Free Expert NFL Picks: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/8/2015
The divisional round wraps up Sunday late afternoon in Denver in a matchup between the Colts and Broncos that oddsmakers believe will be the highest scoring of the four games, and I tend to agree. And what a great story line we might have here. Could this be Peyton Manning's last best chance to win a Super Bowl at age 38? How ironic would it be if Manning's replacement in Indy, and perhaps in the NFL's overall quarterback pecking order, Andrew Luck, was the guy to finish off Manning's Super Bowl chances? No. 18 had another stellar season, but he showed some signs of slowing down late in the season, so don't rule it out that this might be Manning's last true shot at a second ring to join brother Eli in that category. Manning joins Ken Stabler as the only quarterbacks to face a team in the playoffs that they previously won a Super Bowl with.
The Broncos are the AFC's No. 1 seed for the third time in Manning's three seasons. It worked out last year as Denver reached the Super Bowl, but the Broncos fell in the divisional round at home to Baltimore in 2012. The AFC South champion Colts have won 11 regular-season games in each of Luck's three NFL seasons. His first playoff experience didn't go well in 2012, a blowout loss in Baltimore. Last year Luck led the second-biggest NFL playoff comeback ever in the wild-card round against Kansas City before the Colts were pounded in New England. So he is 0-2 in road postseason games. Luck has completed only 50 percent of his attempts for two touchdowns and five interceptions in those two playoff losses.
The winner of this game likely heads to New England for the AFC title game next Sunday. However, if the Ravens pull the upset in Foxboro on Saturday, the winner here hosts Baltimore. Both the Broncos and Colts were blown out by New England this season. The Ravens lost in Indianapolis but didn't play Denver.
Denver is +600 to win the Super Bowl at Bovada and +200 to win the AFC. You can also bet against the Broncos winning it all at -1000. Indy is +1600 to win the Super Bowl and +800 for the AFC.
Colts at Broncos Betting Story Lines
Injury-wise, both teams are in pretty good shape. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, the team's leading tackler, and safety T.J. Ward, are back practicing and will play. Marshall has missed the past two games since suffering a left foot injury Dec. 14 against the Chargers. Ward missed the regular-season finale with a neck injury. The key guy to watch injury-wise is star tight end Julius Thomas. He sprained his ankle in Week 11 and missed a few games. He did play Weeks 15-17 but clearly wasn't 100 percent with only three catches for 63 yards and no TDs. Thomas played 33 snaps on offense in the Broncos' regular-season finale but was not targeted on any of Manning’s pass attempts. It was the first time Thomas didn't have a reception in a game he played in since Sept. 30, 2012. Before the injury, Thomas was on pace to have one of the best seasons ever for a tight end.
The Colts have placed starting right guard Hugh Thornton on season-ending IR, but he had missed five of the past six games so not a big surprise. Cornerback Greg Toler is dealing with a knee injury but is expected to play. The Colts did make a starting lineup change this week, putting LeRon Landry back in at safety. Landry has been back since Nov. 4 after serving a suspension but Sergio Brown had been starting. The team is moving Landry back in because he's better against the run and Broncos running back C.J. Anderson has really emerged down the stretch. Anderson was one of three players with 1,000 scrimmage yards since the start of Week 10 and was tied with the Cowboys' Dez Bryant for the most total touchdowns in that span with 10.
These teams played Week 1 in Denver, and the Broncos won 31-24 as Manning joined Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to beat each of the current 32 NFL franchises. Denver jumped out to a 24-0 lead late in the second quarter thanks to three Manning TD passes. Luck did get the Colts to 31-24 with 3:26 left and Indy forced a three-and-out for Denver. However, Luck's pass for Hakeem Nicks on fourth-and-6 around midfield was incomplete. The Colts outgained Denver by 47 yards but had two turnovers (Luck interceptions) to none for the Broncos. Back then Trent Richardson was Indy's starting tailback, and he had just 20 yards. Richardson was demoted down to third string last week in the win over Cincinnati, and new featured back Boom Herron had 12 carries for 56 yards and a TD vs. the Bengals.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos NFL Divisional-Round Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Denver is an 8-point favorite (+120) with alternate lines of 7.5 (+115), 7 (-105) and 6.5 (-125). The Broncos are -290 on the moneyline and Colts +245. The total is 54. The Colts are 11-5-1 against the spread this season (5-3 on road) and 9-7 "over/under" (5-3 on road). The Broncos are 8-8 ATS (4-4 at home) and 10-6 O/U (6-2 at home).
The Colts are 9-3 ATS in their past 12 after a win of more than 14 points. Indy has covered one of its past six against teams with a winning record. Denver is 1-4 ATS in its past five playoff games. The under is 5-0 in the Colts' past five overall. It is 4-0 in Indy's past four after a win. The over is 13-3 in Denver's past 16 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The over is 5-2 in Denver's past seven playoff games.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
Keep an eye out for potential big games from Luck's tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. The Broncos can stick No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib on Colts top receiver T.Y. Hilton. Thus, Luck may have to look more for Allen and/or Fleener. Those two combined for 16 TD catches this season, and the Broncos have really struggled guarding tight ends. They scored nine touchdowns against Denver.
Which Manning will we see? He was dominant in the red zone in the season's first 12 weeks, completing 78 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns alone to Thomas. Since then, Thomas doesn't have a red-zone target, and Manning is completing only 39 percent of his red-zone passes, 30th in the NFL. Good news for Broncos backers: Manning went 8-0 at home this season for only the second time in his career. The other was 2006 when he won his only Super Bowl with Indy.
Temperatures look to be in the low 30s at kickoff and dropping into the mid-20s when the sun drops but only a 20 percent chance of snow. I still see this as a bit of a shootout, something with a similar score as Week 1. Give the 6.5 points and go over.
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