Questions Over Playing Time Persist

As the Indianapolis Colts prepare for Sunday's home game with the New York Jets, the questions persist: Who is going to start the game? How long will they play? Will the Colts freely substitute throughout the day?

No one knows for sure. Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell has yet to make his decision public about his plans for Sunday's matchup. Caldwell has said that he will wait and see how healthy his players are during practice before making a final decision as to who will get the majority of playing time this week.

"The plan is to attack (Sunday's game) just like we do every week. We're going to prepare to go in and play hard and we haven't made any declaration on who's playing how long or anything of that nature, much like we did last week. We did the same thing last week and focused in on the ball game and adjusted as the flow of the game went on," he said.

Caldwell has been adamant that the possibility of having an undefeated season is not high on his priority list at the moment. If it happens, fine. If not, the Colts have much bigger fish to fry.

"I've said it quite a few times, but it certainly hasn't been a priority of ours. (Being undefeated is) a great by-product of a great season, but certainly not one we are overly concerned with. There is only one happy team at the end of the year and that's team that wins it all," the first-year coach said.

"We want to make certain we're playing our best football in time for us to kick it up in the playoffs after the regular season. Right now, our playing focus is on the New York Jets. They're a tough team and we need to get ready."

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said that he hasn't been told what his coach's plans are, other than to prepare just as if it's any other regular season game.

"Coach Caldwell's instructions were the same as they have been each week, 'This is what we need to do the win game. Please go out and do them.' That's kind of what he's instructed us to do, asked us to do. What he has focused on all season, and I think it's extra important this week, is to focus on the preparation," Manning said.

"This is a team that you really can't prepare enough for. They always play hard, but they will be playing with it all on the line. You will get a great effort from them, and we need to match that intensity and effort. We (can) help our chances by having great preparation."

While he admits that he would like to play as long as possible against the Jets, the Indianapolis signal-caller is preparing as if he will be in the lineup most of the game.

"I think a big part of me is practicing. Practicing well, practicing sharp. And trying to do whatever you have to do to win that game. I still think that's the approach we're in. I know as things come down the homestretch, people want to start talking about more games later down the road," he said.

"We're thankful that we are guaranteed at least one more game besides these last two, but we're truly focused on what we have to do to win this game and not necessarily preparing ourselves for the upcoming games. It's whatever I have to do to win this game. Like I said, that really starts this week with trying just to get mentally ready to playing this game."

Manning understands all the interest from fans and the media on what decisions Caldwell eventually comes up with. But he's not going to concern himself with any outside questions.

"As soon as (Caldwell) says something different in that meeting, I'm telling you, (the media) will be the first to know," he said. "But it's been about as consistent of a Wednesday speech (from the Colts rookie coach) this week as it's been all year: 'This is what we have to do. This is what they are very good at. We have to prepare for this, and go out and do it.' It was the same speech again. That's what we're going to try to follow."

SERIES HISTORY: 66th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series 40-25. Indianapolis and the Jets used to be division mates in the old AFC East from 1970-2001. Sunday's game is the second regular-season meeting since the Colts moved into the AFC South in 2002. The Colts' 40 wins over the Jets are the most by the franchise against any other NFL team. New York, however, has a 2-0 series lead in postseason meetings (Super Bowl III, 16-7, Jan. 12, 1969; AFC wild-card game, 41-0, Jan. 4, 2004).

Indianapolis has won 24 of the last 33 regular-season games, including the last two matchups. The Colts have a 12-6 record against New York in games played in Indianapolis. Indianapolis won the last meeting 31-28 at the Meadowlands on Oct. 1, 2006. The Colts also won the last matchup played in Indianapolis, taking a 38-31 decision at the RCA Dome on Nov. 16, 2003.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — The Colts victory at Jacksonville last Thursday extended the franchise's sixth 10-plus game regular-season winning streak in team history.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's one of the things we talk about on a weekly basis: 'What are the things that we can control?' (And) no concentration penalties. Obviously, penalties are very, very big in terms of things that may beat you and how you beat yourself. Turnovers is another area. All of those areas we try to preach and make certain that we minimize those, and if we can minimize those, obviously, we'll have an opportunity to win. Also, errant snaps in the kicking game and make all your kicks, those are kind of the basics of our formula, in terms of winning week in and week out." — Coach Jim Caldwell on the Colts doing a good job of not beating themselves with turnovers and penalties through the first 14 games of the season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL: WR Anthony Gonzalez, rookie RB Donald Brown and PK Adam Vinatieri all returned to practice earlier in the week.

Gonzalez has been sidelined since suffering a right knee injury Sept. 13 in the season opener with Jacksonville. He was due back in mid-November but underwent arthroscopic surgery, which had delayed his return.

Brown, meanwhile, suffered a chest injury against Baltimore on Nov. 29 and has not played since. He had been sidelined earlier in the season, missing two games with a shoulder injury that he incurred against St. Louis on Oct. 25.

It's not known whether either player will be able to play against the Jets this week.

GAME PLAN: Continue to improve on both sides of the ball. Develop more consistency on both sides of the ball. Score touchdowns instead of field goals inside the red zone. Keep the pressure up defensively against a rookie quarterback.

Those are just some of the objectives that the Colts would like to accomplish Sunday afternoon against New York. What's not known at this point is how many of the starters will play in the game and if they do, just how much work will they get throughout the afternoon.

Should the key players get the majority of the playing time this week, look for Indianapolis to attempt to try to smooth out some rough spots on offense and defense while trying to post a 15th consecutive win this season.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Colts WR Reggie Wayne vs. Jets CB Darrelle Revis: Indianapolis' best receiver against perhaps the premier cover corner in the NFL today. Revis has been credited with shutting down, or at least slowing down, the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith and Marques Colston. It should be an interesting matchup.

Jets RB Thomas Jones vs. Colts LB Clint Session: Session has been bothered by a sore calf in recent weeks and it's up in the air whether he will be able to play against the Jets. But the third-year linebacker has been a leader for Indianapolis in the team's defense against the run. Jones, meanwhile, had 112 yards rushing against Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLI when he played for the Chicago Bears.

Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis vs. Jets OTs D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Damien Woody: Freeney and Mathis have both been slowed a bit in recent weeks by minor injuries. Ferguson and Woody are two pretty good offensive tackles but could have their hands full if the Colts' defensive ends come into Sunday's game in better health.


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