INDIANAPOLIS – It's been quite the eventful week for the Indianapolis Colts.
The week culminates on Sunday with the undefeated Denver Broncos, led by an outstanding defense, coming to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here are seven things to watch for in the Colts (3-5) and Broncos (7-0) meeting in Week Nine:
1. Chud's Challenge
-Welcome Rob Chudzinski to the play calling post of the Indianapolis Colts. Your first challenge is a defense that tops the league in gobs of categories. Denver has transformed into a 3-4 scheme this season and their Pro Bowl personnel has made the transition more than smoothly. We will find out Sunday how Chud's impact on the game will differ from a play-calling standpoint.
2. First Quarter Success
-In 2015, Denver has yet to allow a point in the first quarter of a game. Since 1970, just nine NFL teams have done that through the first seven games of a season. The Colts have certainly had their own issues in starting games this season. Early points would obviously be ideal on Sunday and would greatly help out point No. 4 below.
3. Rattle Peyton
-The Colts are 2-1 against Denver with Peyton Manning at quarterback. In both of the wins, the Colts have recorded strip/sacks of Manning that have led to points. Plays by Robert Mathis in 2013 and Jonathan Newsome last year totally changed the complexion of those games. While another such turnover is desired from the Indianapolis defense on Sunday, consistent disruption of Manning's efficient timing has to be a key.
4. Feed Off Fans
-This key should go right along with point No. 2 this week. The Colts are just 1-3 at home this season and besides New England, they've struggled out of the gate. It's a must for the Colts to feed off their crowd this week in their last "semi" home primetime game (4:25 p.m. kickoff) of the season. For the Colts to find their way into the playoffs in 2015, they have to get back to near .500 at home.
5. Securing The Edges
-Denver's 29 sacks this season lead the NFL. A dozen players have recorded a sack for the top pass rushing unit. Off the edge on Sunday will be perennial Pro Bowlers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Last year in the Colts Divisional win over the Broncos, Miller and Ware (and the entire Broncos defense) was shut out from sacking Andrew Luck in 43 pass attempts.
6. No Fatal Errors
-In the past two weeks, the Colts have not only struggled for early offensive consistency (just one first down in the first quarter), they've had critical turnovers. The Colts HAVE to stay away from those turnovers this week, which won't be easy with the attacking style of Denver's opportune defense. Is this the week the Colts can finally stick with their game plan over a 60-minute game, without having to totally abandon things due to a significant deficit?
7. Bye Week Momentum
-Coming next week is the Colts bye. They will have seven games remaining after their bye week (@Atlanta, Tampa Bay, @Pittsburgh, @Jacksonville, Houston, @Miami, Tennessee). If the Colts lose on Sunday, they will head into their bye week behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South. If the Colts can knock off the undefeated Denver Broncos, there's a definite chance to get on a bit of a run in the second half of the season.