Friday's injury report has been issued, and it's looking more certain that the Colts will be without MLB Gary Brackett, WR Brandon Stokley, LB and LB Keith O'Neil in addition to DT Montae Reagor. Bob Sanders missed practice again, but he's prepared for the matchup if the knee feels strong enough. It sounds as if Dungy's preference would be to let him sit this one out while Sanders is more hopeful about playing. We could see this cycle for the next couple of weeks if he doesn't give the knee another week off.
On the defensive line, Robert Mathis was back at it today as was Darrell Reid. But Reid practiced with his broken index finger in a hand cast and still isn't assured a spot in the rotation on Sunday at this point. That would be a big hit for the Colts special teams, as he's really excelled in that area this season.
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It appears Rob Morris will be the middle linebacker against Buffalo this weekend due to Gary Brackett's hamstring injury. But don't be surprised if you see rookie Freddy Keiaho out there in place of Morris on obvious passing downs. Keiaho started learning how to play the nickel linebacker position from Gary Brackett back during training camp and has the speed to drop back and cover that middle zone in Dungy's version of the Tampa 2 better than Morris, the second-string veteran. Because Morris struggled with pass coverage when he was the starter a couple of years ago, Brackett was frequently inserted to play that pass defender role while backing up Morris. I haven't been able to confirm if that's what the Colts will do or not, but they certainly should.
I know some of you will think I'm just kicking a dead horse here, but honestly, I'm not. But while I was doing a little more research in preparation for a radio interview on WNDE's The Drive, I figured out that if the Colts finish the season with just 22 sacks (their current pace), it would be the second-worst result in that category since the team moved to Indianapolis back in 1984. The 1993 Colts had just 21 sacks, but they had Jon Hand and Skip McClendon as their defensive ends that year, not Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
That statement's not meant to disparage Hand or McClendon as I have respect for any player talented enough to land a starter's role in the NFL. It's just that while Hand posted one season with double-digit sacks, he didn't have the consistent production that Mathis and Freeney have shown up to this season, and McClendon never posted more than two sacks in a season. The photo I plopped in with this segment is a shot of Hand from the 1992 season for those of you who might not have recognized him.
You know, considering the fact that the sacks production is a bit off this season, you really have to tip your hat to the Colts secondary and the linebackers for the good job they've done in zone coverage, especially in light of the fact that the team has rotated a number of players in at safety.
The Buffalo defense has a pair of good pass-rushing defensive ends in Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay, and Peyton Manning will have to be aware of the whereabouts of the two of the Bills' linebackers -- London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes throughout this game. DT Larry Tripplett is coming off a pretty good effort against the Packers as well. But one thing is going to be a problem for the Bills defense is that they are going up against Tony Dungy, a head coach that helped refine the defense that Buffalo installed this year under new head coach Dick Jauron. If anyone knows how to exploit the weaknesses of the Cover 2 defense, it's Dungy. Mix in the Colts offensive talent level with that expertise and it translates into big trouble for Buffalo. They may have to ask the league if they can have a waiver on the too many men on the field rule so that they can sneak an extra player or two out there in hopes of finding a way to stop the Colts.
Colts rookie running back Joseph Addai had his worst game of the season last week, posting a meager 2.4 yards per carry against the Patriots. But he'll bounce back strong this week. The rookie, who has a 4.5 yards per carry average for the year, is on pace to challenge the 1,000-yard rushing mark as a rookie. Only three others have done that in the history of the franchise -- Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk, and Dominic Rhodes.
After a couple of solid weeks of returns coverage, the Colts special teams will have to be sharp this Sunday. In one of the few bright spots of the year for Buffalo, kickoff returns specialist Terrence McGee has racked up more than 100 yards in returns during the last three games. And he opened last week's game against the Packers with a 61-yard effort.
Terrence Wilkins may not get as many opportunities to do much with punt returns this Sunday. Bills punter Brian Moorman, a Pro Bowler, boomed a 65-yarder and dropped four punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line last week.Check back later for more updates. Talk about this update in our fan forum!
Last week the Bears fell to the Dolphins in Chicago. This week the Colts host a Bills squad that is really struggling, especially on offense even when they had Willis McGahee available. So could this be a trap game for the 8-0 Colts? This week, head coach Tony Dungy made it clear that it's not as far as his team is concerned.
"There is really no such thing as a trap game in the NFL," he said. "We talked about where we are in the standings today. We looked at where the whole league is, and you see that Miami was a one-win team and went to Chicago and won. Our closest game of the first half was Tennessee. So our guys understand that, that everybody in the NFL has capable people and it comes down to how you execute that day.
"We are looking at Buffalo's strengths and what they do well and their pass rushers and receivers and their running back and their return guys. There's a lot of weaponry there. We saw the game opening day they should have beaten New England, no question about it. So, we'll be ready. If they beat us, it will be because they beat us, not because we're not ready for them."
In our Behind Enemy Lines feature for our ColtPower Insiders today, Bills Digest's Mark Ludwiczak shared some great information with me in regards to who Peyton Manning can easily exploit in the Bills secondary on Sunday and some really interesting information about Buffalo's offense that's going to make this game even more interesting to watch. And I appreciated his candor when he quite bluntly stated that "the Colts won't have any problems handling the Bills."
Well wait a minute, aren't the Bills 3-5? How could he be so pessimistic about their chances? Well, I took a closer look at the Bills myself and learned something very interesting. Prior to the Green Bay victory last week, the Bills had lost three straight outings. And get this, Buffalo got a win even though quarterback J.P. Losman only had 21 yards passing until there were just eight minutes remaining in the game. He threw a 43-yard TD pass at that late stage of the game, finishing the contest with just 8 completions for 64 net yards against a Green Bay defense ranked last in the NFL. To boot, Buffalo put up just 184 yards of total offense and allowed Green Bay to roll up 427 yards of offense. Without the turnovers, last week's win could have been a very ugly loss for the Bills.
You know, we added a depth
chart to our website as a convenience to the fans so you can keep up with
the current roster by position, as well as the players on the practice squad and
injured reserve. You can access it any time by using the link in the left column
of our home page (scroll below the text ads for the list of links). Earlier this
year the Colts were rotating players on and off the roster and practice squad
frequently, but as you'll see on our depth chart, the last time we updated it
was October 25th. There hasn't been any change to the roster or practice squad
since that date, so I thought I'd pass that along to you so you didn't think we
were just being slackers and not keeping up with it.