And both teams are dealing with bigger worries than the point spread. The Colts saw owner Jim Irsay suspended for six games and fined $500,000 on Tuesday as a result of his DUI arrest earlier this year. Later the same day, Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker was suspended for four games for using amphetamines.
For Denver, it’s finding a way to beat Peyton Manning’s former team after losing to them six straight.
Broncos Colts Point spread: The Broncos opened as six-point favorites, but heavy Bronco action pushed the number to minus-9 by Thursday; the total was 55 (line updates and matchup report).
Odds Shark computer prediction: 34.4-27.0 Broncos
Why the Colts can cover the spread
Indianapolis has built this team very similarly to the Super Bowl championship squad from 2006, with quarterback Andrew Luck the cornerstone like his predecessor, Manning.
Luck may not be at Manning’s level yet, but he is on his way and has improved in each of his first two seasons. He also beat Denver last year 39-33 in a made-for-TV SNF game in which Indy was a six-point home underdog.
The head-to-head matchup between Luck and Manning was so exciting that it became the first SNF game of this season. The Colts are 6-0 ATS against the Broncos but 0-6 ATS opening the season.
Why the Broncos can cover the spread
The Broncos made some big changes on defense this past offseason in hopes of taking the next step from AFC champions to Super Bowl winners. While they will be hard-pressed to match last year’s record-breaking offense, they do not need to in order to be a better overall team.
Manning is always motivated by something, and losing to his former team last season has to be weighing on him heading into this game. That loss to Indianapolis was Denver’s lone setback in its first 10 games a year ago, and Manning has a good memory.
The Broncos are 5-1 against the spread the last six times they opened the season at home, including last year’s 49-27 shellacking of the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football, which saw Manning toss a career-high seven touchdown passes. The past six times the Broncos opened the season at home, they covered the number five times.
While Irsay’s suspension is definitely a distraction, it will not impact Indy on the field the way Welker's absence will hurt the Broncos. Being without one of his top targets will be uncomfortable for Manning, especially since wide receiver Eric Decker is no longer with the team.
Another cog in Denver’s offense who will not be there is running back Knowshon Moreno, who was Manning’s safety valve on several occasions and is now in Miami.
The trends in this game may mostly favor the Broncos, but they will also be a big public play and should be faded. The Colts have won just four times in 23 games as road underdogs dating back several seasons, according to the Odds Shark NFL database.
- Colts 0-6 ATS past six openers
- Colts 6-0 SU and ATS past six games vs Broncos
- Over is 7-1 past eight meetings
- Colts are 4-19 SU past 23 times as road underdogs
- Broncos 16-2 SU past 18 games as home chalk