**A Capsule Look at the Colts' Regular-Season Finale Against the Bills
Indianapolis Colts (14-1) vs. Buffalo Bills (5-10)
Sunday, January 3, 2010 (1:00 p.m. EST)
Ralph Wilson Stadium (73,967 capacity) – Orchard Park, N.Y.
Television/Radio: CBS Sports and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
The Indianapolis Colts conclude their 2009 regular season and begin a new decade when they travel north to take on the Buffalo Bills this Sunday.
Coincidentally, both teams opened the decade against one another in the same stadium almost 10 years ago to date (January 2, 2000). Buffalo went on to win the game, but Indianapolis would amass 115 victories over the next decade, the most accumulated by an NFL team in history.
The Colts are coming off their first loss of the season last Sunday, when they fell 29-15 to the New York Jets. The Bills lost 31-3 last week at Atlanta.
Buffalo owns a 34-30-1 series advantage all-time, but the Colts have won the last six regular-season meetings.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said his team is disappointed in last week's loss, but is confident the Colts are focused on preparing for the post-season. With that in mind, Caldwell said he is not deviating much this week from what has helped the Colts enjoy so much success this season.
"We have to look at our preparation during the course of the week, which will not change," he said. "We'll work to make certain that we stay sharp in those areas. Obviously, we anticipate that we'll play (Buffalo) much the same as we did the (Jets); maybe not entirely, exactly, the same, some things could change, but obviously, right now, where we are is that we're in the playoffs, we have home-field advantage and our next quest is making certain that we're in great position to do well in the playoffs."
With the number one overall seed in the AFC playoffs already secured, quarterback Peyton Manning said the team's preparation and practice this week is very important, as the team focuses on improving heading into the post-season.
"I'll be out there taking every rep like I did last week in practice, trying to work on things," Manning said. "We talk about working on our weaknesses during the course of the season. That's something we always try to do, and you work on your weaknesses in practice and try to see if you can make those strengths. That's kind of where I am at this point, and that's what I'll continue to do. We need to have another good week of preparation this week."
While many were disappointed by last Sunday's loss, the Colts included, defensive end Dwight Freeney said the team is not changing its mindset.
"There is a bigger goal that we have," he said.
Freeney explained that while an undefeated season would have been a nice perk, it was never one of the team's goals. The defensive end said the team has full trust in the team's decision-making process.
"We believe in what is going on here 100 percent," he said. "And we are going to do whatever we have to do."
The next step, according to Caldwell, is turning a few weaknesses into strengths over the next couple of weeks.
"We've isolated a few things that we want to talk about to make certain we work on and get accomplished during the course of practice," he said. "That's been our focus. We want to have an intense preparation with improvement in a number of areas."
As a team, the Colts offense continues to lead the NFL in passing with 292.2 yards per game. In addition, the offense allows the fewest sacks per pass play (one every 48.2 attempts) and is the most efficient red zone touchdown team (65.4 percent) in their conference.
On defense, the Colts rank 9th in the AFC in yards allowed per game and have come through in critical situations all year long, having allowed only one touchdown following a turnover all season.
Caldwell said while the team is playing well on both sides of the ball, there would be a heightened sense of urgency in practice over the next couple of weeks.
"That's what happens in the playoffs," he said. "There is a certain understanding that it is do-or-die. That in itself adds a little flavor to the preparation."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BILLS
The Colts and Bills faced off twice a year in the AFC East until 2002, when the NFL realignment separated the former division foes.
Manning is one of the few remaining Colts players who remembers going against Buffalo prior to 2002, and said the northern opponent always has provided a difficult test.
"I know I've won up there a couple of times. But the first couple of experiences up there, I don't remember them being too positive," Manning said. "I always remember playing good teams up there."
This weekend, the Colts return to Buffalo for the first time since 2003, when Manning rallied the team from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to a 17-14 victory.
"The weather sounds like it's going to be cold on Sunday," Manning said. "It seems like it's always kind of been cold up there. Buffalo is a team and an organization that we have a lot of respect for. Maybe their record might not be as good this year, I know they've had coaching changes and some adversity, but I know it will be a tough test for our team on Sunday."
The Bills boast the third-best defense against the pass in the NFL, but have yielded 165.1 rushing yards per game.
On offense, the team plans to start quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after the veteran missed last week's game at Atlanta.
In the backfield, the Bills have two dangerous running backs in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, who have combined to rush for 1,300 yards this season.
And at receiver, Buffalo is led by six-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Owens, who has 51 catches for 764 yards and four touchdowns this season.
"They certainly create a lot of problems for you on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game, where they are outstanding," Caldwell said. "More than anything else, we want to come out and compete like we do every single week."
The Colts issued the game status/injury report on Friday with the following players listed as probable for Sunday's game at Buffalo: RBs-Joseph Addai (shoulder), Donald Brown (illness) and Mike Hart (ankle), DBs-Antoine Bethea (foot), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jacob Lacey (biceps), LBs-Gary Brackett (foot) and Cody Glenn (shoulder), WRs-Austin Collie (rested) and Reggie Wayne (foot), OGs-Kyle DeVan (illness) and Jamey Richard (shoulder), DTs-Fili Moala (knee) and Daniel Muir (shoulder) and OT-Tony Ugoh (knee).
DBs-Melvin Bullitt (shoulder) and Aaron Francisco (hand), DEs-Keyunta Dawson (knee), Dwight Freeney (abdomen) and Robert Mathis (quad), WR-Pierre Garcon (hand), DT-Antonio Johnson (shoulder), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot), TE-Tom Santi (back), RB-Chad Simpson (concussion) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee) were listed as questionable, while the following players were listed as out: OT-Ryan Diem (elbow), DB-Jerraud Powers (hamstring), TE-Gijon Robinson (knee) and LB-Clint Session (knee).
• "Every day is another opportunity to improve, and that is where our focus is, to try and improve each and every opportunity we get, practice, meetings, walkthroughs, certainly the game upcoming this Sunday. That's been our focus all season, and that certainly will be our focus as we enter into the month of January, to try and improve each and every day."– Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning on the team's daily preparation for the playoffs
• "It was a run play. I always thought that was the best way to do it, don't tell anybody. I didn't really know I was going to do it either until the last minute. It surprised everyone, including me a little bit." – Manning on his 33-yard bootleg touchdown, the longest rush of his career, at Buffalo back in 2001
• "Whenever you get picked to play in the Pro Bowl, that's one of the ultimate honors. The main factor is because it is your peers picking you to play, and those guys you play against that respect your game. That's a big honor." – Colts Defensive End Dwight Freeney on being named to his fifth Pro Bowl this season
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1) PLAYING TIME SIMILAR TO LAST WEEK
Earlier this week, Caldwell said he has yet to decide how much his starters would play this weekend, but said there are "some starters that will not play the whole game."
"Everybody is going to be a little different, and for me to go down every guy and say, 'This guy is going to play, that guy is not going to play much, this guy is going to play two series, that guy is going to play one,' that can get monotonous."
Defensive captain and linebacker Gary Brackett said the players prepare to play 60 minutes on Sunday, whether they are a starter or not.
"In order for you to be successful, you have to prepare yourself as if you're going to play the entire game," he said. "That helps you keep that mental edge as you're headed into the playoffs."
Manning said the players are prepared to execute whatever plans the coaching staff hands down.
"I think everybody naturally likes to be out there," he said. "But that's the plan, that's what's been told, and that's what we'll be prepared to follow."
2) PAINTER BACK ON TRACK
Caldwell indicated earlier this week that rookie quarterback Curtis Painter would get an opportunity to play in his second NFL game this Sunday against the Bills.
Painter said he is looking forward to getting back on the field and "back on track."
"When that situation comes up, I'll be ready whenever it happens," he said.
Painter said his teammates have been encouraging him all week and that he is centered in on Sunday's opponent.
"You just have to focus in on the game at hand," he said. "We have the Bills, so it will be a tough opponent."
3) ALWAYS LOOKING FOR IMPROVEMENT
While the first-unit offense scored 15 points in just more than two quarters of play last Sunday, Caldwell said he thinks the offense still has some room for improvement.
"We had some opportunities, and we just didn't cash in on them. Joseph (Addai) had a good day running the ball. I think Joe averaged somewhere around six (yards) a carry, so he had a pretty good day. He popped that trap in there for a touchdown. I think we ran the ball fairly effectively during that stretch.
"We just weren't quite as sharp as we'd like to be," he said.