For Denver Broncos’ fans, the matchup to watch this weekend will be on the outside between two wile old veterans and future Hall of Famers, Champ Bailey and Reggie Wayne.
The latter is and a huge part of the Indianapolis Colts’ offense and has been for over a decade. If Champ can shut him down, not only will the Colts have little-to-no chance of keeping up with Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense, but it will also alert the rest of the league that Bailey is healthy and back to playing at an elite level.
No question, stopping Wayne will be a huge test for the 35-year-old Broncos’ corner. Wayne is the player Andrew Luck looks for when in need of a big play, as well as his security blanket when under pressure. Wayne leads the Colts in nearly every statistical receiving category. Consequently, there is little doubt that a still recovering Champ Bailey will be thrown at consistently this Sunday in Indy.
Bailey had a poor performance against Justin Blackmon in his first game back from a foot injury last week, and will likely still not be in top physical shape. Moreover, at 35, he has clearly lost a step in coverage. Nevertheless, with his impeccable technique, flawless ball skills and intuitive football mind, he remains one of the best defensive players in the game and will be eager to redeem himself.
Wayne, on the other hand, has remained healthy this year, still posses great quickness and strength for a receiver his age, is familiar with all of the tricks Champ will likely use to slow him down, and has some of the best hands in the league. His play, however, is always reliant on that of his quarterback, who will likely be under pressure all night — especially with the return of Von Miller to the Broncos’ defense.
Only one thing is for sure, it is going to be a great matchup to watch.
If Bailey can shut Wayne down in one-on-one coverage, the rest of the Broncos’ defense will be free to blitz or roll coverages to one side and focus on containing T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener. If Champ is successful, the defense will be able to pressure as well as confuse Luck, and hopefully force a few turnovers.
Moreover, if Champ can contain Wayne and prove that he is healthy and back to his premier cover corner status, quarterbacks are much less likely to test him down the road based purely on the respect players have for his ability to make plays on the ball.
If Wayne is able to get free, not only can he create a big play by himself, but he also allows the entire Colts’ offense becomes much more dynamic. The defense is forced to double-cover Wayne, taking bodies out of the box and off-blitz packages, allowing the Colts to heavily rely on their running game as well as play action passing – where they are by far the most dangerous.
If Wayne can make Bailey ineffective, the Colts have the weapons on offense to effectively run the clock and keep the ball away from Manning while still scoring very efficiently.
More than likely, the Wayne-Bailey match-up will be a back-and-forth battle all game. However, if either one is able to make a big play early, it could drastically alter the outcome of the game.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.