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Colts at Broncos preview: Denver looks to rebound on short week

After a tough loss to the Raiders, Denver has a quick turnaround for TNF to get back in the win column.

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There’s nothing like a quick turnaround to get over a tough loss.

Such is the case for Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos after their 32-23 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. They now have to pivot to Thursday Night Football and the Indianapolis Colts (1-2-1).

The Broncos (2-2) also do so with the news that running back Javonte Williams is done for the year and edge Randy Gregory will miss at least a few weeks.

At DraftKings Sportsbook, it’s no surprise that Denver is a 3.5-point favorite. On the year, the Broncos are 1-3 against the spread. The total sits at 43.5. For what it’s worth, the over hit for the first time this season against the Raiders.

Offensive Rankings

Indianapolis: Nineteenth in overall offense (339.8 yards per game), 27th in rushing (87.8), 10th in passing (252.0), 32nd in scoring offense (14.3 points per game).

Denver: Twenty-first in overall offense (335.8 yards per game), 18th in rushing (109.5), 19th in passing (226.3), 29th in scoring offense (16.5 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

Indianapolis: Sixth in overall defense (297.0 yards per game), sixth in rushing defense (89.5), 10th in passing defense (207.5), tied for 13th in scoring defense (21.3 points per game).

Denver: Fourth in overall defense (284.8 yards per game), 18th in rushing defense (114.0), fifth in passing defense (170.8), fifth in scoring defense (17.0 points per game).

Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Thursday night’s game.

Win the battle in the trenches

This is the biggest cliché in football, but it’s so, so true. On Sunday against Las Vegas, the Broncos got completely destroyed on both sides of the ball. There were a few outliers here and there, but the Raiders completely owned the trenches against Denver. That has to change on Thursday against Indy for the Broncos to have any shot. — Ian St. Clair

Don’t fumble, Melvin

With Javonte out, all eyes will be on Melvin Gordon as the Broncos’ featured running back. It is clear his confidence is shaken to his core and unless he can get out of his own head on a short week, we may see him continue to struggle to hold onto the football. All he needs is one game without a fumble and maybe we’ll start to see multiple games in a row without one. But until that streak stops, he’s got to be the biggest liability on the team and due to injury, the team has to play him on Thursday. We’ll all hold our breath together each time he touches the ball. — Tim Lynch

Defense needs to return to form

The collapse against the Raiders was unacceptable. What the Broncos let Josh Jacobs do was a major surprise based on how they had played in the first 3 weeks. Now, with Williams done for the year, getting off the field as quickly as possible is going to be imperative to the success of the whole team. Controlling the clock by giving the offense more opportunities will be a huge part of the team’s success. It’s more than just stopping the run, too. It’s being dominant in all aspects of defense. Force turnovers. Give Wilson good field position. Luckily, it looks like Indianapolis will be banged up for the Thursday night game, which could help. — Adam Malnati

Stop the self-inflicted wounds

When the offense gets momentum, stop killing it with fumbles, missed assignments, drops, and penalties. The offense looked as sharp as it has looked this season in Las Vegas and finally eclipsed 20 points, but too many times when it seemed the offense was going to establish itself, it’d stumble. The Broncos were about to go ahead before Gordon fumbled those points to the Raiders. Back-to-back holding penalties required a 60-yard pass from Wilson to K.J. Hamler to get out of that hole. Critical drops from Gordon, Jerry Jeudy, and Mike Boone stalled drives, and Wilson was sacked in back-to-back series in the third quarter, forcing punt situations. Wilson was as good as he’s been this season on Sunday and showed he still has the ability to take over. The rest of the offense needs to get out of its own way. — Nick Burch

Let’s ride. No seriously, let’s actually ride

I’m tired of Nathaniel Hackett’s offense. Why did we think he was such a good play caller again? We have Russell Wilson, let’s use him. Wilson got the Broncos out of a 1st-and-30 and 1st-and-25 on Sunday because of his beautiful arm, throwing bombs to Hamler, Courtland Sutton and, earlier, Jeudy. Wilson also used his legs to scramble 29 yards even when the ground game everywhere else wasn’t working. Wilson has led the Broncos on fourth-quarter touchdown drives in each of the last three games; Sunday was the first time it wasn’t enough to get the win. But if Hackett would let Russ in the kitchen a lot sooner, he could whip up something better than leftovers. — Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

What are your keys to Thursday’s game?