|NFL Week 8: Colts at Panthers Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Thursday, 25 October 2007 07:05|
Trap Game in Carolina?
The Indianapolis Colts are just over a week away from a matchup with the only other undefeated team in the NFL, but coach Tony Dungy knows his team isn't thinking about that just yet.
The Colts will be trying to keep their record unblemished Sunday when they visit the NFC South-leading Carolina Panthers.
Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Indianapolis -6.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 44.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 96% of bets for this game have been placed on Indianapolis -6.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Indianapolis beat Jacksonville 29-7 on Monday to become just the third team, along with Green Bay (1929-31) and St. Louis (1999-2001), to start 6-0 for three straight years.
"To do it three years in a row, it's a lot of consistency and a lot of good players who are practicing hard and preparing hard," Dungy told the team's official Web site. "I don't take it lightly."
The defending Super Bowl champion Colts, who have won 11 straight games including playoffs, join 7-0 New England as the only unbeaten teams in the league.
Indianapolis and New England are set to square off on Nov. 4. While many fans may already be looking ahead to that game, Dungy says his Colts won't fall into that trap.
"That's the only way you can put together 13-game winning streaks, 9-game winning streaks. You can't put together 6-game winning streaks if you do it any other way," Dungy said. "Teams are too good. If you aren't playing your best or close to your best, you're not going to win. That's what this team realizes."
Dungy believes his 2007 team is even better than last season's championship squad, and the Colts certainly seemed to prove his point in Jacksonville. The Jaguars went into the game having won four straight, and hadn't allowed more than 17 points all season.
Quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 259 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score, Reggie Wayne caught nine passes for 131 yards, and Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith combined for 141 yards rushing.
The defense, meanwhile, knocked quarterback David Garrard out of the game and forced three turnovers while holding Jacksonville to 226 total yards.
The Colts rank second to the Patriots in the AFC with 399.7 total yards per game and third in the NFL defensively with 269.5 yards allowed per contest, including a league-low 162.2 passing.
"I think we're playing better football than we were playing in November and December last year," Dungy said. "We've been playing teams that have been hot or at the top of their division. The games have all been very meaningful games and we've been able to fight through a lot of things and win them."
Eight-time Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison spent the last part of Monday's game on the sidelines as he continues to recover from a bruised left knee. He missed practice on Wednesday, but is expected to play against the Panthers.
The Colts have a tough schedule working against them - the Monday night game gave them a short week to prepare for the Panthers (4-2), who are coming off a bye. Indianapolis was 5-0 in 2003 after a Monday night win over Tampa Bay, but lost six days later to Carolina at home.
"I reminded the team that four years ago we won a big Monday night game and had to come back and play Carolina on six days rest and we didn't win," Dungy said. "We'll focus on that."
The Panthers are 3-0 all-time against the Colts, but the 2003 victory was the last meeting between the teams.
Carolina is coming off a 25-10 win at Arizona on Oct. 14, and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South when Tampa Bay lost to Detroit last Sunday.
Vinny Testaverde, signed just four days earlier, threw for 206 yards against the Cardinals, including a 65-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith, and became the oldest starting quarterback to win a game in NFL history at 43.
"Our guys rallied around him," coach John Fox said. "I think they saw some of the things he's capable of during the week in practice."
Testaverde started in place of David Carr, who was unable to go because of a sore back. Carr became the No. 1 quarterback after Jake Delhomme was lost for the season with an elbow injury, and led the Panthers to a 16-13 come-from-behind win at New Orleans despite needing painkillers for his back before the second half.
However, Testaverde's performance against the Cardinals left many wondering if he should become the Panthers' starter.
Carr practiced without limitations on Wednesday, and Fox said he would play if healthy. But the coach refused to name a starter and even hinted at a platoon situation.
"I'm not hiding anything. I'm just not totally sure yet," Fox said. "One guy hasn't practiced in quite some time and the other guy is fairly new. So we'll keep you posted."
Carr, a five-year starter in Houston, beat the Colts the last time he faced them. The Texans stunned Indianapolis 27-24 in Week 16 last season.
"They know I don't like them. The Colts know that," Carr said. "We've had our issues in the past. We've seen each other enough."
Panthers running back DeShaun Foster missed practice Wednesday with a toe injury. That could make DeAngelo Williams, who rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown against Arizona, the starter against Indianapolis.
Carolina is 0-2 at home, where it plays six of its last 10 games.
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