Sunday, January 09, 2005

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, January 9, 2004

Television: CBS, 1:00 ET / Commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, and Bonnie Bernstein

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts... IndianapolisDon't read too much into Denver's 33-14 victory over Indianapolis in Week 17. If anything, Denver was forced to show more than they may have wanted to, since they were fighting for a playoff spot. Surely, Indianapolis used that game to prepare for the matchup that they knew would ensue. I'm not sure why this game will be any different than last year's Wild Card round when Peyton Manning threw for 5 TD's. It's hard to see the Broncos being able to contain Indianapolis's three WR tandem. Despite the relative closeness on paper, this may be the most lobsided postseason matchup. Despite finishing strong, Denver has been inconsistent for much of the season. I'll select Indianapolis to win by a final score of 38-17.

QB: Jake Plummer (Denver Broncos) vs. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)
Edge: Manning. No doubt about this one. Despite his relative lack of success in big playoff games, Manning is the superior QB. Plummer isn’t known for his playoff performances either. Plummer has been a liability, throwing 20 interceptions compared to 25 touchdowns. Manning has been incredibly efficient this year, amassing a QB rating of 121. Lets hope that we don’t see a repeat of Manning’s performance in the 2004 AFC title game, where he threw for 4 interceptions against New England.

RB: Reuben Droughns vs. Edgerrin James
Edge: Even. Droughns has stepped up in the absence of injured TB Quentin Griffin. His season numbers are very similar to those of James. Droughns could have a very good day against an Indianapolis team that has shown an inability to tackle at times this season.

FB: Kyle Johnson vs. James Mungro
Edge: Even. Without having looked at tape, it’s hard to differentiate between these two blocking fullbacks. Neither one has touched the ball more than a dozen times this season. Both teams utilize a lot of three WR sets and take the FB out of the mix.

WR: Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie vs. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne
Edge: Harrison & Wayne. The Colts WR corps is amazing. Including 3rd WR Brandon Stokely, each receiver caught for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, Denver is competent at the position and has the Super Bowl experience of Rod Smith. That being said, there’s no comparison at this position. Indianapolis employs three receivers that would be #1 options on many NFL teams.

TE: Dwayne Carswell vs. Marcus Pollard
Edge: Pollard. Factoring in backup Dallas Clark, Indianapolis tight ends have caught more than 50 passes in 2004. Pollard and Clark are factors offensively, while Carswell is mainly relegated to blocking.

Edge: Even. Both teams have experienced offensive lines that give their quarterbacks plenty of time to throw the ball. Neither QB was sacked more than an average of once per game.

DL: Marco Coleman, Mario Fatafehi, Monsanto Pope, and Reggie Hayward vs. Raheem Brock, Montae Reagor, Josh Williams, and Dwight Freeney.
Edge: Indianapolis. Denver’s been better this season at stopping the run, allowing opponents fewer than 100 yards of rushing per game. However, Dwight Freeney and his 16 sacks is the biggest threat to Denver’s success. Raheem Brock chimed in with an additional 5.5 sacks as well. Denver gets the majority of its sacks from Reggie Hayward, the team’s Right End. Indianapolis’ front four will have to come up big and not allow Droughns to establish confidence on the ground.

LB: D.J. Williams, Al Wilson, and Donnie Spragan vs. David Thornton, Rob Morris, and Cato June
Edge: Denver. Williams, the rookie out of UM, led Denver this season with 114 tackles. Wilson and Spragan have acquitted themselves as solid NFL linebackers. I’m concern whether or not Indianapolis’s linebackers are physical enough to slow down Reuben Droughns.

Secondary: Champ Bailey, Kelly Herndon, Kennoy Kennedy, and John Lynch vs. Nick Harper, Jason David, Mike Doss, and Idrees Bashir
Edge: Denver. On paper, Denver would seem to have the better pass defense. They’ve allowed only 184 yards per game in the air, compared to 243 for the Colts. Last year’s 41 point disaster against Indianapolis in the playoffs was the impetus for bringing in big names like Lynch and Bailey. There are no big playmakers on either side’s secondary. Even though Denver has a slight edge, it’s hard to envision a scenario where they can contain Wayne, Harrison, and Stokely.

Special Teams
Edge: Indianapolis. Both kickers, Mike Vanderjagt and Jason Elam have been exquisite as usual. Hunter Smith has another great punting season for the Colts. Dominick Rhodes had a wonderful year returning kicks, averaging nearly 25 yards per return.

Coaching: Mike Shanahan vs. Tony Dungy
Edge: Dungy. It might be hard to imagine picking against a coach who won two Super Bowls. However, Shanahan road largely on the coattails of John Elway and a prime Terrell Davis. Without the help of these two playmakers, Shanahan has not won a playoff game in five years. Dungy has consistently had his Tampa Bay and Indianapolis teams at the premiere stage of NFL competition. I have no doubt that Dungy is capable of winning a Super Bowl, even if it may not come this season.


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