1. Regardless of the final score, Peyton Manning will wipe the floor with Andrew Luck. Perhaps unfairly, Andrew Luck has been hailed as the next Peyton Manning, only with better mobility.
There are a few similarities, yes. Both quarterbacks have great family pedigrees and exceptional intelligence, particularly in their ability to absorb information quickly. And Luck has outperformed Manning in a few categories early in his career, most prominently the number of wins for his team. But Peyton Manning is the greatest statistical quarterback in NFL history. He has won four MVPs and controls a game like no quarterback before or since, calling plays at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive looks he sees.
Luck has done little to warrant such a comparison. His completion percentage as a rookie was 54%, worse than any other rookie from the 2012 class. Actually, it was the worst in the NFL among starting quarterbacks. Luck has improved in that area this year bringing it up to 61.8%, but he still only has a pedestrian seven touchdown passes, while Manning has thrown twenty-six or more every season of his career. Meanwhile, Manning is completing 74% of his passes with a 22 to 2 TD to INT ratio.
Luck’s mechanics are often praised by the pundits, but his passes are often have a downward trajectory that ends up too low or in the turf, making it difficult for his receivers to even catch the ball, much less run after the catch. His accuracy has a long way to go to even be in the same ballpark as Manning, much less warrant a comparison. Luck's NFL resume to date has shown many signs of promise, and his performance in the clutch has undeniably been better than Manning, but he still has a lot of failure and adversity to endure before reaching Manning's level. That adversity will start late Sunday night after the Colts lose their second straight game.
2. The Broncos defense will come to play, registering five sacks and five turnovers in a winning performance. Sparked by the return of Von Miller from his six game suspension and more than likely protecting a lead from the start, the Broncos defense will be able to pin their ears back and rush the passer with impunity. As Champ Bailey continunes to slow down and play through a foot injury, he should continue progressing in his second game back and be an upgrade at cornerback.
Emotions will be running high on both sides of the ball and the Broncos will take advantage of their opportunity to put a strangehold on home field advantage by defeating a potential AFC contender, leaving only the Patriots and Chiefs as threats to finish with a better record in the AFC. This is their first real test in the conference, and the timing could not be better, especially for their defense with Miller's return.
With the Colts coming off a loss and a disappointing offensive showing, they will surely put up more than nine points this week. But they will also have to compete with Peyton Manning and his plethora of offensive weapons, which means they will have to throw early and often. As well as deal with the Broncos pass rush led by Miller and Shaun Phillips. This will inevitably lead to turnovers, and the added pressure for Luck of going against the legend that he replaced will not help. Manning can handle that pressure, especially in the regular season. Luck has shown a knack for comeback victories, but realistically, most of those victories were against mediocre teams. The 2013 Denver Broncos are anything but mediocre.
3. Colts owner Jim Irsay will tweet something idiotic before and during the game. He has already claimed that Manning told him he would be crazy not to draft Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft, implying that Manning was okay with being cast aside for the younger prospect. But the fact of the matter is, Manning was well aware that Irsay had already decided to move on to a new quarterback and was just being his usual, classy self during his departure. Irsay has steadfastly denied this assertion, and even got into a Twitter war this week with ESPN NFL insider Chris Mortensen about it.
The entire process of changing quarterbacks in Indianapolis was fishy from the start. In the summer of 2011, it was revealed that Manning had multiple neck surgeries and may miss some time. The team was never able to pinpoint when the neck injury occurred, so fans never actually saw him get injured on the field. The team predictably fell apart without their leader and coach on the field, and Manning’s return kept getting pushed back until they decided he would not return at all that season. That decision was made midway through the season when they were still winless and way out ahead in the race to the bottom for the right to draft Andrew Luck. Soon, the Suck for Luck campaign was born and the Colts were a legitimate threat to finish the season at 0-16. But they finally won a game late in the season, and then a second one, but still kept their draft position and had their choice of Manning, Luck or any other QB in that draft.
Irsay has been known for his strange tweets, and based on his actual interviews, it would not be a stretch to suggest that many of those are presumably written after he has been drinking. Remember, this is a man that once told reporter Hannah Storm in an interview that he has spilled more alcohol than she has drank. This game will be one of the major indicators to evaluate his decision to go with Luck, and the big moments will surely be stressful for Irsay. Which means he will surely be nipping at grandpa's old cough medicine more than usual and become more likely to share his innermost thoughts and fears with the Twitterverse. This is not the boldest prediction, but it should be entertaining nonetheless.