The scuffling Denver Broncos failed to record a single win from October 1st to December 10th, but have now grabbed two victories in five days after punishing the Indianapolis Colts 25-13 on Thursday night.
Indianapolis raced out to a 10-0 lead after quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran for a score and the ageless Adam Vinatieri booted a 45-yard field goal, and the game appeared to be drifting further out of reach for the Broncos when Trevor Siemian was knocked out of the game with a dislocated left shoulder. It was then that Brock Osweiler entered the game and the Thursday night festivities took a hard left toward crazy town. Not only did Osweiler complete 12 of 17 attempts for 194 yards and two scores, but he completed several impressive throws along the way, including a 54-yard scoring strike to the one and only Jeff Heuerman. The highlight of Brock’s night came in the second quarter, when the skyscraper galloped in from 18 yards out for a surprising rushing touchdown. Osweiler has taken his fair share of heat over the past few seasons, but his performance on Thursday night was extremely solid off the bench.
Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were the top targets for Denver on the night, although both players failed to find the end zone. Thomas snared five of eight targets for 69 yards while Sanders was able to haul in seven of nine looks for 68 yards before departing the game with an ankle injury. Fantasy owners brave enough to stick with the top two Broncos receivers would’ve loved to tack on a touchdown to those stat lines, but Heuerman and Cody Latimer were the recipients of Osweiler’s two touchdown tosses. C.J. Anderson did the heavy lifting for the Broncos and applied the finishing blows to the Indianapolis defense in the final quarter. Anderson handled a season-high 30 carries, which he rolled into 158 yards as he steamrolled the Colts for four quarters. Anderson seemed to heat up as the game progressed and stacked up 99 yards after contact, per the good folks at PFF. After uninspiring usage for most of the season, Anderson has seen 52 carries in the last two weeks as the Broncos have finally experienced reasonable game scripts.
Fantasy owners still alive in Week 15 likely weren’t counting on contributions from the lowly Indianapolis offense, and the Colts lived up to their reputation by failing to score a touchdown after the 8:02 mark of the first quarter. The leading Colts receiver of the night was tight end Jack Doyle, who rode the garbage time express to seven grabs for 47 yards on a team-high eight targets. The indestructible Frank Gore racked up 68 total yards on 13 touches despite missing portions of the first half due to knee issues. Youngster Marlon Mack was unimpressive in six carries with Gore sidelined, running for just 14 yards.
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Broncos at Colts Quick Slants
T.Y. Hilton turned in a mediocre effort with 41 yards on five catches. Hilton saw seven targets but the Indianapolis offense never quite got rolling smoothly enough to spring any big gains for the speedy receiver. … Only four players caught a pass for the Colts, one of which was tight end Ross Travis, who caught two passes for a career-high 33 yards. Yes, this is where the Indianapolis offense is right now. … Cody Latimer pumped out his finest stat line of the season, tallying 60 yards and a score on three catches. Latimer also added a two-point conversion for good measure. … Devontae Booker was solid behind C.J. Anderson, totaling 49 yards on 12 touches, his second-straight game with 11 or more opportunities.
In Other News…
The 2017 season has officially come to a close for running back Adrian Peterson, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Peterson has been placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. Peterson had a tumultuous start to the season, as he was lightly used by the New Orleans Saints before being shipped to the Arizona Cardinals in early October. Peterson came out of the gates in his typical bruising fashion as the Cardinals’ lead back, rumbling for 314 yards on 4.2 yards per carry in his first three games in the desert. The veteran then sputtered behind the Arizona line in his final three contests, running for just 134 total yards on 2.4 yards per rush. It is fair to wonder if the incredible career of Adrian Peterson is over due to the often serious nature of neck injuries, especially at the running back position. However, I certainly do not endorse betting against one of the most prolific running backs in the history of the planet. With Peterson done, desperate fantasy owners scrambling for a spot start can look to Kerwynn Williams, who has handled 36 of Arizona’s 44 running back carries in the last two weeks.
Injury News and Notes
Alvin Kamara (concussion) is expected to play in Week 15, per coach Sean Payton. Kamara owners who survived the Week 14 debacle can breathe a sigh of relief. … DeAndre Hopkins (toe) missed practice on Thursday as fantasy owners began to have heart palpitations. No serious speculation has surfaced regarding Hopkins’ status, but keep an eye on this situation over the weekend. … Leonard Fournette (quad) didn’t practice on Thursday and will be a player to monitor on Sunday morning. … Joe Mixon (concussion) returned to practice in limited fashion on Thursday, which all but boots Gio Bernard back to fantasy benches this week. … Kyle Rudolph (ankle) missed another practice on Thursday and is now looking like a dicey bet for Week 15. Have a backup tight end on deck in case the Red Zone Reindeer is out on Sunday. … Chris Hogan (shoulder) was limited on Thursday but should be ready to face Pittsburgh in Week 15. … JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring) was added to the Pittsburgh injury report on Thursday and should be monitored as Sunday approaches. … Amari Cooper (ankle) did not practice on Thursday and is expected to miss Week 15. Michael Crabtree should be heavily targeted this week. … Damien Williams (shoulder) got in a limited practice on Thursday but won’t slow the Kenyan Drake train even if he returns for the first time since Week 12.