Wrapping up our NFL Divisional playoffs previews it is time to take a look at the showdown at Mile High Stadium between the grizzled veteran QB Peyton Manning and the up and coming young buck Andrew Luck.
How they shape up - Colts
By now the Colts really are the walking wounded. Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne was rested all week in order to improve his fitness and right guard Hugh Thornton and right tackle Gosder Cherilus have both gone on injured reserve.
On top of this, centers Harrison and Shipley are both on the injury report listed as probable to play.
The Colts could have really used an extra week of prep time for this one.
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How they shape up - Broncos
Thanks to seeding the Broncos had a bye last week and therefore an extra week to prepare for this one. The hope will be that star QB Peyton Manning has been able to use the time to recover some arm strength as in recent weeks the Broncos passing game hasn't been the powerhouse it should be.
Also Manning is listed on the Broncos injury report as having a thigh issue.
Manning isn't alone on the injury report with big names T.J. Ward, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Aqib Talib and Brandon Marshall all making the list, all as probable save for Marshall who is questionable.
Obviously, having that number and quality of players with knocks and niggles isn't ideal.
How they win - Colts
Two words, Andrew Luck. With the injury to Ahmad Bradshaw and key members of the offensive line the Colts running game has essentially disappeared. Since the defense is also nothing great the burden of carrying the team falls, pretty much totally, on the quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck is capable of delivering fantastic performances and he often saves his best form for the big games. If the Colts are to make it to the AFC Championship game then they will need Luck to do just that again. Unless Luck has a near perfect game it is hard to see the Colts beating Denver.
How they win - Broncos
If you look back to Week One when these teams faced off the Broncos won 31-24 and one of the key reasons that game was close was the Colts offensive line protecting Andrew Luck against DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. In that game Von Miller had one tackle all game and other than two plays in which Ware picked up 1.5 sacks he didn't do much either.
Unfortunately for the Colts though, the offensive line that did that so many months ago is not the same unit. Injuries have meant that they have been forced to plug in replacements all season. In total 11 different offensive line units have taken the field this season for the Colts. The latest set of injuries have been to right tackle Cherilus and right guard Thornton.
Whilst the Colts offensive line has been going one way the Broncos pass rush has been going the other way. Ware and Von Miller have finished the season with a combined 24 sacks.
Against the Colts we can expect to see the pair get after Andrew Luck early and often. If they do this then they will have essentially shut down the Colts offense and even average play on the other side of the ball will be enough to give Denver the win.
Verdict - BRONCOS WIN
The Broncos are just a far more talented team than the Colts, at home they should take care of business and head into the AFC Championship game where I'm tipping them to face the Ravens.
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