By Kevin McGuire
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a matchup between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts would be an easy pick for one of the games of the week on any week of the NFL season. The 2017 season has not gone well for either franchise for a variety of reasons. A lack of consistent quarterback play has been the focal point for both teams, with the Broncos still trying to find a true successor to Peyton Manning and the Colts’ own Manning successor, Andrew Luck, being sidelined by injury all year.
The Broncos and Colts have long been removed from the AFC Playoff picture. Instead, we are talking about potentially landing a top-five pick in the NFL Draft next spring for both Denver and Indianapolis. But something has to give on Thursday night in Indy. Which one of these AFC disappointments will celebrate a win Thursday night?
When They Last Met
The Broncos defeated the Colts when they met last year in the middle of September. The 34-20 victory was fueled by Broncos kicker Brandon McManus and the defense scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Aqib Talib returned an Andrew Luck interception 46 yards to extend Denver’s lead and Shane Ray returned a fumble 15 yards for a late touchdown to create a two-score game.
What Happened Last Week?
The Broncos snapped their eight-game losing streak with a shutout victory over the New York Jets. The 23-0 victory was the first time Denver won a game since starting the season 3-1 and came a week after getting embarrassed on the road by the Miami Dolphins (35-9). The Colts offense was stuck in a snow bowl on the road against the Buffalo Bills. The 13-7 overtime loss to the Bills was the fourth-straight loss for the Colts.
Can Frank Gore Follow Up a Big Game on Short Rest?
One of the problematic topics of conversation for the NFL this season has been the level of play and increased health risks with playing Thursday night games on short rest. This week, veteran running back Frank Gore will be put to the test. In his 13th season, Gore just ripped off 130 yards on the ground against Buffalo on Sunday. Now, on just four days of rest, Gore has a quick turnaround to prepare for the Broncos. How much will he have in the tank? That should be a primary concern for the Colts this week.
Trevor Siemian’s Up-and-Down Season
What kind of game will the Broncos’ starting quarterback play this week? Flip a coin. Two weeks ago, Siemian was picked off three times in a blowout loss against the Dolphins on the road. Last week, he avoided the interceptions and completed 61.3 percent of his passes with a touchdown in a 23-0 win. Siemian is not going to go off for a big passing day in the box score, but if he avoids making mistakes through the air, he should be serviceable enough for Denver.
Don’t go tuning in to Thursday Night Football this week expecting a game of the caliber of an AFC Championship Game. This one could be one of the ugliest games the NFL sees on the Thursday night schedule all season. Neither team has shown to have a reliable offense, and the short rest could lead to some early fatigue factors slowing down the pace of the game. In the end, Denver feels like the slightly safer pick here, but you may be better off just avoiding choosing a favorite for this one at all costs.