The Colts travel to Denver this Sunday for a Divisional Playoff game.

Once upon a time (specifically 2003/04) a playoff game versus the Orange Crush meant that then-Colt Peyton Manning would have a chance to hang 40+ points on Elway’s old squad. Nowadays, of course, Manning’s in Denver and a kid named Andrew Luck is under center for the blue and white — and the Broncos beat the Colts in Week One of the 2014 campaign.

Sure, the Blue Crew will tell you it’s Payback Manning Time. But the Colts remain inconsistent at best. Take a running game that’s by turns maddening (“Trent Richardson falls forward for a loss of 6!”), terrifying (Boom Herron carries the ball like he’s in an NBA game) and mystifying (Zurlon Tipton?), mix in a D that may allow anywhere from 0 to 427 points in a game and add an O-line that’s been rearranged more times than Kenny Rogers’ face and you’ve got a team that’s built more for Maalox than Madden.

But the Colts have one constant: Luck. Andrew Luck can throw a TD on the run. Andrew Luck can throw a TD from his knees. Andrew Luck can throw a TD while being held upside down and kicked in the face by Ndamukong Suh. Andrew Luck can throw a TD from the moon.

So what are their chances against Denver, really?

We asked our old pal, sportscaster and all-around smart guy (despite what Deadspin says about him) Darren McKee (or “D-Mac”) from 104.3 FM The Fan in Denver to weigh in. He complied via phone on Tuesday before the game.

NUVO: What’s the attitude there — are the Colts a legitimate challenge or just a small obstacle on the way to another Super Bowl humiliation for the Broncos?

Darren McKee: Wow. Wow. (SILENTLY REFUSES TO RESPOND TO MONUMENTAL SHADE.) Yeah, they’re a legitimate challenge.

It’s weird, because the Colts look a lot like the Broncos at the beginning of the season. Just sort of chucking the ball up … the Broncos made a distinct change after they lost to St. Louis. John Elway had an interesting chat with Peyton Manning. He said, “Listen — we’ve gotta change how we’re doing things. If we don’t, we’re just not going to have success.” Back when they had Terrell Davis, the Broncos had all sorts of success running the ball and mixing it in … I talked to Adam Gase, the offensive coordinator, after St. Louis, and that game just got away from him. He didn’t even realize how little they were running the ball. But it created this really dramatic change in philosophy, and Manning’s had to accept it. To his credit, it looks like he’s accepted it.

I asked Peyton if he was comfortable with it, and his response was “I’m comfortable with winning.” I’m taking him at his word. We also asked Peyton if there are any circumstances in which he wouldn’t come back. He said no, unless they wouldn’t have him. I thought maybe that this whole thing would perhaps be a detriment to him even retuning next year. Maybe he was thinking, “I’m getting beaten up, my offensive line isn’t as good as they should’ve been, I’m just handing the ball off 100 times — we’re winning games, but this just isn’t what I signed up for.” But apparently, that’s OK.

In my opinion, though, he’s played a little scared in a few games. Sometimes that increases as the game goes on. At least it did in the Cincinnati game. I really can’t explain how poorly he played in the fourth quarter, especially compared to how he played in the third quarter, except for the fact that this guy REALLY doesn’t want to get hit. But Andrew Luck … he does not care about the contact. He is a remarkable athlete. Incredible balance, strength and speed. He’s making up for a lot of the shortcomings of the team. Who did THAT for years in Indianapolis but Peyton Manning?

It’s not a great offensive line, it’s not a great running game, but you do have some dangerous wide receivers. You’ve got some very solid tight ends, the check down to Herron — the Broncos are definitely not taking the Colts lightly. In fact, I’m very much looking forward to the game — and I’m also very much looking forward to [Wednesday], the day all the TV people from Indianapolis will fly in to kiss Peyton’s ass. I swear, I’ve never seen anything like how the TV people from Indy fly in to kiss Peyton’s ass.

NUVO: Dude. There is a CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL named after him. He STILL helps sick kids in Indianapolis.

McKee: I know, I know.

NUVO: We would not have that damned warehouse downtown with the sliding glass roof without the man. No Super Bowl trophy. No Super Bowl in Indy, either.

McKee: Yeah, but I literally saw an Indianapolis TV guy RUB PEYTON’S BELLY. It was the strangest thing. There was a handshake and then there was a rubbing of the belly. As if he was Buddha.

But to my point — no, no one’s taking the Colts lightly but it would be a MAJOR upset for the Colts to be able to come into Denver and win — I think they’ll compete, I think it’ll be close … but are they at the level of the Broncos? I think if you ask most Broncos fans, of all the teams they could’ve faced this year, the Colts would be their first choice.

NUVO: I would think New England would be a little nervous about seeing the Ravens this weekend.

McKee: We’re thrilled about that. We know our year’s over if we have to go to New England.


McKee: We’re OK to play the Ravens here. New England? PLEASE. HOUSE OF HORRORS for Peyton Manning.


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