Houston Texans May Be Biggest Test of Season So Far, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Peyton Manning sees it, records don't always matter.
In many situations, the Colts' quarterback figures there are circumstances and nuances beyond a record and a team's spot in the standings. There is more to this week's game, too, but Manning said in this case, the record and the opponents' standing does help make one thing fairly obvious:
Sunday's game is imant.
Very, very important.
"I really think this may be the biggest test of our season so far," Manning said Wednesday as the unbeaten, AFC South-leading Colts (7-0) prepared to play the Houston Texans (5-3) in an AFC South game at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
"You look at the actual records of the teams we've beaten so far, they don't have as many wins. I think we are beginning the teeth of our schedule right now with the way some of these teams we're about to play are playing right now.
"Houston is playing with a lot of momentum."
The Colts, one of two unbeaten teams in the NFL along with New Orleans, have beaten one team that currently has a winning record, NFC West-leading Arizona (4-3), whereas the Texans have won three consecutive games to reach 5-3 for the first time in the franchise's seven-year history.
"The biggest game of our life," Texans Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson called it this week.
The Texans, currently in second place in the South, never have finished above .500 and never have won four consecutive games in a season.
Houston is 1-13 all-time against Indianapolis, but Manning said as ready as the Texans may be, the game is of no less significance to the Colts.
"Now, we're getting into the AFC schedule and the division," said Manning, the AFC's leading passer having completed 187 of 263 passes for 2,227 yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions this season for an AFC-best 109.9 passer rating.
"This will be an extremely tough test for us. They're playing really well right now. They're playing with a lot of momentum."
Asked if he thought this game held special significance in the Texans' mindset, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell stated, "I really try not to put myself in someone else's shoes because I don't know all of the factors. Back in the old days of college you always had your 'red letter' games. I'm not certain that's the case with them (Texans). Some people do that. I'm not saying they have done it, or will do it. It's very tough for me to try and put myself in their position and answer that question.
"The only thing I'm concerned about is this one. That's all I'm worried about. I want to get our team ready for this particular contest. We know we have a very difficult team that we are playing. They are hot. They have won three games in a row.
"Anytime you can win three games a row in this league, you have a pretty good football team. We have to get ourselves ready. We know they certainly have the ability to win the game if they play well."
The Colts, dating to November of last season, have won a franchise-record 16 consecutive regular-season games. The NFL record is 21, set by New England in 2006-08, and only three teams have won 17 or more consecutive regular-season games.
This is the fourth time in five seasons the Colts have started the season 7-0. They started 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006 and 7-0 in 2007, winning the AFC South title in each of those seasons. And although the Colts have lost just once to Houston, four of the last six games have been decided by seven points or less.
The Colts last season rallied twice in the second half to beat Houston, 31-27 in Houston and 33-27 in Indianapolis.
"I think Houston knows we have respect for them," Manning said. "If you look at the scores of our games, they've been close games. It's always been a tough game, whether we've played them here in Indy – and we always have really close games in Houston.
"Because it's a division game, that's what makes it a big game for both teams. We're going to be just as excited to play them as they may be to play us. It's a division game and it means a lot, especially when it comes to implications down the road. Being an AFC South game, it's one both teams are going to want to win. It's kind of the last game of our second quarter. We want to go into the second half of the season on a high note.
"We've always put extra emphasis on division games. I think that's normal. We've won our first two, but with Houston … They are their own team, and they're playing at a high level right now. We know we have to be good and prepared to play them.
"We have to go out and make plays on Sunday. Otherwise, it could be a tough day."
Also on Wednesday, the Colts placed strong-side linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (biceps) on injured reserve, ending his season.
Hagler, a starter in the first seven games, sustained the injury this past week against San Francisco. The Colts activated linebacker Cody Glenn from the practice squad.
The Colts on Wednesday issued the first injury report of the week, with the following players listed as did not participate in practice: DE-Dwight Freeney (not injury related-rested), WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), DBs-Kelvin Hayden (knee), Marlin Jackson (knee) and Bob Sanders (elbow) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).