Dating back to the early 2000s, one of the most lop-sided matchups in the NFL has been the dominance of the Indianapolis Colts over the Denver Broncos.
These aren't the same Denver Broncos.
I realize the Colts are undefeated, and that they are playing this game at home. I know that a victory for them clinches a first-round bye. I even understand the magnitude of the potential NFL record 22nd straight regular season victory for the Colts.
But so do they, and that may not be the best thing.
In the NFL, winning is winning, and you can't make excuses for it. The Colts have been up to every task so far, but they are walking on eggshells.
This is a team living on the edge, winning half of their games by four points or less. They also overcame a 17-point deficit against the Houston Texans two weeks ago.
Again, the only thing that is important is that they are winning, but the living on the edge could stop when Denver visits Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday.
The Colts are a very favorable matchup for the Broncos, provided Denver brings the game it played in the eight games they won rather than the four games they were blown out in.
The Colts' rushing offense is putrid, ranking 32nd in the NFL with nearly 88 yards per game. Despite the inept running attack the Colts boast, they still rank fourth in the NFL in total offense and scoring.
On the defensive side of the ball, Indianapolis ranks a very mediocre 18th against the run, allowing 111.7 yards per contest.
This is an area the Broncos must take advantage of, and very well should.
Denver's rushing offense ranks ninth in the NFL at 125.6 yards per contest, and they might be one of the hottest units in the league.
Correll Buckhalter made Kansas City's run defense look absolutely silly, averaging over nine yards per carry. Rookie Knowshon Moreno is in his best stretch as a pro, rushing for 86 yards in each of the last two games and scoring three of his five touchdowns in that timeframe.
Additionally, Denver fans breathed a sigh of relief when Peyton Hillis, the breakout running back from 2008, was spotted on the field against the Chiefs. He came in on the final drive of the game and ran the ball seven times for 47 yards.
A welcome sight for the Broncos and their fans, to be sure.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos had really been struggling against the run until the last two games. They rank 16th in this particular category, which is clearly the weakest part of their defensive attack.
The Broncos should be able to limit Joseph Addai and the Colts' running game while running the ball well themselves.
Another area where the Broncos could excel defensively is in the passing game. Obviously, the focal point of the Colts' offense is their elite passing game featuring two of the league's best in Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.
Manning and Wayne lead the NFL's top-ranked passing attack, but they face a very stiff task in Denver who ranks second in the entire league in passing defense.
Denver is led by All-Pros Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins, and veterans Renaldo Hill and André Goodman who lead the team with a combined six interceptions. The Broncos also added veteran Ty Law and top youngsters Darcel McBath, Alphonso Smith, and David Bruton to the mix in their defensive backfield.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Denver's defense is their pass rush, which is a big reason for the success of the defensive backfield.
Led by current NFL sack king Elvis Dumervil, the Bronco pass rush has been rejuvenated under Mike Nolan in the 3-4 defensive scheme. Denver features 10 different players who have recorded a sack in 2009, and it could become 11 if rookie first-round pick Robert Ayers records his first quarterback takedown of the season against Indianapolis.
The Broncos rank fifth in the NFL with 34 sacks, and the Colts lead the NFL with only 10 sacks allowed. This will be the key matchup in the game, as the Broncos have to apply pressure to Peyton Manning to be able to win.
Another thing the Broncos have on their side is the simple fact that the Colts are undefeated, which may be confusing on the surface.
I know this isn't baseball, and may not even be applicable, but in baseball when a team is on a hot streak, it is not the worst thing to have to play them. Winning streaks are bound to end, and the Colts' win streak isn't exactly picking up steam.
The Broncos could catch them at their highest point, and bring them back down to earth. The Colts are not likely going to go 16-0, and with their defense ailing worse than it has in years, this could be the week for them to slip up.
I am not going to be so bold as to say the Broncos will go into Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday and beat the undefeated Colts, but I would say it is a definite possibility.
I think this is a very favorable matchup for the Broncos, who are in desperate need for a win this weekend to potentially gain ground on the San Diego Chargers who also have a tough road game in the works.
Maybe the Broncos will finally get the best of Peyton Manning and the Colts. Maybe the stars will align just right, and Denver will even stick it to Indy on their home turf.
Maybe all those years of blowout playoff and regular season losses were all just setting up this contest, where neither team's sideline will feature the likes of Mike Shanahan or Tony Dungy.
Maybe, just maybe.
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