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5 keys to the Broncos beating the Colts

No. 1: Get after aging Colts QB Matt Ryan. No. 2: Hang on, Melvin.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The feeling is the Indianapolis Colts aren’t very good because they tied the lowly Houston Texans and got shut out by Jacksonville.

But they also beat the Kansas City Chiefs – something the Denver Broncos haven’t done in their past 13 games over seven seasons.

So even if the Colts won’t have their best offensive player in Jonathan Taylor (ankle) and best defensive player in Shaquille Leonard (concussion), they figure to be a difficult opponent for the Broncos come Thursday night at Empower Field at Mile High.

RELATED: A fan's guide to Broncos vs. Colts at Empower Field

The Broncos can emerge victorious, though, and push their record to 3-2 if they follow these 5 keys:

1. Harass Matt Ryan

The second-year ballot (my opinion) Hall of Famer is off to a slow start in his first year with the Colts after 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Through four games, Ryan is 1-2-1 with 5 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions while taking a whopping 15 sacks.

The former NFL MVP hasn’t been processing coach Frank Reich’s offensive system as quickly as he will by season’s end and the short week shouldn’t help. Even with outside linebacker Randy Gregory down with injury, the Denver D needs Bradley Chubb, Dre’Mont Jones and the Ejiro Blitz to pressure the aging QB, who figures to look often toward top receiver Michael Pittman Jr., and any one of his three tight end targets.

RELATED: Colts' Matt Ryan on pace to shatter season fumble record

Credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan throws before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Indianapolis, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

2. High and tight, Melvin

Gosh, veteran running back Melvin Gordon III fumbles one time and everybody’s down on him.

OK, so it was the third time he fumbled in two games. And 10th time he fumbled in 2 ¼ seasons with the Broncos. But with Javonte Williams finished for the season and newcomer Latavius Murray not expected to play much if it all, Gordon and Mike Boone will have to carry the Broncos’ rushing load against a Colts’ defense that ranks 6th against the run – but won’t have standout inside linebacker Shaquille Leonard. If Gordon fumbles, Empower Field at Mile High will reverberate with boos. Keep that ball close to the body, Melvin.

3. Remember, Phillip Lindsay is on their side

Jonathan Taylor, the NFL’s top running back, won’t play because of a high ankle sprain. Warning to Denver D: In their last Thursday night game – last year at Cleveland – the Browns were without their fabulous running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And someone named D’Ernest Johnson rushed for 146 yards on 22 carries.

The Colts may have a reserve weapon, also – Phillip Lindsay, who is hardly a secret to his adoring Broncos’ fans. Lindsay is on the Colts’ practice squad and is easily Indy’s most accomplished running back not named Jonathan Taylor.

Credit: AP
Indianapolis Colts running back Phillip Lindsay (30) heads for the end zone for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

4. Protect Russell Wilson from Kwity Paye

The Colts don’t have much of a pass rush – only three teams have fewer sacks – other than Paye, a second-year defensive end who has 3.0 sacks. Wilson is coming off his best game as a Broncos’ quarterback, albeit in a loss to the Raiders, but he received treatment this week for a sore right passing shoulder.

5. Patience, Montrell

Broncos rookie Montrell Washington leads the NFL with 137 punt return yards. But the Colts’ Matt Haack has allowed the fourth-fewest return yardage among punters with 19. Washington doesn’t figure to get as many long and low punts to return like he did last week from the Raiders’ A.J. Cole, so he’ll have to make smart decisions on whether to return or fair catch.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Montrell Washington (12) runs after the catch as Las Vegas Raiders safety Matthias Farley (41) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

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