Denver Broncos (8-4) at Indianapolis Colts (12-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
SURFACE: Artificial turf
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg, Rich Gannon)
PREDICTION: Colts 23-19
KEYS TO THE GAME: The strength of the Broncos' defense lies with the veteran secondary, which benefits from a strong pass rush. So look for the Colts to give RB Joseph Addai opportunities to establish the run and set up play-action for QB Peyton Manning. The focus of Indianapolis' defense will be to keep plays in front of them, which requires solid tackling because Broncos QB Kyle Orton looks for open receivers inside 10 yards and lets them make plays after the catch. The job will be made easier for the Colts if they can negate the Broncos' constantly improving ground game.
FAST FACTS: Broncos WR Brandon Marshall has at least three receptions in every game this season. ... The Colts have tied a franchise record with 12 consecutive home wins.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
--S David Bruton returned to practice on Thursday, after being held out Wednesday with an ankle injury. If he continues to make strides he should be available on Sunday.
--S Brian Dawkins practiced in full again Thursday. He missed some practice time last week but will play this week in a tough matchup against the Colts.
--LB D.J. Williams will be an important piece of the Broncos' defense this week. He stays on the field in all situations, and he will be the main run-stopper if the Colts decide to run against Denver's nickel package.
--QB Kyle Orton is still on the injury report with an ankle injury but has practiced in full for a few weeks. Orton has shown he is fully healthy from an injury that caused him to miss a start against San Diego.
--RB Knowshon Moreno leads all NFL rookies with 774 rushing yards. He is on pace for 1,032 yards. The Broncos haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since 2006.
--DT Keyunta Dawson (knee) returned to practice Wednesday. Dawson had been sidelined for the last couple of weeks. Dawson's status for the Denver game won't be decided until Friday or Saturday.
--S Antoine Bethea (rest) did not practice Wednesday. Bethea is expected to start Sunday against Denver.
--RB Donald Brown (chest) did not practice Wednesday. Brown's availability for the Broncos' game won't be known until Friday or Saturday. --S Aaron Francisco (ankle) has not practiced for the last couple of weeks. He is not expected to play Sunday against Denver.
--DE Dwight Freeney (rest/abdominal) did not practice Wednesday. Freeney is expected to start the Denver game on Sunday.
--OT Charlie Johnson (foot) was held out of Wednesday's workout. Johnson's status for the Broncos game won't be updated until Saturday.
--DE Robert Mathis (quadriceps) did not practice on Wednesday. Mathis will probably play against Denver but a final decision won't be made until later in the week.
--LB Clint Session (calf) did not practice on Wednesday. Session should be okay to play in the Broncos game this week.
--OT Tony Ugoh (hip) was held out of Wednesday's practice. Ugoh is expected to be available to play Sunday against Denver.
Elvis Dumervil has the most sacks in the NFL this season, but the Broncos outside linebacker is being realistic about his chances of increasing his lead this week.
The Broncos face the Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning, who is rarely sacked. Despite being second in the NFL in passing attempts, the Colts have allowed a league-low 10 sacks.
"This game, it's not about sacks, it's about being disruptive, getting to him and making him uncomfortable in the pocket," Dumervil said. "It may be farfetched to say you'll get two or three sacks on Peyton, because he knows what's going on behind him and he does a good job getting rid of the ball."
The Broncos know they can't blitz. Manning has always been masterful against the blitz, so don't expect Denver to send many extra defenders.
"I guess he watches a lot of film because he knows what's going on, knows what's coming and knows when you're blitzing," Dumervil said. "There's not much you can say but he knows the game. He's like the (Michael) Jordan of football, he's a really good player."
Even if the Broncos do get to Manning, he does a good job being just elusive enough in the pocket to buy time and deliver the ball.
"His ability to move or slide just slightly in the pocket to allow his linemen to push somebody past or have a better angle to make their blocks successfully -- that's what great movement in the pocket is and he does that as well as anybody else," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.
Jim Caldwell is both a student of the game and a fan of football.
He understands what it means to set an individual or team record. Above all, though, his first priority is winning.
Caldwell is not above looking at the historical marks the Indianapolis Colts have set so far this year, what they've done over the last two seasons and what could be in the offing if the team continues to register wins throughout the remainder of this year.
"I do talk about milestones to the team. To me, the historical significance of things you accomplish in this league is tough. It's tough to win. I think you diminish your profession if you don't acknowledge milestones and talk about them," he said recently.
"Some of these guys have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into making some of these things happen. We talk about milestones, but we don't get stuck on them. They don't define us necessarily. We know we still have a lot of work to do."
That's what's driving the Colts as they head into this week's home game with the Denver Broncos. Indianapolis will bring a 12-0 record this season and a 21-game winning streak dating back to last year into the matchup with the Broncos.
A win will clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. And a victory will give the Colts sole possession of the NFL record for the most consecutive victories over a multi-year span. Indianapolis is currently tied with New England (2006-08) for the longest such win streak in league history.
"What we try and do is focus in on our practices. We are trying to get better. That's the big thing during the course of the week. We certainly make them aware (of what can be accomplished Sunday), but they know already," Caldwell said.
"We don't have to tell them the significance of the game. It's not foreign to them. We address it but we don't make a big issue of it. We try to focus in on the things that we can control. That's how we practice. That's how we prepare. Then we go out and play the game."
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