Sunday Night Football

Sunday Night Football

Indianapolis (7-1, 6-2 ATS) at San Diego (4-4 SU and ATS)

The defending Super Bowl champion Colts, coming off their first loss, make a lengthy road trip to Qualcomm Stadium to face the Chargers.

Indianapolis controlled most of the game last week against New England, only to give up a 10-point lead in the final 10 minutes, losing 24-20 loss as a 5½-point home pup. QB Peyton Manning wasn’t sharp, but still went 16 of 27 for 225 yards and a TD. However, he accounted for both Colts turnovers (one INT, one fumble). The one bright spot was RB Joseph Addai, who piled up 226 total yards and one TD.

Manning’s WR corps are really banged up. Marvin Harrison, who has missed the last two weeks, is out once more, along with rookie Anthony Gonzales, while Dallas Clark is questionable.

San Diego is coming off an ugly 35-17 loss at Minnesota as a seven-point road favorite, allowing Vikings RB Adrian Peterson to rush for an NFL-record 296 yards and 3 TDs. Philip Rivers (19 of 42, 197 yards, 1 INT) couldn’t generate much of a passing game, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson gained just 40 yards on 16 carries, with one TD.

The Colts are 16-5 SU and 12-8-1 ATS in their last 21 road games (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS this year). Also, Indy is on a 10-2 ATS roll overall, including an NFL-best five consecutive spread-covers.

The Chargers are 13-2-2 ATS in their last 17 games as an underdog, but in their only game as a pup this year, they got crushed 38-14 at New England.

The winner is 8-0 ATS in San Diego’s games this season.

The over is 5-2 in San Diego’s last seven overall, 7-1 in San Diego’s last eight as a home underdog, 23-11 in the Colts last 34 games following a SU loss and 5-2 in the last seven regular-season meetings.

ATS ADVANTAGE: INDIANAPOLIS and OVER

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Re: Sunday Night Football

NFL Preview - Indianapolis (7-1) at San Diego (4-4)

(Sports Network) - When they take the field this Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts will be attempting to rebound from a loss for the first time this season. The San Diego Chargers have been in that position more times already than just about anyone could have envisioned at the start of the year.

The Colts and Chargers, two of the AFC's premier teams in 2006, will square off at Qualcomm Stadium in a Week 10 encounter between defending division champions.

Indianapolis has shown no letdown off February's Super Bowl victory through the first half of this 2007 campaign. The Colts vanquished their first seven opponents on this season's schedule to set up last Sunday's highly-anticipated showdown with also-unbeaten New England, a game in which the Patriots rallied to win by a 24-20 score.

The Colts held a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but two late touchdown passes by New England superstar Tom Brady dealt Indianapolis its first defeat since Christmas Eve of last season, when Tony Dungy's club suffered a 27-24 setback at Houston.

Recovering from a stinging loss may be the least thing on Dungy's mind heading into this matchup. Indianapolis is dealing with a number of injuries on both sides of the ball, with perennial All-Pro wide receiver Marvin Harrison the most notable of the team's walking wounded.

Harrison has sat out three of the Colts' last four contests with a sprained left knee and is highly questionable to return to action this week. His primary backup, Anthony Gonzalez, definitely won't face the Chargers after the first-year wideout dislocated a finger in last week's loss. Fellow rookie Tony Ugoh, Indianapolis' regular left tackle and the primary blindside protector of quarterback Peyton Manning, will likely miss a third straight game with a neck stinger.

The defense played the New England game without starting linebackers Freddy Keiaho (concussion) and Tyjuan Hagler (neck), and it's possible both could be out again on Sunday.

San Diego has some issues of its own, only those pertain to players who have been on the field. The Chargers fell to a highly-disappointing 4-4 on the season after being the victims of a record-setting performance by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson last weekend. The rookie running back set an NFL single-game mark with a whopping 296 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns to propel the Vikings to a 35-17 victory at the Metrodome.

The Chargers have now dropped twice as many regular-season games as they did last year. San Diego posted a league-best 14-2 record in 2006 under former head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was let go by the organization roughly a month after the team's loss to New England in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

SERIES HISTORY

The Chargers hold a 13-8 advantage in the all-time regular season series with the Colts, including a 26-17 road upset when the teams last met, in Week 15 of the 2005 season. The Chargers lost the three previous head-to-head meetings, including a 34-31 overtime affair at the RCA Dome in 2004 and a 27-19 loss when the teams last met in San Diego, in 1999. The Bolts' last home win in the series came in 1997.

The Colts won the only postseason meeting between the teams, claiming a 35-20 win on the road in a 1995 AFC First-Round Playoff.

Dungy is 2-1 all-time against San Diego, including a win for his Buccaneers in the 1996 season. The Chargers' Norv Turner is 1-3 all-time against Indianapolis, including 1-2 while head coach in Washington (1994-2000). Turner is 0-2 head-to-head against Dungy, including a loss for his Raiders to Indy in 2004.

WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL

Indianapolis sports the NFL's third-best offense in terms of total yards (390.3 ypg) and scoring (30.5 ppg), and has displayed terrific balance between the run and pass. The Colts may be relying more on running back Joseph Addai (704 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 9 TD) come Sunday if both Harrison (20 receptions, 1 TD) and Gonzalez (15 receptions) are unable to play. If that's the case, seldom-used Aaron Moorehead (4 receptions) would likely line up opposite big-play receiver Reggie Wayne (49 receptions, 5 TD) and tight end Dallas Clark (34 receptions, 6 TD) would see a lot of time in the slot. But no matter who's on the field, you can count on two-time league MVP Manning (2058 passing yards, 14 TD, 4 INT) being able to find the open man. The cerebral quarterback is the main reason why Indianapolis has committed a league-low seven giveaways on the season.

Addai is coming off a monster outing against the Patriots, with the second- year standout amassing 114 receiving yards and 112 more on the ground while taking a Manning screen toss 73 yards for a touchdown. Backup Kenton Keith (350 rushing yards, 3 TD) has also made a significant contribution to the league's seventh-ranked rushing attack (137.6 ypg), as has a solid offensive line anchored by All-Pro center Jeff Saturday. Manning's only been sacked eight times this year, but three of those came to the Patriots last week with Ugoh inactive.

San Diego's defense will need to have a short memory this week after letting Peterson and the Vikings run wild in last Sunday's debacle. Minnesota piled up a whopping 378 rushing yards on the afternoon, the most allowed on the ground by the Chargers in franchise history. Making matters worse, San Diego will be without one of its better run-stuffers for quite some time, as end Luis Castillo (28 tackles, 1.5 sacks) tore a tendon in his right ankle in the loss and will be sidelined for at least six weeks. Health issues have also limited the effectiveness of nose tackle Jamal Williams (18 tackles), who's struggled to regain his All-Pro form of a year ago due to knee problems. The Chargers are surrendering 125 rushing yards per game, which is just 22nd in the league.

The Chargers also have injury concerns in the secondary, where cornerback Quentin Jammer (38 tackles, 6 PD) suffered a hamstring pull last week and figures to be a game-time decision on Sunday. Antonio Cromartie (13 tackles, 3 INT, 8 PD), who had an NFL-record 109-yard touchdown return of a missed field goal against Minnesota, is an accomplished substitute, but San Diego doesn't have much experienced depth beyond him. The expected return of playmaking linebacker Shaun Phillips (29 tackles, 5.5 tackles) from a groin strain will surely help a pass rush that produced just one sack last week, as the Colts can't focus their attention squarely on the disruptive Shawne Merriman (41 tackles, 5.5 sacks).

WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL

It's no secret San Diego's offense centers around the considerable talents of running back LaDainian Tomlinson (657 rushing yards, 32 receptions, 8 total TD), the NFL's reigning MVP. The unassuming superstar was bottled up by Minnesota's stout run defense last week, however, managing just 40 yards on 16 attempts. Tomlinson also probably missed the presence of Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick, who will miss a third straight game due to a sprained foot. The Chargers mustered a meager 42 rushing yards in last Sunday's loss, well below the team's average of 113.3 per game (14th overall).

San Diego's inability to get going on the ground also negatively impacted quarterback Philip Rivers (1639 passing yards, 10 TD, 8 INT), who completed only 19-of-42 passes and was intercepted once in the defeat to the Vikings. His top target, tight end Antonio Gates (47 receptions, 5 TD), was also held in check, as the three-time All-Pro was limited to only one catch totaling 10 yards. Despite last week's subpar showing, the Chargers' 22nd-rated passing offense (195.9 ypg) has been upgraded by the mid-October acquisition of wide receiver Chris Chambers (38 receptions, 1 TD). The former Miami Dolphin had a team-best 59 yards on five catches this past Sunday in his second game with his new club.

Although it got hurt by the amazing Brady and his stellar corps of receivers last Sunday, the Indianapolis defense has usually been tough for opposing quarterbacks to solve this season. The Colts are allowing the third-fewest passing yards in the NFL (174.4 ypg) and have picked off 11 passes, including two of Brady in last week's loss. Second-year safety Antoine Bethea (45 tackles, 3 INT) has three interceptions in his last four games and teams with All-Pro Bob Sanders (44 tackles, 1 INT, 2.5 sacks) to give Indy one of the league's top back-end tandems. The Colts also possess an excellent pass-rush combo up front, where ends Dwight Freeney (20 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Robert Mathis (19 tackles, 4 sacks) are proven havoc-wreakers.

Dungy is hopeful that Keiaho (29 tackles, 1 INT) will be able to return to his customary weakside linebacker spot after sitting out three of the team's last four games, but Hagler (34 tackles) looks to be less likely to suit up this week. Veteran Rocky Boiman (18 tackles, 1 INT) would start on the strong side opposite leading tackler Gary Brackett (60 tackles, 2 INT, 0.5 sacks) in that scenario. The Colts will still have their most important player on the field in Sanders, whose ubiquitous presence has enabled the defense to a respectable No. 15 ranking against the run (107.1 ypg).

FANTASY FOCUS

This game pits two fantasy studs at the running back position in Tomlinson and Addai, who's actually slightly out-pointed the 2006 MVP so far this year. With San Diego's run defense in a state of disarray at the moment, look for Indy's outstanding young buck to again post strong numbers for his owners. Tomlinson should have a good day as well against an Indianapolis stop unit that can be vulnerable to power rushing teams. Even though his receiving corps will likely be short-handed, there's no reason not to start Manning in a favorable matchup against a San Diego secondary that's been somewhat shaky this season. Wayne could be primed for a big night as Manning's primary target, but Clark owners need to monitor the tight end's status. He sat out an early-week practice with a concussion, although early indications are that he'll be okay to play.

On the Chargers' side, look for a nice bounce-back game out of Gates this week and a decent one from Chambers, making the latter a borderline play as a No. 2 wide receiver. Rivers is only a so-so option at quarterback and should only be used if your normal starter is on a bye.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

There have been a litany of theories attempting to explain San Diego's mediocre record at the season's midway point. The reality of the situation might just be that the Chargers simply aren't that good. The defense has been average at times and surprisingly horrible on other occasions, having yielded 30 or more points in each of the team's four losses. San Diego's biggest strength has been its ability to force turnovers, but that won't come easy against an Indianapolis squad that protects the football as well as anyone. The Colts' long list of injuries is certainly concerning, but three of its most important players -- namely Manning, Addai and Sanders -- will be in uniform. Indianapolis shouldn't have a problem scoring points on the Chargers' underachieving defense, and will make enough key plays on the other side of the ball to avoid a potential losing streak.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colts 30, Chargers 21

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Re: Sunday Night Football

What bettors need to know: Colts at Chargers
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Colts on the rebound

The Indianapolis Colts, one week removed from a heartbreaking 24-20 setback at the hands of the undefeated New England Patriots, could be set up for a letdown performance against the inconsistent San Diego Chargers.

Indianapolis started last season with a perfect 9-0 record before losing to the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 19. The Colts lost four of their final seven outings, relinquishing an opportunity at a valuable first-round bye in the playoffs.  However, the Colts rebounded and won Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears, 29-17.

“We had the same situation last year when we went to Dallas and couldn't hold the lead,” Colts coach Tony Dungy told reporters. “Then we got into a stretch where we didn't play very good football. This is the same thing as last year. So we've got to bounce back and do it a little better than last year.”

Chargers in a jam

Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer will miss this contest against the Colts after aggravating his hamstring in last Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The veteran cornerback has 33 solo tackles and two recovered fumbles this season.

“I'm going to have to be smart about the injury,” Jammer told reporters. “I feel I could probably go, but I felt like I could go last week and it ended up catching again and set me down for another week. I don't want that to keep happening. I'd rather just go ahead and get ready for Jacksonville than risk an injury that's going to put me out for two, three, or maybe seven weeks.”

Antonio Cromartie will make his first NFL start Sunday, replacing Jammer against the Colts. The second-year cornerback has three touchdowns in his last two outings, including a score on a record-setting 109-yard interception return last Sunday versus the Vikings. Cromartie also scored on a 70-yard interception return two weeks ago against the struggling Houston Texans.

Colts shorthanded?

Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and tight end Dallas Clark are questionable for Sunday’s contest against the Chargers.

“Marvin thinks he can go,” coach Dungy told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday.

Harrison has missed three contests due to a bruised left knee, including last Sunday’s setback to the Patriots.  The eight-time Pro Bowl receiver has 20 catches for 247 yards and a touchdown in five outings this season.

Clark is suffering from a concussion and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. The veteran tight end has 34 receptions for more than 400 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Crunching the numbers

San Diego has won three of its four contests at Qualcomm Stadium this season, outscoring opponents in the process, 93-57. The Chargers have also won 11 of their last 12 regular season home games straight up (SU) and eight of their last 12 against the spread (ATS).

San Diego holds a 13-8 advantage all-time against the Colts, including a 26-17 upset at the RCA Dome last season. However, the Chargers’ last home victory over the Colts occurred in 1997.

LaDainian Tomlinson thinks that a win over the Colts could ignite the struggling Bolts.

“We're not an elite team at all,” Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson told reporters. “We’re a team that’s in the middle of the pack and we’re struggling trying to win games. We’ve got to find a way to get back to playing successful football and playing the way we’re able to play when we're good. We’ve got to start beating teams that are good and teams that are elite in this league.”

The Colts are a mere 2-5 ATS in their last seven contests at Qualcomm Stadium. The underdog is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings between the Colts and Chargers.

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