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Scouting the enemy: Indianapolis Colts

It’s Thursday Night Football in Denver and both teams are pretty banged up early in the season.

Denver Broncos v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When the Indianapolis Colts meet the Denver Broncos at Mile High for some Thursday Night Football action, both teams will be sporting some banged-up squads for just Week 5 of the season.

The Broncos had 12 players on the injury report Tuesday, but thankfully key starters Melvin Gordon and Russell Wilson were taken off Wednesday’s report. Javonte Williams and Randy Gregory were placed on IR Monday, joining Justin Simmons who is on short-term IR since Week 2.

The Colts have only six players on the injury report but they include some key starters, namely Jonathan Taylor, Julian Blackmon, and Shaquille Leonard.

In the last meeting between the Broncos and Colts in 2019, the Colts came away with a 15-13 win. Both quarterbacks at the time - Jacoby Brisset and Joe Flacco - really struggled with a combined total of only 376 yards in the air and no touchdowns. The rushing attack for the Broncos was also pretty bad too, with only 113 rushing yards total and Phillip Lindsay leading the way. The Colts' rushing game against the Broncos was a little bit better with Marlon Mack running for 76 yards and one touchdown. If you’re a fan of defense, this was the game for you as the Broncos had four sacks against the Colts.

Looking back on the 2021 Colts

The Colts on paper last year were expected to have a good season. Coming off an 11-5 finish in 2020 and touting seven Pro Bowlers and five All-Pros on the 2021 squad, expectations for a good season seemed reasonable. But the Colts failed to improve, ending with a record of 9-8 and missing the playoffs because of a shocking loss in Week 17 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Carson Wentz really struggled during the year and could not find his groove. But sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor exploded onto the scene in the middle of the year, getting most of the workload on the Colts' offense. He truly had a breakout season, rushing for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns. He even boasted 40 catches for 360 yards and two more receiving touchdowns.

Defensively the Colts were good too, with 33 sacks, 19 interceptions, and averaging just 109 rush yards allowed per game.

Kwity Paye, Deforest Buckner, Shaq Leonard, and Kenny Moore II were all the most note-worthy players on the defense.

List of all the Colts' offseason transactions

Key gains: QB Matt Ryan, DE Yannick Ngakoue, CB Stephen Gilmore, CB Brandon Facyson,

Key losses: QB Carson Wentz, CB Rock Ya-Sin, S George Odum, G Mark Glowinski, WR Zach Pascal, CB Xavier Rhodes, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad

2022 NFL Draft: Second round: (53) WR Alec Pierce, Third round: (73) TE Jelani Woods, (77) OT Bernhard Raimann, (96) S Nick Cross, Fifth round: (159) DT Eric Johnson, Sixth round: (192) TE Andrew Ogletree, (216) DT Curtis Brooks, Seventh round: CB Rodney Thomas II

Colts’ 2022 season so far

The Colts currently sit at 1-2-1, making them third in the AFC South currently with a loss to the Titans and a shutout loss to the Jaguars. They did beat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17 in Week 3 and tied the Texans in Week 1. So far it is really hard to tell what the season outlook for the Colts currently is; they’ve had one really good win against the Chiefs but in their losses and their one tie, they have not looked like the team many people thought they would be in the offseason.

Colts' biggest cause for concern: Quarterback and Offensive line

The ‘Colts' offensive line issues are surprising, but since they’ve lost two starters on the offensive line this year, the Colts started to panic. They started to move guys out of their positions, and there have been massive issues. Center Ryan Kelly has been struggling, Matt Pryor has been disappointing since moving to tackle, and both guards - Will Fries and Quentin Nelson - have taken a step back as well.

Offensive line issues translate to quarterback issues. Matt Ryan is 23rd in QBR with 41.3, and his turnovers so far are alarming. He has five interceptions and nine fumbles in four games. Whether it’s age or scheme, Ryan has taken a step back since joining the Colts.

Tanner’s three keys

  1. Bully the old guy

Ryan is currently 37 years old, and his mobility has taken a hit. Ryan has five interceptions, and nine fumbles and has been sacked 15 times. In both losses, Ryan was sacked multiple times, so if the Broncos want to win they’ll have to get to Ryan.

2. Next man up mentality

The Broncos are banged up and have multiple guys currently on IR. Players like Mike Boone, Melvin Gordon, Baron Browning, and Nik Bonitto are going to have to step up along with our safeties. Unfortunately the Broncos are thin there right now with P.J. Locke, Caden Sterns, and Justin Simmons all out with injury, and it is not certain if Locke and Sterns will play Thursday.

3. Limit penalties

The Broncos currently lead the NFL in penalties with 37, and they have 286 penalty yards. They are also allowing 71 penalty yards per game. The most penalties in a game for Denver came in Week 2 against the Texans; the fewest was the game against the Niners. The penalty issues have gotten a little bit better, but if the Broncos want to win, they absolutely cannot have more than six penalties.

Tanner’s prediction

Both coaches have had really bad starts to the year, and both teams are very banged up. This game will probably be a low-scoring affair, and unfortunately, I do think that Russell Wilson will have some issues as he is dealing with a shoulder injury despite playing.

Without Jonathan Taylor, the Colts’ offense will also take a massive hit and with Matt Ryan’s issues, the Colts will have to rely on their defense. The Broncos, also with several injuries to their defense, will rely on their offense too. The rushing attack for both teams will definitely not be up to expectations so expect it to be a pass-first type of game. It will come down to which offense can break through. I can see the game being very close but not in a good way, and I could see it going either way.

Denver 16, Indianapolis 14.