The Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos kick off the second quarter of the NFL regular season on Thursday night with both teams struggling to live up to lofty expectations.
The Broncos acquired a Super Bowl champion quarterback in Russell Wilson over the offseason while the Colts ditched CarsonWentz in favor of Matt Ryan, who has also appeared on the NFL's biggest stage.
However, through four games the Colts (1-2-1) rank 10th in the league in passing while the Broncos (2-2) are 18th. And those numbers are somewhat inflated by both playing from behind in most of their games thus far.
The attention on Ryan and Wilson will be intensified on Thursday night with both teams minus their leading rushers. The Colts' Jonathan Taylor is resting an ankle injury while the Broncos lost Javonte Williams to a season-ending knee injury.
Denver is a 3.0-point favorite at BetMGM and BetRivers. The Broncos are being backed by 70 percent of the spread bets and 77 percent of the money at the former and 56 and 61 percent at the later.
The line is at 3.5 at DraftKings, where Denver is still the clear popular choice with 58 percent of the spread bets and 69 percent of the money backing them.
Broncos RB Melvin Gordon Anytime TD (125 at BetRivers): This has been the most popular prop bet at the sportsbook. Yes, Gordon has fumbled four times, but he was also Denver's lead short-yardage back even before Williams' injury. Gordon has the lone rushing touchdown from the Broncos' backfield and figures to be the go-to option near the goal line despite his ballhandling issues that date back to last season.
Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr. Over 5.5 Receptions (100 at DraftKings): Pittman has averaged 9.3 targets and 6.7 receptions in the three games he has been active for this season. The Broncos enter with the league's fourth-ranked defense and fifth-ranked pass defense but that won't stop Ryan from looking often to his most trusted receiver.
Colts RB Phillip Lindsay Under 38.5 Rushing Yards (-115 at BetMGM): It's a nice story to envision Lindsay being promoted from the practice squad just in time to have a big game against his former team. Minus Taylor, the Colts will rely on Nyheim Hines and also have Deon Jackson on the roster. Lindsay figures to be in the mix but how many snaps he gets is a big question mark. He failed to make the opening day roster and topped 38.5 rushing yards in only three of 14 games played last season for Houston and Miami.
Indianapolis: Taylor (ankle) is out along with LB Shaquille Leonard (concussion, nose, back), DE Tyquan Lewis (concussion) and FS Julian Blackmon (ankle).
Denver: Along with Williams, OLB Randy Gregory went on the injured list with a knee injury. OL Billy Turner, who has not played this year due to a knee injury, practiced on a limited basis this week and is officially listed as questionable, as are WR Tyrie Cleveland (hamstring) and CB Darius Phillips (hamstring). Ruled out are OLBs Jonathon Cooper (hamstring) and Aaron Patrick (concussion), safety P.J. Locke (concussion) and OL Quinn Meinerz (hamstring).
The Broncos get the Colts at home, on a short week and minus the league's reigning rushing leader. That puts even more pressure on Ryan, who feels plenty of it while playing behind a porous offensive line. It might not yet be pretty but Denver has all the cards stacked in its favor. --Broncos 24, Colts 16
--Field Level Media