Home Field a Big Advantage This Year

Unlike recent seasons, the Colts are playing much better football at home. Despite their struggles over the last six weeks, the team has posted convincing wins at home against strong opponents.

Despite losing four of its last six games, the Indianapolis Colts know that there is still a lot on the line when the Miami Dolphins come to the RCA Dome Sunday.

Indianapolis is currently the AFC's third-seeded team with an 11-4 record, but have not played well -- especially on defense -- the last several weeks. But a win over the Dolphins, coupled with a loss by Baltimore at home to Buffalo, would allow the Colts to slip past the Ravens and into the second-seed position. Such a maneuver would allow Indianapolis a much-coveted bye in the first round of the playoffs.

It's the possibility that the Colts still have an outside shot at a first-round bye that has gotten everybody's attention, including quarterback Peyton Manning.

"We just need to get back on the winning track. We have a good winning record (7-0) here at home (this season) and would like to keep that going. We need to come out and play well Sunday, that's for sure," Manning said this week.

While Indianapolis has struggled, surprisingly so, on the road over the the last month, the Colts have proven to be tough to beat at home. In fact, the team is averaging 39.5 points while giving up just 18.5 points in RCA Dome victories over playoff-bound Philadelphia and an on-the-bubble Cincinnati squad the last two home games.

"No question, the last two games at home we have played well and beaten two good teams in Cincinnati and Philly," Manning said. "I've always thought that it really shouldn't matter (where teams play), home or away. If you're playing good football and executing and sharp, you should be able to win no matter where you play.

"But it seems so far this season we have probably played more of our better football here at home. We'd sure like that to continue, but us being at home doesn't guarantee that. You still have to have a good week of practice and have to come out and execute well."

Peyton Manning calls an audible back in 2003 versus Miami (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
The Colts' signal caller knows Miami won't be a pushover. Indianapolis has a 3-7 record against the Dolphins since 1998 and have not won a game in the series at the RCA Dome since 1997.

"We're playing a really good team, a team whose record (6-9) really doesn't coincide with the kind of team that they have, defensively especially. They have great defensive players, guys that we're real familiar with, like (defensive end) Jason Taylor and (middle linebacker) Zach Thomas," Manning said. "We haven't played these guys in a while, but you pop on the film and it looks very familiar to you."

SERIES HISTORY: 67th meeting. The Miami Dolphins lead the regular-season series, 44-22. Miami has also won both post-season meetings between the two franchises. The Dolphins have won five in a row (1998-2002) at the RCA Dome and have posted victories three of the last four regular season matchups and four of the last five games overall, including the playoffs. Indianapolis' last win over the Dolphins at the RCA Dome was a 41-0 decision in December 14, 1997. The Colts won the last meeting between the two teams, taking a 23-17 decision at Dolphins Stadium, on November 2, 2003. Miami has also won seven of the last ten, nine of the last 13 and 37 of the last 51 regular season meetings dating back to the 1977 season. The Dolphins are 25-13 against the Colts since the team moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore in 1984. Miami won both postseason meetings, taking a 23-17 overtime win in a first-round playoff game on December 30, 2000 and a 21-0 victory in the 1971 AFC championship game on January 2, 1972. Miami is 21-12 on the road against the Colts during the regular season and have a 13-6 record for games played in Indianapolis. Prior to the Dolphins winning their last five games in Indianapolis, the Colts had put together a four-game win streak at home against Miami (1994-97). The last Miami win in the series occurred on September 15, 2002 at the RCA Dome as the Dolphins registered a 21-13 victory.

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