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AFC Divisional Playoff Preview and Prediction: Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

Sunday afternoon’s Indianapolis vs. Denver AFC Divisional Round game will be the first postseason meeting between Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and the man he replaced in Indy, Peyton Manning — who is now the first quarterback to play at least 200 games with a team and then face that team in the playoffs. According to Football Perspective, the Broncos have the edge in yards per attempts, yards allowed per attempt, yards per carry and yards allowed per carry. Since 1990, there have been 16 games where a home team had the advantage in those four metrics, and the home team is 15–1 in those matchups.

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos

Kickoff: Sunday, Jan. 11 at 4:40 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

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Spread: Denver -7

Indianapolis’ Key to Victory: Andrew Luck

The spotlight shines on the respective quarterbacks in this one. When the two face off Sunday afternoon it will be the third meeting between the two signal-callers and the first rubber match. In 2013, Luck led the Colts to a 39–33 victory in Manning’s first game back in Indianapolis. Both quarterbacks threw for three scores in that game, while Luck was turnover-free and Manning had an interception. Luck has had better postseason success early on in his career than Manning, arriving in Denver this week with a 2–2 playoff record in his first three seasons. It took Manning until his sixth season to win a playoff game, and it was his fourth postseason contest that he finally got his first W. If Luck protects the football, and the Colts defense can force some miscues, then the road upset becomes very realistic. 

Denver’s Key to Victory: Peyton Manning

For whatever reason, Manning is not the same quarterback in the postseason that he is during the regular season. In 23 playoff games, Manning is 11–12 and has a passer rating of 89.2. Compare that to his regular season record (179–77) and passer rating (97.5). Granted, the opponents get tougher in the postseason, but Manning hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion with any regularity under the brightest lights. It’s important that the Broncos get at least a reasonable facsimile of October Manning (102.2 career passer rating) and not January Manning (83.5). “I think Peyton’s been doing fine. I don’t know if it’s about hype; I know it’s just another playoff game. I can’t answer that question for him but I think he’ll be fine,” Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “We had them the first game of the season and he was fine. It’s a playoff game so it’s a little bit different because if you lose, you’re done and if you win, you keep going. I can’t really talk for Peyton but I think he’s fine.” Okay, fine. 

Final Analysis

Peyton Manning has been one-and-done in the playoffs eight times in his career, by far the most for any quarterback in the Super Bowl era, and he’s also the record-holder with 12 postseason losses. Those numbers have to be weighing on this proud warrior, who will be looking for vindication in this postseason. This week, at least, he’ll get it. 

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Prediction: Denver 31, Indianapolis 24