Byline: Arnie Stapleton
DENVER -- When Colts owner Jim Irsay scans the field today, he'll see in the Denver Broncos the kind of team he admittedly couldn't surround Peyton Manning with nearly enough during their 14 years together in Indianapolis.
Equilibrium on offense, dominance on defense -- a team that doesn't necessarily have to ride Superman's cape in its Super Bowl quest.
Remember Irsay's comments preceding Manning's emotional homecoming in 2013 about giving up the old Indy offense's "Star Wars'' numbers in a quest for more Super Bowl rings? It raised many eyebrows, but his point was this: he thinks the formula for winning more championships is better balance.
John Elway thinks so, too, and that's precisely what the Broncos (12-4) have as they host the Colts (12-5), who again have a star QB covering up deficiencies elsewhere.
After the record-shattering Broncos were demolished in the Super Bowl, Elway bolstered his defense by signing Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward to a guaranteed $60 million. He also replaced Eric Decker with Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Bradley Roby.
Following the inexplicable loss in St. Louis at midseason, the Broncos pumped the brakes on their Lamborghini offense and watched fourth-string running back C.J. Anderson blossom behind a restructured line.
Although that downshifting spawned the "What's wrong with Peyton?'' buzz, consider this: the Broncos were 3-4 when Manning threw for more than 300 yards this season, 9-0 when he didn't.
"It takes a team,'' is the new mantra in the locker room.
Almost all of Manning's key numbers are down from 2013, but these less-flashy Broncos may have a better chance of winning it all -- providing they can keep Luck from winning his first road playoff game.
Interestingly, the Colts are relying more on Luck than they ever did on Manning.
In his time in Indy from 1998-2011, Manning was responsible for 73.3 percent of the Colts' total net yards. During his three seasons there, Luck has accounted for 78 percent, according to STATS.
Granted, some of that is due to Luck's mobility -- his 905 yards rushing in his three-year career are already more than Manning accumulated in Indianapolis (722).
"Even when they're one-dimensional, they're not one-dimensional because he'll take off and run it,'' Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said.
And throw it: Luck led the league with 40 TD throws.
That was one more than Manning, who threw just three TD passes in December to go along with six interceptions....