in last year's game; one interception led to a touchdown, and the other led to the drive that saw the Colts run out the clock, preventing a late Broncos comeback.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Broncos secondary. Luck has an 88.2 passer rating in four career games against the Denver defense, completing 104 of 170 passes for 1,115 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been sacked six times in those games.
--Broncos WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders vs. Colts CBs Patrick Robinson and Antonio Cromartie. Detroit's receivers gashed Indianapolis' secondary, which played without Pro Bowler Vontae Davis, and the Broncos' pass-catchers could have the same opportunity. Pressure from the Panthers led the Broncos to emphasize their short and screen-pass game last week, nullifying the matchup advantage the Broncos had against Carolina's young cornerbacks. But the Colts' front seven can't generate the kind of mayhem Carolina's did, so Trevor Siemian should have more time to take chances downfield against an Indianapolis secondary that surrendered an average of 8.7 yards every time Matthew Stafford threw last Sunday.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: TE Jack Doyle. Doyle had a strong start to the 2016 season, hauling in three passes for 35 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week's home loss to Detroit. The former Western Kentucky standout's 6-yard TD reception against the Lions gave the Colts a brief 35-34 lead late in the fourth quarter. Doyle had been used in recent years primarily as a short yardage and goal line receiver as well as an extra run/pass blocker. But with Coby Fleener now in New Orleans, the Indianapolis offensive coaching staff has decided to use Doyle more as a down the field receiver this year. He had a 16-yard reception against the Lions.
INJURY REPORT: Indianapolis -- Out: DT Henry Anderson (knee), CB Vontae Davis (ankle), S T.J. Green (knee), CB Patrick Robinson (concussion). Doubtful: LB Trent Cole (back). Questionable: CB Darius Butler (ankle), CB Antonio Cromartie (hamstring), S Clayton Geathers (foot), DT Zach Kerr (foot), DE Kendall Langford (knee), LB Robert Mathis (foot). Denver -- Out: WR Bennie Fowler (elbow). Questionable: T Ty Sambrailo (elbow, ankle), WR Demaryius Thomas (hip), DE Derek Wolfe (neck).
FAST FACTS: Since the start of the 2012 season, the Colts are 17-6 in regular-season games following losses. Indianapolis has outscored its opponents by an average score of 25-20 in those games. ... The Colts are 3-15 in games in which the defense has given up 30 or more points since Chuck Pagano has been the team's coach. ... Colts RB Frank Gore needs 22 rushing yards to move past Franco Harris (12,120) for 13th place on the NFL's all-time rushing list. ... Denver ILB Todd Davis was the coaches' defensive player of the week for his six-tackle, one-assist performance against the Panthers. ... Since 2012, WR Demaryius Thomas ranks second in the NFL with 5,835 receiving yards. He's the only player with 5,500 yards and 40 touchdowns TDs in that time.
PREDICTION: The Broncos' stifling defense should give Andrew Luck and company a tough time, so it will be up to C.J. Anderson to pound the Colts' defense.
OUR PICK: Broncos, 24-20.