Colts vs Broncos Thursday Night Football Picks and Predictions: Broncos Defense Gets Pierced

With Jonathan Taylor officially out with an ankle sprain, the Colts will have to lean on Matt Ryan and the passing game. With the Broncos zeroed in on Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce will get plenty of opportunities — as we break down below.

Last Updated: Oct 6, 2022 5:03 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Alec Pierce Indianapolis Colts NFL
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Two AFC underachievers clash on Thursday Night Football when the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos kick off NFL Week 5 at Mile High.

Hopes were even higher for both Indianapolis and Denver entering 2022, with new quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson headlining two clubs seemingly on the cusp of being contenders. However, through four weeks, neither team has lived up to offseason expectations and both books and bettors alike are sorting through the same garbage results in Week 5.

We've covered the player prop angles in our TNF props but here, I try to make sense of this midweek matchup, breaking down the spread and total for Thursday Night Football as well as giving my best NFL picks and predictions for Colts vs. Broncos.

Colts vs Broncos best odds

Colts vs Broncos picks and predictions

A sputtering Colts offense just lost its best player with running back Jonathan Taylor likely sidelined on a short week with a high ankle sprain.

Even before that injury, the Indianapolis rushing game was underperforming when compared to last season’s success. That turns attention to Matt Ryan and the passing game, which faces its toughest test in Denver’s defense Thursday night.

But despite the Broncos ranked out among the elite at shutting down air attacks (No. 8 in Pass Defense DVOA at Football Outsiders), Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters that with the ground game struggling and Taylor dinged up, “If they have to throw the ball more, they will”. 

Reich pumped up Ryan’s long career of success but also gave a quick nod to rookie receiver Alec Pierce. The former Cincinnati Bearcat has stepped into a bigger role within this offense the past two weeks, snatching three of five targets for 61 yards vs. Kansas City and catching six of eight balls his way for 80 yards in the loss to Tennessee last Sunday. 

Pierce had his progress slowed by a concussion that held him out of Week 2’s shutout loss at Jacksonville but ever since getting back on the field, he’s gained the trust of his veteran quarterback. The 6-foot-3 WR is not only finding space with his route running but has shown his athleticism and size on contested throws. He’s shown pop with big plays as well, going for longs of 30 and 44 yards the past two weeks.

Pierce and the Colts face a tough Denver pass defense on Thursday. The Broncos sit 10th in Defensive DVOA versus No. 1 WRs and will stick lockdown corner Patrick Surtain on Indy’s top target Michael Pittman Jr. That could have Pierce up against some softer coverage, as Denver does have injuries stacking up at CB and safety on a short week.

Pierce’s Week 5 receiving yards total sits at 34.5 yards, which looks very low considering his increase in targets, big play potential, and Reich leaning into the passing attack with Taylor and the ground game laid up. 

My best bet: Alec Pierce Over 34.5 receiving yards (-101)

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Colts vs Broncos spread analysis

The look-ahead line set back in the spring had this Thursday contest pegged with a field goal spread in favor of the home team. And despite the rough starts for both clubs, the opening spread hit the board at Denver -3 on Sunday night.

The Colts are likely to be without star running back Jonathan Taylor, who is questionable with a high ankle sprain. Early money tried to get out ahead of any official updates and bet on the Broncos, moving this spread to Denver -3.5. 

However, the Broncos announced that Wilson is nursing a right shoulder injury but is expected to play. That info has this spread tethered to the key number, with books dealing Denver -3 (-120) or -3.5 at a lower price (-105 to +105).

The worth of home field to the point spread dwindles each season but Empower Field at Mile High does have a built-in edge with the thin air at altitude in Colorado. The forecast is also calling for chilly weather in Denver on Thursday night, with a feels-like temperature of 40 degrees welcoming the Colts, who play their home games in a dome.

DraftKings sportsbooks are reporting 52% of bets on Indianapolis but 52% of handle on Denver as of Tuesday afternoon.

Colts vs Broncos Over/Under analysis

The look-ahead total for this game was set at 45 points in the offseason, mainly a nod to two solid defensive rosters returning for the Colts and Broncos. 

But with the offenses sputtering out the gate, this Over/Under number officially opened as low as 43 points on Sunday night. A market consensus of 43.5 is showing across the industry. 

As mentioned, these teams are built around sound defensive units, with Denver ranked out No. 8 in Defensive DVOA and Indianapolis sitting No. 11 at Football Outsiders heading into Week 5. 

The Colts have played Under in all four of their outings in 2022 while the Broncos are 1-3 O/U – in large part to underperforming offensive units. Indy is dead last in points per play (0.211) while Denver comes in 29th (0.267) in that metric.

According to DraftKings’ sportsbooks splits, 65% of tickets are on the Under along with 73% of the early money.

Colts vs Broncos betting trend to know

The Broncos have lived in quarterback purgatory and leaned heavily on their defense since 2016, with the jury still out on the Russell Wilson era. Despite that poor offense being baked into the Broncos’ totals — and helped along by the thin air factor — Denver is 6-11 Over/Under in home games between Week 1 and Week 5 since 2016, including a 2-9 O/U count in early-season home games the past five years. Find more NFL betting trends for Colts vs. Broncos.

Colts vs Broncos game info

Location: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Date: Thursday, October 6, 2022
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: Amazon Prime

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