Although he's been on fire through the first six weeks of the 2013 season, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will need to rely on his running game on Sunday night if he's to make his return to Indianapolis a successful one.
Manning and the Broncos have yet to face a defense as stout as the Colts' unit, which ranks fifth in the league against the pass coming into Week 7.
On top of allowing just 206 passing yards per game, Indy's secondary has surrendered just five touchdowns through the air while recording seven interceptions. On the other hand, Greg Manusky's defense has proved extremely vulnerable against the run.
The Colts have only allowed just four rushing touchdowns all year, but they are giving up chunks of yardage on the ground, equating to 132 yards total on average. That's why Denver must look to hand the ball off early and often this weekend.
While Manning is experienced and accurate enough to open up Indy's secondary and create opportunities in the passing game, he'll need to lean on Denver's 15th-ranked rushing attack in order to keep the chains moving and the Colts offense on the sideline.
The Broncos are averaging 115 rushing yards per game this season and boast three quality backs who can beat up the Colts' front seven. Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman are both averaging more than four yards per carry in 2013, while rookie Montee Ball has rushed for nearly 140 yards through six weeks.
Relying on his running backs to make second and third down easier will open up the play-action pass and possibilities throughout the playbook for Manning and his teammates.
Plus, No. 18 has shown he can be human at times this October, tossing an interception in each of his past two outings. By calling on his backs to carry the load offensively—at least early on—Manning will give Denver's offense a better shot of wearing down Indy's D and ultimately forcing the Colts to crack in crunch time.
With the Colts surrendering 4.6 yards per carry, the Broncos are sure to have tremendous success on the ground so long as they commit to the run.
More so than Manning's brilliance, Denver's offensive balance is what makes the Broncos a legitimate threat to win it all this year, and Manning and Co. will need to demonstrate that balance on Sunday night if they hope to remain unbeaten.
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