Game Scout: Bills/Colts

Not much at stake in season finale as two teams prepare for frigid conditio

Indianapolis Colts (14-1) at Buffalo Bills (5-10)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 1/03/10

SURFACE: Artificial turf

TV: CBS (Bill Macatee, Steve Beuerlein)

KEYS TO THE GAME: With home-field advantage locked up and their run at a perfect record over, Colts coach Jim Caldwell is expected to pull many of his key players even earlier than last week. QB Peyton Manning & Co. will play just long enough to keep sharp, then rookie Curtis Painter will take over. The Bills hope QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's ankle is healed enough to let him play, but none of Buffalo's quarterbacks has produced enough to keep opponents from stacking eight men against RBs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.


The Bills have placed 18 players on injured reserve this season, the most in franchise history. ... Manning needs 153 passing yards to break his career-high of 4,557 set in 2004.



--WR Pierre Garcon (hand) has seen limited work in practice this week. He will probably be a game-time decision against the Bills.

--OT Ryan Diem (elbow) did not practice Wednesday. He might be a game-time decision Sunday against Buffalo.

--OT Charlie Johnson (foot) will probably miss Sunday's game with the Bills.

--DT Keyunta Dawson (knee) isn't expected to play Sunday at Buffalo.

--DE Robert Mathis (quad) is most likely sidelined for Sunday's game at Buffalo.

--DE Dwight Freeney (rest/abdomen) will probably see limited work in the Bills game on Sunday.

--LB Clint Session (knee) isn't expected to see much, if any, playing time against the Bills on Sunday.


--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick took the majority of first-team reps for a second day and will start Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts barring any setbacks. Fitzpatrick missed last Sunday's loss in Atlanta with an ankle injury. He was able to run and cut on Thursday and appears close to 100 percent.

--QB Brian Brohm, who started last Sunday's loss at Atlanta, will play the role of backup Sunday against Indianapolis. Ryan Fitzpatrick took the majority of first-team reps again is expected to start barring any setbacks.

--WR Josh Reed did not practice for a second day due to a bad ankle injury. A free agent, he's doubtful for Sunday's game against the Colts.

--DT Marcus Stroud missed another day of practice with an illness. He's a game-time decision for Sunday's game against the Colts. His absence would further deplete a defense that is 32nd against the run.

--SS Donte Whitner did not practice due to an illness. A bug is running through the locker room. He's hopeful for Sunday's game vs. the Colts.

--OT Andre Ramsey injured his calf in practice and was added to the injury report. The severity of his injury isn't known. The Bills are hurting for depth at left tackle with Jonathan Scott not practicing this week with an ankle injury. The state of the left tackle spot won't be known until Sunday.



Curtis Painter has a good head on his shoulders.

So it's not a surprise that the rookie quarterback from Purdue isn't having that tough a time putting his performance against the New York Jets on Sunday out of his mind. At least publicly.

Painter relieved starter Peyton Manning late in the third quarter of the Jets game with Indianapolis clinging to a 15-10 lead. He promptly fumbled while dropping back to pass on his first offensive series, resulting in a touchdown for New York.

For the game, Painter completed just 4 of 11 passes and threw one interception. The Colts wound up losing 29-15, snapping a 14-game regular-season winning streak as well as a 23-game regular-season winning streak that stretched back to last year.

Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell, though, has no qualms about putting the first-year quarterback back into a game that counts. That includes Sunday's regular-season finale at Buffalo.

"A lot of circumstances you can't control. You have to be able to take some tough times, adjust, learn from them and move on," Caldwell said this week.

He fully expects Painter to do just that.

"It's a tough situation, and you can't blame everything on him in that situation, but it was difficult," Caldwell said. "We tried to make certain that we assured him and talked to him a little bit and told him some of the displeasure (booing during the game) was expressed more so at me than him in some situations. We made certain that he understood that. I think overall it was a great learning experience for him. I think he did some good things within the grand scheme of things.

"Oftentimes, you will find a young guy that does not have an opportunity to play an extensive amount of time, that he has problems getting in the huddle, calling plays, (getting) delay of games and things of that nature. But I thought he managed that aspect pretty well. He had some nice throws as well. I think it was a learning experience, and hopefully he'll get a little bit more."


The Bills reached back into their past again to find their new general manager.

Buddy Nix, who worked as an SEC scout for the team from 1993 to 2000, was named general manager of football operations on Thursday by team owner Ralph Wilson. Unlike GMs of the recent past, Nix's GM title was re-defined as strictly a football only role.

The Bills, who have missed the playoffs a franchise-record 10 consecutive seasons, have drawn criticism for neglecting their football operations while concentrating on marketing to sell out their stadium. The Bills have a 5-10 record heading into Sunday's finale against Indianapolis before yet another sellout crowd.

"It has nothing to do with marketing, advertising, tickets -- just football," Wilson said when describing Nix' role. "He will hire a new football coach and oversee him and the whole operation connected with football."

Nix, 70, rejoined the Bills last January as a national scout, ending a brief eight-month retirement after leaving the San Diego Chargers.

He left the Bills after the 2000 season with the late John Butler and A.J. Smith, Buffalo's two lead decision makers, to become the Chargers head of player and pro personnel. He later became assistant GM after Butler died of cancer. From 2001-2007, Nix oversaw drafts that brought in 20 Pro Bowl players to San Diego.

The Bills are hoping his keen eye can help them rebound from a dismal decade of football.

"I'm excited to be here at a time we are. We have a great opportunity. I think it's perfect timing," Nix said. "You always talk about getting 'a football guy.' I don't know what that is exactly but the only way I could be more of a football guy is live longer because it's all I've ever done. I've had all the titles but this one."

After the Bills spoke with Mike Shanahan and rumors swirled this week that Bill Cowher was back on the radar, the Bills settled on Nix, keeping with Wilson's track record of hiring from within. The deal came together in the last week, Nix said, and it was a surprise to him that he was offered the job.

But being a GM of an NFL team was a career goal, he said.

His first order of business is hiring a head coach. He said interim coach Perry Fewell is a candidate and will be interviewed but would not elaborate.

"It's important who we hire, obviously, to be the head coach. This is a crucial time for us. We're going to set about that and make sure we get the right guy," he said.




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