Polian Commends Coach Caldwell

Bill Polian doesn't get a vote to select the National Football League's annual Coach of the Year award. But if he did, the Indianapolis Colts' team president admits that he wouldn't have to look very far.

"I think, if I'm correct, we went into the (San Diego) Chargers game with 11 starters out. Now that's unheard of in the NFL and to be in contention (for a playoff berth). But we are because they never give up, they fight like the devil, they believe in what (coach) Jim Caldwell has told them," Polian said.

"Regardless of the outcome (of this season), we went to the Super Bowl last year and won 16 games. Regardless of what our final record is this year, Jim Caldwell has done the best coaching job of anybody in the National Football League this year to keep this team afloat given everything that's gone on. But they're believers and they have big hearts."

That belief of "just keep on winning" needs to carry on this week as the Colts travel west to face an Oakland Raiders team that has its own postseason future in sight.

While Indianapolis controls its own destiny for the AFC South crown (win the final two games of the regular season and the Colts win the divisional title), the Raiders remain in contention for the AFC West title behind division-leader Kansas City.

"They are playing with a lot of momentum. The Jacksonville game (a 38-31 loss on the road) easily could have gone their way. They had a really convincing win (39-23) this past Sunday over Denver," quarterback Peyton Manning previewed.

"They are playing at home. They are right in the thick of the playoff chase, as are we, so I know it's going to be a tough ballgame."

Indianapolis hasn't played the Raiders since 2007, but Manning knows that Oakland and its fan base will be fired up for this week's game.

"It's a tough place to play, loud. They have great fan support out there. The fans are long-time Raiders fans and love their team. I think last time we played them, I think they were mathematically out of it (for the playoffs) at that point," he said.

"So, I expect an even tougher environment because of what is on the line for them and where they are in their division. It's loud. We were behind in that game and had to come from behind late (to win 21-14), so I think it will be a very challenging place."

How challenging?

"It's one of the places you do remember. Going back out there this late in the season, with this much on the line, it's going to be a big game," Manning said.

The playoff implications alone make Sunday's Colts-Raiders face-off an intriguing game.

"You have to have a real sense of urgency in the way you prepare. I think this game is going to be a great physical challenge. Every time you play in the NFL against a defense, it's a mental challenge, but this is a physical group all the way across the board on defense," Manning said.

"I'm sure they are on offense, as well. That will really be a challenge. You have to be able to reload and regroup and get ready to play again."

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 7-4. The two teams have split a pair of postseason meetings, with the Colts taking a 27-17 decision in the 1970 AFC Championship Game (1/3/71) and the Raiders posting a 37-31 overtime victory in the in an AFC divisional playoff game (12/24/77). The Colts have posted wins in the last two regular-season meetings, 35-14 (10/10/04) at the RCA Dome and 21-14 in Oakland (12/16/07). Since the franchise moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore prior to the 1984 season, the Colts have a 3-5 mark against the Raiders. As a franchise, the Colts are 3-4 in games played on the Raiders' home field and 2-1 in games played at Oakland. This week's game will be the Colts' fourth-ever visit to Oakland.

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