Peyton Manning spent the first 14 years of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, winning nine playoff games and one Super Bowl. On Sunday, the quarterback will lead the Denver Broncos (12-4) against his former team (11-5) in the divisional round of the 2015 NFL playoffs.
It’s the second time this season that Manning welcomes Indianapolis into Denver. The Broncos hosted the Colts in the season opener, winning 31-24. A similar outcome is expected in the second-round matchup, as Denver is favored by seven points at Las Vegas casinos.
Denver was dominant for much of their Week 1 contest with Indianapolis. They led 24-0 late in the second quarter, and took a 31-10 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation. Andrew Luck helped pull his team within a touchdown by throwing two late touchdown passes, totaling 370 yards on the night.
The victory marked the first of eight home wins that Denver would get in 2014, making them just one of two teams to go undefeated in their own stadium. The Broncos didn’t have an easy home schedule, beating seven teams at Mile High that finished the year with a .500 record or better. In their final home game of the season, Denver beat the Oakland Raiders, 47-14.
Even though the Broncos have gone 22-2 at home in the regular season with Manning at the helm, they have been upset in Denver in the postseason. Two years ago, the Ravens visited the Broncos and beat them in the divisional round, 38-35, in overtime.
Manning has a history of disappointing playoff losses, dating back to his time with the Colts. Seven times with Indianapolis and twice with Denver, including last year’s Super Bowl, Manning’s teams have lost a playoff game in which they were favored to win. The quarterback will retire with several individual regular-season records, but he’s had his share of struggles in the playoffs, posting an 11-12 record.
Luck has reached the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, and he’s hoping to have better postseason success than his predecessor. He’s won two of his first four playoff games, and might have had his best postseason performance on Wild Card Weekend. The quarterback completed 70 percent of his passes for 376 yards, throwing one touchdown and no interceptions.
In his best season as a pro, Luck finished first in touchdowns (40) and third in passing yards (4,761), but he had some trouble when facing the most difficult part of the team’s schedule. Against playoff teams, Luck threw 10 scores and nine interceptions, losing four of six games.
The Colts won the AFC South on the strength of the conference’s No.3 scoring offense, but their defense was too bad to overcome, at times. In all five of Indianapolis’ losses, they surrendered at least 30 points. The Colts gave up at least 42 points in their last three defeats. The game’s over/under of 54 points is the highest on the schedule.
The Broncos have the AFC’s highest-scoring offense, averaging 30.1 points per game. Manning had another MVP-caliber season, but he made more mistakes than usual, throwing 15 interceptions. He’d thrown just 21 total picks in his first two seasons with Denver.
To go along with a high-powered offense, Denver’s defense was among the best in the regular season. They ranked ninth against the pass and second against the run, allowing the fewest total yards of any AFC defense. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware combined to record 24 sacks in 2015, and Luck was taken down just 27 times in the regular season, despite ranking third in pass attempts.
Including the playoffs, the Colts have the best record against the spread, going 11-5-1. They failed to cover a betting line in any of their five defeats.
Prediction: Denver over Indianapolis, 31-20