4:15 PM ET, September 26, 2010
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
As if facing Peyton Manning with a potentially depleted secondary wasn't a big enough challenge, the Denver Broncos will also be dealing with the death of a teammate as they host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
The apparent suicide of Kenny McKinley will be on the Broncos' minds as they attempt to contain the reigning NFL MVP, who leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns and hasn't thrown an interception.
Denver may struggle to focus on football this week after McKinley was found dead in his home Monday with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, according to a sheriff's investigative report. The 23-year-old wide receiver had been on injured reserve with a left knee injury.
"We've got to play with him on our shoulders and in our hearts," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said.
The Broncos (1-1) will also have to play well if they hope to slow down Manning, who has passed for 688 yards and six touchdowns.
The Colts (1-1) lost their opener 34-24 at Houston despite 433 yards and three TDs from Manning, but they bounced back with a 38-14 win over the New York Giants last Sunday night.
Manning easily outplayed his brother Eli, going 20 of 26 for 255 yards and three more TDs as the reigning AFC champions avoided their first 0-2 start since Manning's rookie season in 1998.
"Peyton's one of the best to play the position. We all know that," Denver nickel back Nate Jones said. "He presents a challenge no matter who you have out there."
It will be much tougher for the Broncos if starting cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are unable to play.
Bailey, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was on crutches after last Sunday's 31-14 win over Seattle due to a foot problem, while Goodman's status is also uncertain as he deals with a thigh injury.
"It would be an important game obviously to have those guys available for," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said Monday. "And they'll do everything they can do to make sure they're ready for Sunday. And that's really all we can tell right now. I don't know if they're going to be or not."
If both are out, Denver would presumably start rookies Perrish Cox and Cassius Vaughn, although Cox may have gained confidence after getting his first career interception against the Seahawks. Bailey and safety Brian Dawkins also picked off Matt Hasselbeck in the game.
That was the Broncos' highest total since they intercepted Manning three times during their most recent meeting Dec. 13. Manning, however, threw for four touchdowns in a 28-16 victory, and he's totaled 19 TD passes in his last five full games against Denver -- all victories, including two in the playoffs.
The Colts were resting their starters in their only loss to Denver since 2003, a 33-14 defeat Jan. 2, 2005.
An improved running game and a relentless defense helped the Colts beat New York. After Indianapolis was outgained 257-44 on the ground in Week 1, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown combined for 161 rushing yards against the Giants.
"We go into every game thinking this is what it is going to be," Freeney said. "I think as a player you have to think that way, that we are going to shut these guys down."
The duo hopes to make life difficult for Denver's Kyle Orton, who is perhaps the most surprising of the NFL's six players with at least 600 passing yards.
The Broncos drafted former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in the first round, but Orton has maintained his grip on the starting job. He threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks, including one to rookie Demaryius Thomas.
A first-round pick out of Georgia Tech, Thomas had eight catches for 97 yards during an impressive NFL debut after missing Denver's season-opening loss at Jacksonville with a foot injury.
"He's a big, physical guy. He can really run," Orton said. "There aren't a lot of things he can't do."
Orton was especially impressive on third down last weekend, going 11 of 14 for 152 yards and both of his TDs. The other one went to Eddie Royal, who ended a 20-game drought without scoring as he tries to put a disappointing 2009 behind him.
Running back Knowshon Moreno will miss this game due to a pulled left hamstring, leaving Correll Buckhalter as the likely starter. The Broncos have rushed for 154 yards in their first two games, ranking 27th, and their 2.4 yards per carry is last.
Colts-Broncos: 10 observations
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Colts-Broncos matchup.
1. Indianapolis will test Denver's corners early and often: With the Broncos' two starting cornerbacks limping out of the locker room after Denver's win over the Seattle Seahawks, we can be sure that Peyton Manning will test them, or their replacements, early. Manning is one of the best at creating mismatches and forcing single coverage on his wideouts, and he is going to want to find out how well CBs Andre' Goodman and Champ Bailey are playing after getting hurt in Week 2.
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|Avg Points Allowed||20.3||21.7|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||IND|
|Rush Yds Allowed||IND|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Indianapolis leads 8-2|
|Dec 13, 2009||IND 28, DEN 16|
|Sep 30, 2007||IND 38, DEN 20|
|Oct 29, 2006||IND 34, @DEN 31|
|Jan 9, 2005||IND 49, DEN 24|
|Jan 2, 2005||IND 14, @DEN 33|
|Jan 4, 2004||IND 41, DEN 10|
|Dec 21, 2003||IND 17, DEN 31|
|Nov 24, 2002||IND 23, @DEN 20|
|Jan 6, 2002||IND 29, DEN 10|