Who Will Bounce Back?

After coming up short in one of the most-hyped regular-season games of the last decade, the first-place Indianapolis Colts don't have much breathing room atop the AFC South.

The Colts try to bounce back from their tough loss on Sunday night when they visit the underachieving San Diego Chargers, who are coming off their most humiliating defeat of the season.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Indianapolis –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 48 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Indianapolis –3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Indianapolis (7-1) fell to New England 24-20 last Sunday in a matchup featuring the NFL's final two unbeaten teams.

The Colts took a 20-10 lead with 9:42 left in the game on Peyton Manning's 1-yard sneak into the end zone, but the defense allowed two long pass plays in the final minutes as the Patriots took over.

"That hurts the most," cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "The main thing we have to focus on is the fourth quarter, and that's something we've got to learn from."

Indianapolis' lead over second-place Tennessee in the division is down to one game, and the Colts must now avoid any further letdowns - something they struggled with last season.

The Colts started the 2006 season 9-0 before losing 21-14 at Dallas on Nov. 19. Indianapolis ended up losing four of its final seven games and missed out on a coveted first-round bye in the playoffs.

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

"I think we know what's at stake and we can't afford a letdown after this loss."

The Chargers (4-4), meanwhile, are trying to get back on track following last Sunday's 35-17 road loss to a Minnesota team which entered with a 2-5 record.

Vikings rookie Adrian Peterson rushed for an NFL single-game record of 296 yards, while reigning NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson was held to 40 yards on 16 carries.

"We got our butt kicked. Point blank," All-Pro outside linebacker Shawne Merriman said.

San Diego entered last Sunday's game with the seventh-best rush defense, but has since dropped all the way to 22nd, allowing an average of 125.0 yards on the ground.

The loss to Minnesota also snapped a three-game winning streak for the Chargers, leaving them tied with Kansas City atop the weak AFC West.

San Diego was considered by many to be a Super Bowl contender this season, but it hardly looks like one. The combined record of the four teams the Chargers have beaten is 12-21, while their four losses have come against teams with a 23-10 record.

"We're not an elite team at all," Tomlinson said. "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."

Tomlinson has been unable to duplicate the success he had last season when he scored 31 touchdowns. He ran for 113.4 yards per game in 2006, but is averaging 82.1 yards on the ground this year with eight total TDs.

Tomlinson has rushed for 157 yards and one touchdown on 45 carries in two career games against the Colts.

In the last meeting on Dec. 18, 2005, the Chargers won 26-17 to end the Colts' 13-0 start.

Indianapolis ranks third in the NFL in total offense (396.0 yards per game) and scoring (30.5 ppg), but finished with season lows in points and yards (329) against the Patriots.

Running back Joseph Addai, though, had an outstanding performance, becoming the first Colts player to gain more than 100 yards both rushing and receiving in a game. Addai ran for 112 yards on 26 carries and had five receptions for 114 yards, including a 73-yard score on a short pass from Manning right before halftime to put Indianapolis up 13-7.

Manning threw for 225 yards against New England, but also had an interception and a costly fumble with 2:25 left in the game.

Manning, who won his previous three games versus the Chargers before the last meeting, has thrown for 1,260 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions in four career games against them.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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