Broncos-Colts Preview

BY foxsports • November 4, 2015

With two more of the NFL's most cherished quarterback records within his reach, it's only fitting that Peyton Manning has a chance to break them in Indianapolis.

Returning to Lucas Oil Stadium for the second time as a visitor, Manning brings the undefeated Denver Broncos into Sunday's showdown with a Colts team that hasn't been through this much turmoil since his departure.

Manning enters with 71,555 career passing yards and 186 regular-season wins, accumulating the majority of those totals during 13 brilliant seasons with the Colts. The iconic quarterback is 284 yards away from surpassing Brett Favre's league record after throwing for a season-high 340 in last week's 29-10 victory over previously unbeaten Green Bay, which tied Favre's all-time mark for non-playoff wins.

It's the teams' first meeting since the Colts dealt Manning his latest early postseason exit with a 24-13 win in January's divisional playoffs. Denver hasn't lost since, ripping off seven consecutive wins for its best start beginning 13-0 en route to a second consecutive Super Bowl title in 1998.

Andrew Luck threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns in the playoff win while outplaying Manning. Indianapolis' current star quarterback hasn't been the same this season as the Colts (3-5) have been a huge disappointment, and Manning has been slow to adjust to a new offense as Denver's defense has carried the team to a perfect record.

Luck has thrown a league-high 12 interceptions and ranks 32nd with a 71.6 passer rating - just below Manning's 75.1 - while missing two games with a sprained shoulder and appearing to play hurt in several others. He was picked off three times, the last setting up the deciding field goal in overtime, as Indianapolis fell 29-26 at Carolina on Monday for a third consecutive loss.

The skid is the Colts' longest since an 0-13 start in 2011, the season Manning did not play while recovering from neck surgery and the one prior to the arrival of Luck and coach Chuck Pagano.

Indianapolis' unforeseen struggles prompted Pagano to fire offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on Tuesday, with associate head coach Rob Chudzinski to assume play-calling duties.

Despite the atmosphere of panic, the Colts remain tied with Houston for first place in the mediocre AFC South.

"We can still accomplish all of our goals," Pagano said. "The number one goal is to win the division, win the next game. We have to get to (win) number four. Everything is still out there for us."

Pagano can use Manning's initial return to Indianapolis as motivation. Denver entered Lucas Oil Stadium with a 6-0 record but left with a 39-33 loss Oct. 20, 2013, as Manning was sacked four times and committed two turnovers.

Chudzinski, formerly Cleveland's head coach in 2013, faces a stern challenge in his new role, as the Broncos lead the NFL in total defense (261.1 ypg), scoring defense (16.0 ppg) and sacks (29). They're yielding a league-low 171.9 passing yards per game after holding reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers to a paltry 77 in last week's impressive performance.

"It was just a big measuring stick for the whole team and everybody really took that to heart and stepped up to the challenge," end DeMarcus Ware said after Denver limited the Packers to 140 total yards.

Indianapolis' already tall task could prove even more difficult with top receiver T.Y. Hilton uncertain for Sunday's game after spraining his foot in the Carolina loss.

Conversely, Denver appears to be hitting its stride on the offensive side. The Broncos amassed a season-high 500 yards against Green Bay after gaining 442 in a 26-23 overtime win at Cleveland in Week 6. They've amassed 312 rushing yards in those two games after averaging 71.6 over the first five.

Manning wasn't sacked for a second straight game and completed 21 of 29 passes last week in arguably his best showing in new coach Gary Kubiak's system.

"I've been very determined to get comfortable in this offense," said Manning, who trails only Luck with 11 INTs. "... I knew this was not going to be an easy transition. I can't say that a lot of what's happened has been a surprise to me. It was kind of what I expected, there were going to be some rough times, rough patches and rough parts of the transition."

Manning will now have another playmaker at his disposal after the Broncos traded for two-time Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis on Tuesday. The former San Francisco 49er had 13 touchdown catches in 2013 but has just two in 20 games since then on 44 receptions.

"I've never played in an offense like this before," said Davis, the brother of Colts standout cornerback Vontae Davis. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I know it's going to be damn good."

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