Baltimore, MD - The Indianapolis Colts haven't lost in nearly 13 months, and Peyton Manning kept it that way by capitalizing on a controversial decision by the team's last opponent.
One of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL, the Colts will try to extend their overall winning streak to 19 games Sunday when they visit the Baltimore Ravens.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Colts –1 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 87% of bets for this game have been placed on the Ravens +1 (View NFL bet percentages).
Indianapolis is 9-0 for the third time in five years, and its 18-game winning streak dating to a loss at Tennessee on Oct. 27, 2008, is three shy of New England's mark for the longest in league history.
Manning made certain the Colts' streak continued last Sunday night, connecting with wide receiver Reggie Wayne on a 1-yard TD pass with 13 seconds to play to clinch a 35-34 win over the Patriots.
The dramatic four-play, 29-yard drive came after Patriots coach Bill Belichick elected to go for it on 4th-and-2 from their own 28 with 2:08 remaining, only to have Tom Brady's pass to running back Kevin Faulk come a yard short.
"It is a huge win," Manning said. "The main reason is it's an AFC team. Teams in our division are winning. That's what we are trying to do, stay ahead of those teams."
The Colts lead the AFC South by four games over Jacksonville and Houston, which are tied for second place. They hold a two-game edge on Cincinnati in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
Tied with New Orleans as the only remaining unbeaten teams in the league, Indianapolis has reached this point in two of the previous four seasons with mixed results.
The Colts won their first nine games of 2006, en route to their second Super Bowl title. That came a season after they went 13-0 before losing two of their last three and falling to Pittsburgh in the divisional playoffs.
More than half of the players on this year's roster weren't around in 2006, so first-year coach Jim Caldwell and the veterans are trying to prepare the youngsters for the challenges ahead.
"For the older guys, they've been through this before," Caldwell said. "But our young guys are catching on pretty quickly. I think they've learned their lesson.
"We can't be in any better spot, that's a given. But the fact of the matter is there's still a lot of work to be done. If you take a peek in the rearview mirror, there are some teams behind us but not very far behind us, in our division even."
Manning continues to be a major part of Indianapolis' success. The three-time NFL MVP leads the league in completion percentage (69.7), passing yards (2,872) and touchdowns (20), while ranking third in passer rating (104.2).
Manning has also been sacked just eight times, and he won't have to contend with Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who could be out for up to three weeks with a knee injury. The linebacker, second in team history with 56 1/2 sacks, was hurt on an illegal chop block by quarterback Brady Quinn following an interception during Monday night's 16-0 win at Cleveland.
Quinn was fined an undisclosed amount and apologized.
Manning has led the Colts to five consecutive wins over Baltimore (5-4), with two coming on the road. He threw three TD passes in a 31-3 victory at home on Oct. 12, 2008.
The Ravens have held opponents to an average of 158.3 passing yards over their last three games, including a season-low 99 against the Browns. They've also given up only one touchdown pass in that span, winning twice following a three-game slide.
To complement its defense, Baltimore could use some increased production from quarterback Joe Flacco, who struggled against Indianapolis as a rookie last season. He was 28 for 38 for 241 yards but threw three interceptions and no touchdowns.
Flacco completed 13 of 18 passes for 155 yards Monday after going 18 for 32 for 195 yards in a 17-7 loss to the Bengals in Week 9. He has a 66.3 passer rating over those two games after averaging 264.1 yards with 12 TDs, five picks and a 95.6 rating in his first seven.
While Flacco tries to regain that form, Ravens coach John Harbaugh hopes the team has resolved its issues at kicker after signing Billy Cundiff on Wednesday.
Cundiff, a six-year veteran, replaces Steve Hauschka, who was cut Tuesday after missing several important field goal tries - including a potential game-winner in Minnesota last month.
The pressure might be on Cundiff immediately, as Matt Stover returns to Baltimore for the first time since leaving the Ravens and signing with Indianapolis last month following an injury to Adam Vinatieri.
Stover, the Ravens' all-time leader with 1,464 points and fifth all-time with 1,975, played with the Browns before they relocated to Baltimore in 1996. His contract expired following the 2008 season, and the Ravens did not re-sign him.
Stover has made all six field goal attempts and all 13 extra points in four games with the Colts.
"I guarantee you one thing: It would be nice to have Matt Stover kicking for us right now. It just didn't work out," Harbaugh said. "We had a plan all along to bring him back if we needed him, and then the Colts signed him. And there he sits, kicking for the Colts against the Ravens. It's pretty juicy. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens."
Posted: 11/18/09 11:15PM ET