Week 5 might appear too early for must-win games, but both the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos likely feel they need to emerge from Thursday Night Football with a victory to save their respective seasons. Let’s examine how each team can win on Thursday night and make a prediction for this matchup.
Who Will Win on Thursday Night Football: Broncos or Colts?
Frank Reich is feeling the heat in his fifth season in Indy, while Nathaniel Hackett hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory through five games in Denver.
The Jonathan Taylor-less Colts (1-2-1) desperately need a win to remain in the AFC South conversation, while the Broncos (2-2) could face relegation if they can’t beat this version of Indianapolis.
How the Indianapolis Colts Can Win on Thursday Night Football
Indy’s offensive line has been putrid through the first month of the season, and with Nyheim Hines and a cast of characters replacing the injured Taylor, the Colts could find it challenging to run the ball against the Broncos. The Colts inserted right guard Will Fries over three-game starter Danny Pinter in Week 4, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
With Patrick Surtain II likely to lock up WR1 Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis will have to make use of its tertiary receiving options in the quick passing game. Matt Ryan can look to Hines and tight ends Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson at the short-to-intermediate levels, targeting a group of Denver linebackers that are better against the run than in coverage.
On defense, the Colts don’t blitz very often, so they’ll need to rely on their front four to get pressure against a solid Broncos offensive line. Indy has to hope at least one of DeForest Buckner, Kwity Paye, or Yannick Ngakoue can wreak havoc on Thursday night.
How the Denver Broncos Can Win on Thursday Night Football
Russell Wilson posted his best game of the season in Denver’s Week 4 loss to the Raiders, averaging nearly 9.5 yards per attempt while tossing two touchdowns and no interceptions. If the Broncos want to turn their season around, it all begins with Russ.
The Colts are a pass-funnel defense. Indy boasts the league’s seventh-best EPA per play again the run, but they’re just 24th against the pass. They’re almost inviting Denver to attack them through the air, so the pressure is on Wilson to drive the offense for the second straight week.
While the Colts won’t have Taylor, the Broncos are without second-year RB Javonte Williams after he tore his ACL on Sunday. Veteran Melvin Gordon figures to handle the bulk of the workload, but given that he’s already fumbled four times this season, don’t be surprised if Mike Boone also sees significant touches.
Denver just placed pass rusher Randy Gregory on injured reserve, so they’ll need to find a complement to Bradley Chubb on the edge. It looks like that will be Baron Browning, a former inside linebacker who converted to EDGE over the offseason, but second-round rookie Nik Bonitto could also get in on the action.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Colts 21
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