Why the Indianapolis Colts can beat Peyton Manning


The Denver Broncos are not going to finish the regular season 16-0. They have to lose sometime, and this week's game in Indianapolis sets up as a logical place for a setback.

Each week, we on the Around The League crew make our picks. And each Friday on the "Around The League Podcast," we defend our "hero picks" to the rest of the crew. (That's when one of us is on an island picking a team.)

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My pick of the Colts this week has received a lot of criticism from the masses, so I wanted to defend it right here:

1. The Broncos are off to one of the fastest starts by a team in the last 20 years, but they have not been dominant the past two weeks.

They won by three points in Dallas against a mediocre Cowboys team. The Broncos then let Jacksonville hang around in Denver. And a loss to the Colts would be that shocking?

2. The Colts are a young team that overachieves on defense. They are going to have some rough outings, like they did in San Diego last week. But they also were capable of smacking the 49ers around in San Francisco. The Colts are the only team to beat Seattle this season. They already have done the "giant-killing" thing twice.

3. The Broncos haven't faced an above-average defense since Week 1. The Colts don't have a ton of individual standouts outside of Robert Mathis, but they play well as a team. And Peyton Manning can't count on Lucas Oil Stadium being as quiet as a library when he has the ball. Then again, the key to beating the Broncos isn't necessarily defense. ...

4. Dallas had the best formula to beat the Broncos: Expose their defense. You need a quarterback who can go toe-to-toe with Manning. Yes, the Broncos' defense is different with Von Miller (and Champ Bailey) back in the lineup. But it's been a mediocre group this year, overall.

I have concerns that Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will try to take the air out of the ball, but Andrew Luck is very capable of engaging in a shootout.

5. And this is the part where I get a little mystical. Football is a sport for the young. Manning is doing incredible things at age 37. He's the best quarterback in the league, and the Broncos are the best team overall. But there's a reason why teams don't go undefeated too often. It's nearly impossible.

Luck's time as the best quarterback in the league isn't here, but it's coming. He still is missing that signature, prime-time game that shows everyone just how good he is. It's time. Luck and these Colts don't know they aren't supposed to win this game.

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NFL Media columnist Michael Silver threw out a crazy theory about the Jim Irsay-Peyton Manning controversy on Thursday night: Perhaps Irsay was trying to make this game feel bigger because Manning hasn't always been at his best in the biggest games.

I don't buy this theory, but it's interesting. There's no denying this game will mean a lot to Manning, and it's going to be emotional. He knows exactly what this game means.

The key part: Manning has worthy adversaries in Luck and the Colts' defense. This Colts team isn't quite what it was at Manning's peak, but it's getting there. This is their Super Bowl. They are ready to make some noise.

Brett Favre knows how Manning feels this week, returning to a place he became a legend. Favre will talk about his experiences live on "NFL GameDay Morning" this Sunday starting at 9 a.m. ET on NFL Network.