Colts Slumping

The defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts were one of the last teams to lose a game this year. Now they're trying to keep their lead in the AFC South from slipping away.

After an awful performance by two-time MVP Peyton Manning last week, the Colts look to avoid losing three straight games for the first time in more than five years when they host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Indianapolis –14.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 43 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 72% of bets for this game have been placed on Indianapolis –14.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Indianapolis started the season 7-0 before squandering a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a 24-20 loss to New England on Nov. 4, a battle between the league's last undefeated teams. The Colts followed up that close defeat with another one, falling 23-21 at San Diego last Sunday in the worst game of Manning's career.

Manning had just four interceptions in his first eight games of the season, but threw four picks in the first 16 minutes against the Chargers. He finished with a franchise-record six INTs, but still gave the Colts a chance to win as he drove the team to the San Diego 12-yard line in the final minutes.

However, Adam Vinatieri, who won two Super Bowls for New England with last-second field goals and is regarded as the league's best clutch kicker, pushed a 29-yard attempt wide right.

The Colts may have been lucky to even have a shot at that go-ahead field goal after Manning struggled so badly.

``It was poor quarterback play on my part,'' Manning said. ``I take full responsibility for all of (the interceptions).''

Making matters worse for the Colts, who held San Diego to 177 yards, three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney suffered a season-ending foot injury in the loss. Freeney, the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, was diagnosed with a Lis Franc injury that may require surgery.

"I hate to say it, but we can't get concerned with who's not going to play,'' coach Tony Dungy said. "The biggest thing for me is we didn't function smoothly in the fourth quarter. Two weeks in a row we had a chance to win in the fourth quarter and we didn't get it done.''

The Colts haven't lost three in a row since Oct. 21-Nov. 3, 2002. They'll be trying to stay alone in first place in the AFC South, as their lead has been cut to one game over Tennessee and Jacksonville.

Indianapolis is looking to avoid the same late-season slump it endured last year, when it started out 9-0 but lost four of the final seven games to miss out on a coveted first-round playoff bye.

The Colts still went on to win the franchise's first Super Bowl, despite a shaky performance from Manning in their 23-8 wild-card victory over the Chiefs on Jan. 6. The seven-time Pro Bowler threw for 268 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off three times.

Manning, though, had one of the biggest games of his career against the Chiefs in the teams' last regular season meeting. He threw for a career-high 472 yards with five touchdowns and an interception in a 45-35 defeat on Oct. 31, 2004, which snapped Indianapolis' five-game winning streak in the series.

In four career regular season games against Kansas City, Manning has thrown for 1,236 yards, nine TDs and three interceptions.

The Chiefs (4-5) will also be trying to avoid their third straight defeat Sunday, and coach Herm Edwards announced quarterback Brodie Croyle will make his first career start as Kansas City tries to get back on track.

"You need a spark,'' Edwards said. "We've been in some contests now where we haven't had the ability to score points. That's part of your job as a quarterback, to put points on the board and move the football team. We've moved at times, but we've also been very inconsistent.''

In last Sunday's 27-11 loss to Denver, Croyle replaced turnover-prone Damon Huard in the third quarter and went 17-for-30 for 162 yards with one interception. He's 27-of-47 for 300 yards, one touchdown and one INT in three games this season.

Croyle will be joined in the backfield by Priest Holmes, who will make his second start of the season with running back Larry Johnson out for a second straight game due to a mid-foot sprain.

Last week, Holmes, a three-time Pro Bowler, rushed for 65 yards on 20 carries in his first start in more than two years. The Chiefs have the second-worst rushing offense in the league at 78.1 yards per game, but Holmes has run for 301 yards and five touchdowns in three career games against the Colts.

Last week's defeat dropped the Chiefs one game back of the AFC West-leading Chargers and into a second-place tie with the Broncos.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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