Before we get to far with this week’s predictions, let me just say that as Madden 10 has simmed the season, the Colts haven’t done nearly as well as they have in real life. In fact, by the time my 9-4 Broncos met up with the Colts, they were actually 6-7. So obviously when the stats were being entered for this year’s edition of Madden, it wasn’t expected that their defense would be as good as they are or that the offense would be as potent as they have been. It’s in that light that you’ll have to consider the outcome of this week’s Madden 10 sim, though I have to say that if the Broncos can play this well, I would be delighted.
The Broncos did two key things our Madden 10 sim; they put pressure on Manning and they shut down the run. In fact, shutting down the run put even more pressure on Manning. Addai had a grand total of 15 yards on 3 rushes; everything else had to be done through the air by Peyton. However, the Broncos defense was able to rush successfully against the Indy offensive line in order to get two sacks on Manning, but more importantly they caused Manning to throw 3 interceptions. That’s the key in playing the Colts, you have to score and you have to force them to make mistakes. If the Broncos can do that as well in real life as they did in our sim, they’ll do just fine.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Broncos were solid but not spectacular. Orton threw an impressive 11 for 11 and 117 yards, but he had no TDs. No INTs either, which is a definite plus. It was on the ground where Denver had their most production. Moreno rushed 19 times for 100 yards and 3 TDs. Buckhalter contributed another 13 yards on 4 rushes and got a TD of his own, and Hillis put in an extra 10 yards on 2 rushes. Meanwhile, Champ Bailey scored a TD on one of his interceptions, and all of that combined along with a field goal gave the Broncos an impressive 38-14 win over the Colts. The Colts had several drives that looked promising but ended in turnovers, and the Broncos held on to the ball twice as long as the Colts (although that won’t always lead to win, just ask the Miami Dolphins). Can the Broncos really beat the undefeated Colts? If they play a flawless game, and if the Colts play a flawed game -two very big ifs - then yes, I’d say they can. But we’ll see.
[Update] The biggest difference between the real game and our Madden 10 game, when the Broncos got the ball on a turnover from Indy, they turned it into points. In fact, in our game Denver had 21 points total as a result of Indy turnovers, but that wasn’t the case with the 3 interceptions thrown by Peyton Manning on Sunday. It’s said that statistically if you win the turnover battle you will win the game. It’s also said that great teams find a way to win no matter what. Well, that second axiom proved to be the truer one as despite turnovers, the Colts were able to win 28-16 against Denver.
It’s not like Denver didn’t have opportunities, they just couldn’t turn those opportunities into points. Despite getting three interceptions, the Broncos just couldn’t return them for TDs, and once they even gave it right back to the Colts in the end zone. Meanwhile, the ground game didn’t contribute as much as it needed in order to power Denver to a win. Moreno rushed 23 times for 63 yards, with Buckhalter contributing 19 more on 4 rushes before he was injured. Denver tried to make up for the ground game through the air, and did a decent job. Orton went 29/41 for 277 yards, 2 TDs and one costly INT that could have been a TD or at the very least, three points. Brandon Marshall did all anyone could with 21 receptions, 200 yards and 2 TDs, but in the end the Colts once again found a way to win.
I do take one thing away from this past week’s game, the confidence that Denver can win out the rest of their schedule. Granted two of those games are against the Raiders and the Chiefs, but one is against the Eagles who had a huge win against New York this week. Despite the loss, Denver is playing more like they did at the beginning of the season, and December is just the right time for them to start doing that. Will it be enough to carry them through the playoffs? They need to get there first.