Colts vs. Broncos Week 1 Odds Analysis & Free NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 5:40 PM UTC

Wednesday, Sep. 3, 2014 5:40 PM UTC

Peyton Manning’s former employers meet Peyton Manning’s current employers in our first Sunday Night Football game of the regular season. Can Manning and the Denver Broncos keep crushing the NFL lines in 2014?

Missed it by that much. All right, losing the Super Bowl by 35 points might not seem like a close shave, but in the bigger scheme of things, the 2013 Denver Broncos were a hair’s breadth away from football immortality. Untimely late-season injuries may have been the only thing keeping Peyton Manning (115.1 passer rating in 2013) from collecting his second Super Bowl ring. Otherwise, Denver was a tremendous team last year, and a football betting godsend at 13-3 SU and 10-5-1 ATS.

The Broncos get their first crack at redemption this Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, CBS) against the team that delivered Manning’s first championship, the Indianapolis Colts. We’ve already identified Denver as one of our five most overvalued teams for 2014, but do the Colts bring enough NFL betting value to the table this week?


This Is Your Left
We haven’t even started the regular season yet, and it already looks like injuries will be the pivotal factor in Sunday’s matchup. The Colts go into the new year with starting center Khaled Holmes (ankle) considered highly doubtful to play until Week 2. Holmes is a bit of an unknown at the NFL level after playing just three games last year, but he was a Rimington Trophy finalist for the USC Trojans in 2012, and while his zone-blocking acumen isn’t a perfect fit in Indy’s power running game, Holmes was clearly the best center on the roster once Phil Costa announced his retirement.

The Colts offensive line also lost LG Donald Thomas (quad) for the season, leaving a gaping hole in the interior, and just to mess things up even more, seventh-round pick John Ulrich broke his ankle in Game 1 of the preseason and was put on injured reserve. This is bad news for QB Andrew Luck (87.0 passer rating). It’s even worse news for RB Trent Richardson (3.0 yards per carry), who had an awful sophomore campaign and might only still have his job because Donald Brown (5.3 yards per carry) signed with the San Diego Chargers, and Vick Ballard (3.9 YPC lifetime) is out for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.


Toe Jammin’
The Broncos also hurt, they don’t come into Sunday’s contest completely unscathed. WR Wes Welker (73 catches) may or may not play after getting his bell rung again in Week 3 of the preseason, and robo-kicker Matt Prater (25-of-26 on field goals) is suspended for the first four games after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Denver’s special teams will likely suffer with unproven rookie Brandon McManus subbing in for Prater.

Also, that upgraded Denver defense still has some question marks at linebacker. Von Miller might only see limited action Sunday after tearing his ACL in Week 15 and taking it easy during the preseason. LB Danny Trevathan (tibia) is definitely out until at least Week 5, so if Luck can escape the Orange Crush defensive line, he might find some open targets at the second level. That’s a mighty big “if” with DE DeMarcus Ware (117 sacks in 140 career starts for Dallas) ready to attack Luck’s blind side.

Luck and the Colts get some of their betting value back by being less publicly adored than Manning and the Broncos, who were 6.5-point favorites when the Week 1 NFL odds went online in May. But we’ve still got questions about just how good Chuck Pagano is as an NFL head coach. If Pagano can get Indianapolis (11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS) to over-perform for yet another season, we’ll have our answers.


The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel: DEN
Defense/Special Teams: DEN
Coaching: DEN
Market Bias: IND
Betting Line Value: IND
Free NFL Pick: Put one unit on the Broncos -7.5 (+102) at Pinnacle as one of your NFL Picks.

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