Indianapolis Colts (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Football Week 1
Date and Time: Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 8:30pm EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
by Scotty L, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IND +7/DEN -7
Over/Under Total: 55
On Sunday Night Football on NBC, the Indianapolis Colts will face the defending conference champion Denver Broncos in an appealing week one matchup. Both teams are building on recent successes, with the Broncos hoping to win it all this season after losing in the Super Bowl. But the Colts have hopes of their own, following a pair of successful campaigns under QB Andrew Luck.
After an 11-5 season, the Colts look to take it to the next level this season and may just prove to be one of the Broncosí toughest roadblocks in the conference. A lot of the future success of Indy will come down to establishing a run-game. They have major issues on the offensive line and at running back, which go hand-in-hand. Trent Richardsonís chances to make it big are winding down and he needs to get off to fast start. Ahmad Bradshaw is a decent alternative, but they need something truly meaningful to manifest in the ground game. Indy is strong at tackle, but part of the reason they had so much trouble running the ball was the lack of good guard play. Maybe rookie Jake Mewhort can help that or it could make the Colts offense somewhat one-dimensional and overly-reliant on the pass.
But that passing game may be really special. T.Y. Hilton is really developing into a major weapon. Returning Reggie Wayne could have some life left in him. Look for ex-Giant Hakeem Nicks and rookie Donte Moncrief to chip in with some big plays. And the TE situation is solid with Coby Fleener a very productive piece to the puzzle.
Defense is going to be an issue with Indy. They had trouble stopping the run last year and canít afford a repeat of that form if they hope to continue rising up the ladder. They added former-Raven Arthur Jones to the line, who with Cody Redding and Ricky Jean Francois, should be a good unit. Losing Robert Mathis for the first four games puts the LB corps under scrutiny, but Bjoern Werner is in his second year and should improve. Adding guys like DíQwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman should help. The corner play is in good hands with Greg Toler and Vontae Davis, but after losing S Antoine Bethea and with the lack of growth from LaRon Landry, there could be a problem with safety play. How all those issues pan out could determine the Coltsí fate. They made the playoffs in 2012. In 2013, they won a playoff game. Does the trajectory continue to rise or do the Colts take a step back?
You donít get much harder of an entrance exam into the season than the Denver Broncos. The last time they were in a game that mattered, they were getting shellacked by the Seattle Seahawks, but letís not forget what happened before that, when the Broncos were lighting up one team after the next.
Denver hit the ground fast last season. In their first 6 games, only one team came within 15 points of beating the Broncos. But their first loss was to this very Colts team, suggesting Indy matches up pretty well with the Broncos. And they do. But again, the Coltsí ďDĒ is not the same one that faced Denver last year. They will be without Mathis, who sacked Manning twice, while departed Antoine Bethea was also big in that game. And Manning still managed to throw for 386.
Denver lost some key pieces, but could be even better. The line returns top tackle Ryan Clady from injury. WR Emanuel Sanders adds quickness to the receiving package. On ďD,Ē DeMarcus Ware comes in and could be a big factor if he stays healthy. First-round pick Bradley Roby comes in at CB, with a good free agent signing in CB Aqib Talib. Von Miller is back, healthy and with no suspensions looming.
Denver lost some guys like WR Eric Decker, RB Knowshon Moreno, and WR Wes Welker had more concussion issues in the preseason. The defense took some knocks and they lost a key return guy in Trindon Holliday. They will need to establish a good run-game with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. And Miller and Ware need to combine to make for a feared pass-rush.
Denver will be still be really good and even dominant in long stretches this season. They are hungry, with aging Peyton Manning still in peak form, but running out of time. He still has one of the best weapons in the league with Demaryius Thomas, a prolific receiver and one of the best third down guys in the league. Julius Thomas is shaping up into one of the best tight ends in the game. In this offense, look for other guys to step up. Finding aerial weapons wonít be an issue. Theyíre going to need some guys to step up at inside linebacker and for a run-game to mount. Other than that, there isnít that much to worry about. Denver is gonna be all right.
Denver was 6-0 when they came into Indy last season. The Colts may have caught Denver on an off-week. Now in Denver, coming off a crushing loss in the Super Bowl, with time running out to win a Bowl against a team that beat them last season, look for a more-urgent mindset from the Broncos. With less of a pass-rush to worry about, Manning should have little trouble connecting with his vast array of weaponry en route to a competitive, but conclusive win for the Broncos.
Scotty Lís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Broncos minus 7 points.
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