KICKOFF:: Sunday, 8:15
TV: NBC (Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer)
SERIES: 41st meeting. Colts lead series, 23-17, including s 29-17 victory in Super Bowl XLI.
PREDICTION: Colts 23-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: RB Matt Forte will be the first rookie back to start for the Bears since Walter Payton in 1975, and Chicago needs him to be productive out of the chute. With a shaky offensive line protecting QB Kyle Orton, who will be throwing to one of the league's least impressive receiving corps, Chicago also needs the versatile Forte to be a factor in the passing game.
Orton's biggest concern should be LT John St. Clair protecting his blind side against DE Dwight Freeney.
QB Peyton Manning will return to the field today for the Colts
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Peyton Manning will take the field less than two months removed from knee surgery to remove an infected bursa sac, and with no preseason snaps under his belt.
A bigger concern than rust, however, is having a rookie — Steve Justice or Jamey Richard — snapping to Manning instead of injured C Jeff Saturday. In fact, OGs Charlie Johnson and Dan Federkeil complete a different interior line since the Colts' playoff loss last January.
Colts: Saturday (knee) is out. OG Mike Pollak (knee) is out.
NEED TO KNOW: The Bears lead the NFL with 49 season-opening wins ... The Colts will be playing their first regular-season game in Lucas Oil Stadium ... The Colts' .727 winning percentage (24-9) in September over the past 10 years is the best in the NFL.
— DT Tommie Harris (knee) practiced without limitations on Thursday, and the three-time Pro Bowler is expected to start Sunday night.
— OLG Josh Beekman, who played briefly in one game last season as a rookie, is expected to start Game 1, although former starter Terrence Metcalf returned to practice this week after missing four weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery.
— NT Dusty Dvoracek (calf) was a full participant in Thursday's practice and is expected to play in the DT rotation Sunday but will probably have his playing time limited.
— DT Anthony Adams, who started seven games at NT last season and one at DT, is expected to start at NT Sunday night.
— DE Mark Anderson (thumb) participated in all phases of Thursday's practice and should be in the DE rotation Sunday night, especially in pass-rush situations.
Dwight Freeney likely will open at his normal right defensive end spot and Raheem Brock at left end against the Bears. Colts coach Tony Dungy said Robert Mathis would work in behind Brock and Josh Thomas behind Freeney.
"Don't know how it's going to be," said Mathis, a 29-game starter the past two seasons. "We just play."
— DE Dwight Freeney missed the final eight games last season with a foot injury. He's eager to return. "I might get a little emotional," he said. "I'm not saying I'm going to cry, but I might hold it in or take it out on somebody."
— Rookies Jamey Richard and Steve Justice aren't providing much insight on the Colts' center situation. Asked if he was looking forward to starting, Richard — who has worked with quarterback Peyton Manning in practice — said, "There's no guarantee that's going to happen. Whether it's going to be myself or Steve, we don't know." Added Justice: "Come Sunday we'll find out."
— While both players have seen work at left and right offensive guard during training camp and the preseason, it appears as if Charlie Johnson will now get the start at left guard while Dan Federkeil will go at right offensive guard against the Bears on Sunday night.
— Rookie OG Mike Pollak will miss Sunday's game while recovering from an injury to his right knee. Pollak, though, did have a minor procedure on his left leg that is not impeding his return.
— WR Pierre Garcon (shoulder) saw limited work Thursday but is expected to be available for the Chicago game.
— DE Curtis Johnson (shoulder) had limited practice time Thursday. Johnson should be able to play against the Bears.
— S Bob Sanders was given Thursday off from practice. Sanders, though, will start against Chicago tonight.
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