NFL Week 5 Thursday Night Football Featuring Colts vs. Broncos: Best Bets and Prediction

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Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Our top-rated sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for this week’s NFL Thursday Night Football action between Indianapolis and Denver.

The Colts enter this game 1-2-1 after their comeback attempt against Tennessee fell short, permitting the Titans to continue dominating them in their series.

Denver, meanwhile, currently sits at 2-2 after the Raiders earned their first win of the season with the help of Bronco running back Melvin Gordon’s fumble.

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Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos

Thursday, October 06, 2022 – 08:15 PM EDT at Empower Field at Mile High

Importance of Running to Indianapolis' Offense

Based on a cursory statistical glance, running the ball may seem unimportant to Indianapolis' offense. Currently, the Colts own the 20th-highest run-play percentage.

But what's more revealing of Indianapolis' offensive inclinations is the fact that Indianapolis owned the fifth-highest run-play percentage last year.

The Colts are less able to run the ball this year largely due to the contingent reality that they are repeatedly playing from behind.

They faced multi-touchdown deficits against Houston, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, requiring them to pass more.

Run-Game Woes

There is, however, an additional problem that is deterring Indianapolis from running the ball: this year, the Colts are struggling to establish the run.

Whereas Jonathan Taylor averaged 5.5 YPC last season, he is averaging four YPC this year even though one of his four opponents was Houston with its unbearably awful run defense.

Critically, it seems likely that the Colts will miss their star running back for this game because he has suffered what seems to be a high ankle sprain.

Lack of Pass Protection

Taylor's statistical regression owes to the regression of Indianapolis' offensive linemen, which is also evident in its quarterback's increased susceptibility to being sacked.

Whereas the Colts ranked a modest 13th last season at limiting the rate at which they allowed sacks, they currently rank 28th in the category.

Colt pass-blockers have had great trouble dealing with penetration from every direction to the effect that edge rushers are repeatedly abusing them.

Part of the issue might be fixed by switching positions. Left tackle, for example, does not seem to suit Matt Pryor, who had previously played at right guard or right tackle.

Other offensive linemen are simply losing one-on-one battles.

Denver's Pass Rush

Pash rush is something that Denver can readily supply. Currently, the Broncos own the seventh-highest sack rate.

They have made pass rush an emphasis by securing a duo of Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb off the edge, and this emphasis is paying off.

Time to Throw

Matt Ryan is able to be more aggressive when he has more time to throw. He can obviously have time to throw when his team falls behind and defenses become more passive, but this doesn't justify hope in his ability to perform, because, obviously, he wants to keep his team competitive from the beginning.

Generally, while dealing with the opposing pass rush, he is favoring a shorter passing game.

Right now, he ranks 28th in air yards attempted, which means that his passes consistently do not travel many yards.

While a shorter passing game is great in tandem with a strong running game –a strong running game compels defenders to devote more men to the box, leaving more room for easy pass attempts– defenders haven't been needing to worry about the Colts' star running back, and his backup would pose even less of a threat.

Michael Pittman vs. Patrick Surtain

As evident in Indianapolis' shutout loss to Jacksonville in which Michael Pittman didn't play, Ryan depends heavily on Pittman. However, while Pittman will be on the field on Thursday, he faces a severely difficult test in the form of Bronco cornerback Patrick Surtain.

Surtain has been superb at limiting his opponent's passer rating when targeted. Most recently, he did a great job one-on-one against Davante Adams.

Video footage of their encounters shows that the superstar receiver, at best, beat Surtain for short curl and out routes and other short routes.

Adams did accrue a lot of yards in the game, especially against zone and prevent defenses, but Surtain largely held Adams in check. Now, Surtain gets an easier test in Pittman, and he has the size and general ability to limit Ryan's favorite target.

Russell Wilson vs. Colts' Defense

Denver will be extra dependent on its quarterback this week because starting running back Javonte Williams may be out indefinitely with a serious knee injury.

As a Seahawk with a vastly superior wide receiver group, Wilson shredded Indianapolis last year. But the Colt defense, now under Gus Bradley, has focused on improving its pass rush.

Bradley's defense is more aggressive in this respect and, as evident in the Colts' improving sack rate, Colt pass-rushers are posing a legitimate threat to the quarterback.

Wilson, whose team ranks 26th at limiting the rate at which he is sacked, should be concerned to get the ball out quickly.

Colts Still Need Time to Adapt to New Coach

And this is just what he'll be able to do against Bradley's defense. As stated briefly, both Bradley's defense and his predecessor's, Matt Eberflus,' are a bit misunderstood for the nature of their zone tendencies.

Bradley's defense is rooted in his Cover 3 scheme back in his Seattle days, but he has evolved match coverage principles in order to make completing passes more difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

Eberflus' defense had this problem with opposing quarterback efficiency and had to evolve over the course of last season.

While his defenders learn what he wants, which includes learning how he wants defenders to confuse opposing quarterbacks, Bradley's defense is having the same problem as Eberflus'.

Repeatedly, opposing quarterbacks are completing a high percentage of their throws for two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Verdict

For this game's NFL picks, I believe that both teams will struggle to score while having to rely on problematic pass attacks.

Ryan necessarily depends in excess on short passes without having much running back support, and he is also getting sacked too often. He also won't be able to lean on Pittman.

Wilson's protection has been and will be weak, and his wide receivers are way weaker than his Seahawk teammates, but he'll have an easier time moving his team downfield against a Colt pass defense that is still struggling to limit opposing efficiency.

Given Wilson's advantage and Surtain's presence, Denver will win, although, given everything else, it will be a low-scoring game.

Scoring Prediction: Broncos 20 - Colts 12

NFL Pick: Under 43.5 (-115) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

NFL Pick: Broncos -3 (-115) at BetOnline

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Broncos -3 (-115)
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