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Chargers' next opponent


5:15 p.m., Sunday, Qualcomm Stadium

The Colts are where the Chargers would like to be. And we don't just mean that 6-4 record, which in the AFC South doesn't get Indianapolis any closer than four games out of first place. It'd mean a tie for first in the AFC West.

More relevantly, unlike the Chargers, the Colts seem to be coming out of the doldrums that have made their season such a disappointment. Indy's won three straight games, the first two of those against the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers , and the swing in momentum is palpable and nerve-jangling for the entire AFC. Including the Tennessee Titans .

Few teams have the skill-position players to match the Chargers, but this is one of them. Or is it just that Peyton Manning somehow makes all his receivers look like they could be stars on any other team? In any event, with the running game finally starting to come back to life, the Colts are close to firing on all cylinders again.

Not so on defense, where Indy's been beset with injuries. The Colts have been particularly slammed in the secondary as Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders and cornerback Kelvin Hayden are hobbled, though they might play Sunday (Hayden is the more likely). Sounds sort of like the way, yes, Pittsburgh entered last week's game with a bunch of dinged-up defensive backs.


Peyton Manning, QB: Anybody who saw neither of those two Colts-Chargers games last year would think it a misprint. A year after throwing just nine interceptions all season, Manning was intercepted eight times in two games against the Chargers, six of those in the regular-season, prime-time loss in the rain at Qualcomm. Over his lock-cinch Hall of Fame career, Manning's had 61 games with quarterback ratings of 100 or better, but none was against the Chargers. Of his 48 three-touchdown passing games in the regular season, none was against the Chargers, though he threw for three in the playoff game last year. Still trying to rebound from offseason surgeries and a wretched start to this season, Manning's lugging around a QB rating of 86.6, and that's an improvement. He's coming off his best game of the season, following up Indy's defeat of the Steelers in Pittsburgh with a 30-46-320-2 TD game against the Texans. Since the start of November, Manning's completed 72-of-115 passes (62.6 percent), with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Reggie Harrison, WR: Or, if you prefer, Marvin Wayne. When it comes to the Chargers, wideouts Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison might as well be one and the same. Over his past three games against the Chargers, Harrison has averaged 147.3 receiving yards per outing. And while the 36-year-old Harrison has been far less effective overall this season, he is in position to record a fourth straight 100-yard game against San Diego. Wayne will be going for his third-consecutive game of 10 catches or more on the Chargers defense.

Dwight Freeney, DE. A year and a week ago, the Colts' pass-rushing force left the game at Qualcomm Stadium with a mangled foot that ended his season, necessitating surgery by the same Indianapolis doctor who performed the offseason operation on Chargers center Nick Hardwick's foot. The two players will be banging into each other on occasion Sunday night, with Freeney back to getting special attention from offensive lines. He's close enough to his old form to have recorded two sacks in each of the past two games and seven total.


Colts linebacker Freddy Keiaho played at San Diego State. Rod Perry, special assistant to the defense, was a coach with the Chargers from 1997-2001. So was Indianapolis offensive line coach Howard Mudd (74-76). Defensive line coach John Teerlinck played for the Chargers, as did running backs coach Gene Huey.


Listed as questionable by the Colts are wide receivers Reggie Wayne (ankle), Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring) and Roy Hall (knee), defensive backs Bob Sanders (knee), Antoine Bethea (ankle), Keiwan Ratliff (quadriceps) and Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), defensive end Robert Mathis (foot), defensive tackle Daniel Muir (hamstring), and tight end Tom Santi (shoulder). Sanders, Santi, Hayden and Hall were inactivated for last week's game.


The Chargers have a 15-9 edge on the Colts, including victories in two meetings last year, each critical to San Diego's ascent to the AFC Championship Game. The Colts came into the regular-season game of Nov. 11 as the defending NFL champions, but fell behind 21-0 as Darren Sproles returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns. An Indy rally fell short as Adam Vinatieri unfathomably missed a 29-yard field goal that would've resulted in a 24-23 Colts win. In a playoff game at Indianapolis in which both Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson were knocked out of commission, the Chargers prevailed 28-24, the seesaw contest decided by backup quarterback Billy Volek's 1-yard TD run.


That game in Houston marked the first time Manning had ever thrown for 300 yards in the same game in which his primary running back, Joseph Addai, ran for 100 yards.


"We're a no-huddle team and we won because we never took our foot off the gas." -- Manning, after the Colts scored on five straight possessions against the Texans.


1: Colts' league ranking with their third-down success rate of 48 percent.

32: Colts' league ranking in rushing offense at 77.7 yards per game.

402: Passing yards by Manning in the playoff loss to San Diego in January.

108-46: The Colts' record since the start of the '99 season, best in the NFL.

109-45: The record of Tony Dungy, who took over the Colts in 2002, since the start of the '99 season.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 21, 2008

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