2019 Colts Preview: Colts/Broncos, Week 8

The Indianapolis Colts host the Denver Broncos this Sunday and will be donning their all-blue Color Rush uniforms. The Colts have built plenty of momentum and look to close out this home stand with a victory. Here's everything you need to know about this week's matchup.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Color Rush hits The Circle City once again this week as the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) host the Denver Broncos (2-5) in a Lucas Oil Stadium blue-out on Sunday afternoon.

The Colts are winners of two straight games and four of the last five as they enter a favorable stretch of their schedule that featured three home games in four weeks. The Broncos are reeling after a lopsided loss last week and have lost five of the first seven games overall. The visitors from the west aren't to be taken lightly, however, as they possess one of the NFL's better defenses.

Here's everything you need to know about this week's matchup.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Broncos lead, 10-14 (Colts are 3-0 in the playoffs). The Broncos have won the last two games, and three of the last five dating back to 2014.
  • Last game — Week 15 of 2017. Broncos won, 25-13.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Broncos:

  • HC Vic Fangio
  • OC Rich Scangarello
  • DC Ed Donatell
  • STC Tom McMahon

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Won vs. Houston Texans (4-3), 30-23

Broncos:

  • Lost vs. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2), 30-6

INJURY UPDATE

Colts:

  • OUT — DT Carl Davis (hamstring)
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — WR Parris Campbell (abdominal), CB Pierre Desir (hamstring), TE Jack Doyle (groin), DL Tyquan Lewis (ankle), CB Kenny Moore II (knee)

Broncos:

  • OUT — CB Bryce Callan (foot), S Will Parks (hand)
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — LB Justin Hollins (knee), OT Ja'Wuan James (knee)

EARLY STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Back To Dominating Up Front — The Colts' run game was held in check last week against the Houston Texans, but this week is a chance for it to bust open once again. Denver has surrendered big performances to Josh Jacobs (24 touches, 113 total yards, two touchdowns), David Montgomery (19 touches, 68 yards, one touchdown), Aaron Jones (23 yards, two touchdowns), Leonard Fournette (31 touches, 245 yards) and Austin Ekeler (18 touches for 93 yards). Could Marlon Mack be next?
  • Malik Hooker's Return — The Colts' starting free safety suffered a knee injury Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons, and he is now due to return to the field against the Broncos. The Colts have missed Hooker's range and athleticism in the secondary as well as his ability to make plays that others simply cannot duplicate. "Great ball skills and great awareness in the open field," Colts defensive backs/safeties coach Alan Williams told reporters this week when asked about Hooker. "One of the things that he has improved on – I don't know if the layperson would know, but he has tackled way better than he ever has. He is more physical. He is not just the guy that gets the guy down when the ball breaks out, but he is the guy that is sticking it in there in the pile. So we are pleased with that."
  • Denver's Offensive Line Issues — The Broncos have been able to run the ball a bit with their talented backfield duo of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, but pass protection has been a different story. Quarterback Joe Flacco has been sacked multiple times in all but two games, including three times each against the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers, six times against the Green Bay Packers and eight times last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. They may be getting starting tackle Ju'Wuan James back from Injured Reserve in this game, however. The Colts, meanwhile, have three four-sack games and a three-bagger on their résumé so far this year, so it's a clear advantage for Justin Houston and the Colts' pass rush.
  • Control Denver's Backfield — The most dangerous part of Denver's offense is its rushing attack with Lindsay and Freeman. However, the Colts have put the clamps down on the run in their last two games, holding running backs to 29 carries for 94 yards (3.2 avg.). If the Colts can continue to contain the run game then it will force quarterback Joe Flacco to beat the Indy defense through the air, which hasn't proven to be a winning formula for the Broncos this season.
  • No Emmanuel Sanders For Denver — This week, the Broncos traded wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a 2020 fifth-round draft pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for 2020 third- and fourth-round picks. That was the Broncos' second-leading receiver behind Courtland Sutton, and next in line at receiver are DaeSean Hamilton, Fred Brown, Diontae Spencer and Juwann Winfree. Hamilton has 41 receptions in 21 career games while Brown, Spencer and Winfree have a combined three career receptions.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. — This is always a fun pairing to watch. Both Hilton and Harris are considered among the best at their position, and both are skilled enough to move around their formation. We haven't seen any of those huge vintage T.Y. Hilton games yet, but he's on pace to set a new single-season career high in touchdowns as he currently sits at five. Harris leads one of the league's top pass defenses.
  • Colts OT Braden Smith vs. Broncos ED Von Miller — This might be the biggest assignment for Smith to date. While it would be wise for any team to load up Miller's side of the line, Smith will almost certainly find himself isolated against Miller at least occasionally. If he can keep Miller in check then it will earn him some serious street cred across the NFL.
  • Colts DE Justin Houston vs. Broncos OT Garett Bolles — Houston had success against Bolles when he was a member of the Chiefs, totaling eight tackles (three for loss), three sacks and four quarterback hits in two games against Bolles, and he gets another shot at him this week. Bolles currently leads all NFL starting tackles in penalties (nine), and he's also allowed 15 total pressures, which is tied for 36th in the league among tackles.
  • Colts CB Pierre Desir vs. Broncos WR Courtland Sutton — Sutton was already Denver's top receiver, but then the trade of Sanders emphasizes that fact. As the Colts' biggest starting corner, Desir (pending his availability) will have the task of covering Sutton. At 6-4, 216, Sutton isn't just a big chain-mover — he's more than capable of making big plays downfield as well.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

REGULAR SEASON LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Jacoby Brissett (1,388 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (514 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (306 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR T.Y. Hilton (5)
  • Tackles — LB Anthony Walker (37)
  • Sacks — DE Justin Houston (4.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Pierre Desir, S Clayton Geathers, S Malik Hooker (1)

Broncos:

  • Passing — QB Joe Flacco (1,648 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Phillip Lindsay (433 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Courtland Sutton (564 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Phillip Lindsay (4)
  • Tackles — S Justin Simmons (38)
  • Sacks — DE DeMarcus Walker (4.0)
  • Interceptions — S Justin Simmons (2)

COMPARING 2019 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 22nd (350.5 YPG)
  • Scoring — 15th (23.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 24th (221.8 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 2nd (7)
  • Running offense — 10th (128.7 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 7th (47%)
  • Red zone offense — 6th (65.2%)
  • Total defense — 20th (361.2 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 17th (23.0 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 20th (250.2 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-19th (16)
  • Running defense — 19th (111.0 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (43%)
  • Red zone defense — 19th (60.0%)
  • Time of possession — 6th (31:59)
  • Turnover differential — 15th (+1)

Broncos:

  • Total offense — 25th (317.4 YPG)
  • Scoring — 29th (16.0 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 26th (207.9 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — Tied-27th (24)
  • Running offense — 16th (109.6 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 29th (30%)
  • Red zone offense — 26th (47.4%)
  • Total defense — 4th (302.6 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 8th (19.4 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 3rd (195.3 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-22nd (13)
  • Running defense — 16th (107.3 YPG)
  • Third down defense — Tied-5th (33%)
  • Red zone defense — 3rd (38.1%)
  • Time of possession — 19th (29:06)
  • Turnover differential — 25th (-3)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • Mack needs one 100-yard rushing game to tie Alan Ameche (seven) for the sixth-most such games in Colts franchise history.
  • Hilton needs one touchdown to pass Dallas Clark (46) for the 11th-most total touchdowns in franchise history and would also tie Clark for the sixth-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history. Hilton also needs one game with 10-plus receptions to pass Don McCauley, Lydell Mitchell, Joe Washington, Anthony Johnson and Clark (3) for the third-most such games in franchise history.
  • Colts tight end Eric Ebron needs two receiving touchdowns to pass Coby Fleener (17) for seventh and tie Ken Dilger (18) for the sixth-most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history.
  • Colts linebacker Darius Leonard needs nine tackles to reach 200 career tackles. Since 2000, only two players (Luke Kuechly – 202 and Patrick Willis – 202) have registered 200 career tackles in their first 20 games in the NFL.
  • Houston on if facing a pocket passer like Joe Flacco changes their approach to pass rushing: "I'm not going to say it will be easy. We played some quarterbacks that stand in the pocket and we didn't lay a finger on him. Our job is still hard. It's always hard to get to the quarterback – it's never easy. Our hands are full. We've got to stop them from running the ball. They want to run the ball. If we can eliminate the run that will help us a lot."
  • Broncos head coach Vic Fangio on the pressure it puts on a defense when the offense is running the ball well: "Well it always puts pressure on you. Nobody likes to get the ball run on them, but they're good enough that if you stop the run, they'll hurt you in the passing game – which was evident last week against Houston. Houston did a pretty good job against the run. The quarterback had a big day throwing for a bunch of yards and four touchdowns. So when you're balanced it's harder."
  • Fangio on what he's seen from Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett: "Big, strong guy. He's hard to get down. Hasn't been sacked very much, which is due to the good protection from the line, due to his ability to avoid sacks and due to his ability to understand the offence and get the ball off. So he's really done a nice job running the offense. He's made the big throws when they've had to make them. They're ranked very high on third down conversions, which is always a good barometer when you're measuring a quarterback. They've had about, I don't know, six or eight third down conversions due to penalties too that don't even get factored in there. He's throwing the deep ball good too. They've gotten some big PI (pass interference) penalties that's again, lost statistically, but are real during the game."
  • Fangio on what he's seen from Leonard: "A lot of good. Kudos to Chris Ballard for drafting him so high and getting him. I liked him when he was coming out of college. I didn't see him that high as a draft pick but Chris saw it. The guy is very instinctive, got a nose for the ball, he's really good at causing fumbles, getting recovery fumbles, picks (and) he's a tackling machine. They really found a great one there." And then Fangio on if Leonard reminds him of anyone he's seen before: "A good linebacker has to have good instincts and he does. Has to be a good tackler and he is. Those guys I had in San Francisco were that way, the guys in Chicago last year were that way and all the way back to Sam Mills were that way. He's right there with them."
  • The Colts made the following roster moves this week: Signed defensive tackle Lyndon Johnson to the practice squad and released running back Bruce Anderson III from the practice squad.

CATCH BEFORE THE GAME

NEXT WEEK

Colts:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (away)

Broncos:

  • Cleveland Browns (home)

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