The Colts will look to become the first team in NFL history with five straight 12-win seasons Sunday when they visit Oakland, while the Raiders scramble to avoid their fifth consecutive year with at least 10 losses.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Indianapolis –10.5 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 94% of bets for this game have been placed on Indianapolis –10.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Oakland (4-9) is a league-worst 19-58 since the start of the 2003 season. Indianapolis is 61-16 over that span, second in the NFL only to New England's 63-14 record. But the Patriots won just 10 games in 2005, meaning Peyton Manning and the Colts (11-2) hope to accomplish something not even Tom Brady's Patriots, Joe Montana's 49ers or Troy Aikman's Cowboys could do.
"It's not easy to do," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "Before I got here, I had never coached on a team that won 12 games. I played on a team in Pittsburgh that won 14 once, but it's hard to do year in and year out."
The defending Super Bowl champions clinched their sixth consecutive playoff berth with a 44-20 victory over Baltimore last Sunday night, their fourth straight win after a pair of midseason losses. They can clinch the AFC South with a win this week, and can ensure a first-round bye with a win combined with a Pittsburgh loss or tie.
The Colts' offense is back on track after some uncharacteristic midseason struggles. The 44 points against the Ravens were a season high, as Peyton Manning threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns in less than three quarters before being removed with the outcome secure.
Manning has thrown 11 TD passes in the last three games even though he's still without receiver Marvin Harrison, who has missed eight games with a knee injury and appears unlikely to return this week. But Harrison's replacement, rookie Anthony Gonzalez, had his best career game against the Ravens, catching six passes for 134 yards and his first two touchdowns.
"We've been able to settle down," Dungy said. "Anthony has gotten comfortable in his role outside, and we're running the ball well. I think guys understand what they have to do."
Running back Joseph Addai had three total touchdowns against the Ravens, and might see an increased workload against Oakland's 31st-ranked rush defense, which allows 150.4 yards per game.
The Colts have also been strong defensively, allowing just 16.7 points per game. They have nine sacks in their last three games even with top defensive end Dwight Freeney (foot) on injured reserve. They will likely be missing three more starters - defensive end Robert Mathis (knee), safety Antoine Bethea and defensive end Raheem Brock (rib) when they face the Raiders.
"I don't know the severity of the injuries or how long they'll be out, but I don't think they'll play this week," Dungy said.
Oakland's offense has been inconsistent, especially at quarterback. With starter Daunte Culpepper (quadriceps injury) out last week, Josh McCown started but was replaced by Andrew Walter after going just 7-for-15 for 110 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 38-7 loss to Green Bay.
Still, the Raiders have already won twice as many games as last year's team, and had recorded two straight victories before the Green Bay game.
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the top overall pick in this year's draft and Addai's college teammate at LSU, didn't play last week, as coach Lane Kiffin said the team wasn't playing well enough to put a rookie in the game. But Kiffin said Monday that Russell will appear in this week's contest.
"He'll play in some role and the length of that role I have not determined yet, but he'll play and there is a bunch to figure out with the other guys," Kiffin said.
Running back Justin Fargas should also return after leaving last week's loss with a bruised rib. Fargas has been a bright spot in recent weeks, with three 100-yard games in his last six, and is just 80 rushing yards from his first career 1,000-yard season.
The Colts are just 2-8 against the Raiders since 1971, but beat them 35-14 in their last meeting in October 2004. They haven't traveled to Oakland since 1995.
Dungy's last trip to Oakland was a 45-0 loss there as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1999.
"I have thought about that," Dungy told the Colts' official Web site. "We were in the exact same situation. It was late in the year. We were trying to clinch a division title and Oakland was sub-.500 (6-7 at the time). Everything was the same way, same setup. I will certainly mention that to our guys."
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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