Now that the Indianapolis Colts have taken care of business with their 31-7 win at Carolina, coach Tony Dungy's team can devote all of its considerable attention to Sunday's mega home-field matchup with New England. Indianapolis will enter this week's game with a 7-0 record and will be one of the NFL's two remaining undefeated teams. That's counting the pesky Patriots, of course.
The Colts have now started three consecutive seasons with a 7-0 record, joining the 1929-31 Green Bay Packers for the best in league history. Indianapolis has also posted 12 consecutive wins, counting post-season games, dating back to the tail end of the 2006 season.
This week's game began capturing the nation's interest a couple of weeks ago. With Indianapolis' road win at Carolina and New England's home-field victory over Washington, the stage is now set for what promises to be one of the most heralded regular-season meetings in league history.
Whatever happens to either team this week, fans and media would be wise to remember that there will be plenty of other games down the road that will eventually decide what transpires over the course of the year.
Of course, even though it's still going to be early November, home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs will most likely be at stake on Sunday. Whichever team can manage to pull out a victory at the RCA Dome may very well have the inside track for the rest of the season.
"We started out 13-0 and didn't win it. Then, we went 9-0 and we had a stretch (a year ago) where we didn't really particularly play good football. We have a lot of guys that were on that team last year that we had some poor games in late November and December. So, I think our team realizes you don't win championships in September and October," Dungy said.
"We were happy to get off to the good start. Our coaches do a good job of that, and our veteran leaders on the team do a good job of really just maintaining those practice habits and that drive."
But the talk always returns to the Patriots, who have been world beaters since the start of the regular season.
"Even before the season started, everybody's saying that's who you're going to have to beat and it was San Diego, that's the best team. I think New England has been in it long enough and we have too, with this group of guys for the last four or five years that you know what you have to do, which is play and get better every week. And if you get better every week, you have a chance to be there at the end," he said.
"That game, believe it or not, is not going to be the end-all to the season. It's not going to be the Super Bowl, and there's no guarantee that the winner of that game is going to get there. So, it's going to be what it is. It's going to be hyped up, it's anticipated. It was circled on the schedule I'm sure early by a lot of people, but it's going to be one game out of 16. It may have some big ramifications, but by the end of the year, it may not."
--QB Peyton Manning tied and passed former Colts QB Johnny Unitas for the most career touchdown passes in franchise history. Manning's four-yard pass tied Unitas at 287 career touchdown passes. His 59-yard scoring pass to WR Reggie Wayne put Manning over the top. Manning now has 288 career touchdown passes. He can pass Unitas' 290 NFL career touchdown passes this week against New England. Unitas played his final NFL season with San Diego in 1973 and had three touchdown passes for the Chargers. Manning became the first NFL quarterback to register wins over all 31 other NFL teams with the victory over Carolina. The Panthers had been the only team that he never defeated.
--WR Reggie Wayne had seven catches for a game-high 168 yards and a touchdown for the Colts in the win at Carolina.
--RB Joseph Addai saw his most extensive playing time since suffering a shoulder/chest injury against Denver. Addai rushed 23 times for a game-high 100 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for eight yards and a TD.
--WR Marvin Harrison (knee) did not make the trip to Carolina. His status for this week's home game with New England will be determined by Friday or Saturday.
--Rookie WR Anthony Gonzalez made his second NFL start as an outside receiver in the win over Carolina. Gonzalez started in place of veteran Marvin Harrison. He had one catch for 16 yards.
--LB Freddy Keiaho (concussion) did not travel to Carolina. Keiaho's availability for the Patriots game on Sunday will be announced later this week. LB Tyjuan Hagler, who had been moved to start at strongside linebacker a week ago, moved back to the weak side to start against Carolina. Hagler had 10 total tackles, including eight solos. LB Rocky Boiman returned to the starting lineup against Carolina.
--LT Tony Ugoh (shoulder) did not play at Carolina. Ugoh suffered a burner in the first half of the Monday night win at Jacksonville. He could return to the starting lineup against New England this week. OT Charlie Johnson replaced Ugoh in the starting lineup for the Colts. Johnson saw extensive action at both offensive tackle spot as a rookie last year.
--TE Bryan Fletcher (leg) dressed for the Carolina game. He was injured in practice late last week. He saw playing time against the Panthers but did not catch a pass.
--DT Dan Klecko was a game-day active roster player for the first time this season. Klecko played defensive tackle and saw some work as a short-yardage blocker on offense.
--WR Aaron Moorehead (back) saw extensive playing time against Carolina. He had limited practice time last week. Moorehead had one pass reception for eight yards Sunday.
--CB Marlin Jackson suffered a sprained neck in the third quarter of the Carolina game. Jackson's injury did not appear to be serious and he is expected to be available for this week's home game with New England. He was injured during a collision as he broke up a pass play.
--QB Jim Sorgi saw his first playing time of the regular season. Sorgi replaced Manning in the fourth quarter, completing one of two passes for nine yards.
--S Matt Giordano (hamstring) did not practice last week and was a pregame inactive for the Colts. The other pregame inactives in addtion to Marvin Harrison and Tony Ugoh included CB Michael Coe, LB Victor Worsley (foot), DE Jeff Charleston, and DT Quinn Pitcock.
--RB Luke Lawton was cut on Saturday, although he could return to the active roster early this week.
--LB Brandon Archer, who had been signed to the practice squad last week, was added to the active roster for the Carolina game. Archer, an undrafted rookie, saw his first NFL regular-season playing time against the Panthers. He was unofficially credited with four total tackles in a backup performance.
--Colts coach Tony Dungy became the winningest head coach in franchise history with his 74th victory Sunday at Carolina. Dungy had been tied with franchise legends Don Shula and Ted Marchibroda with 73 total wins as Colts head coaches.