COLTS-RAIDERS PREVIEW

The Colts travel to Oakland to face the Raiders on Sunday.

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A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown against the RaidersIndianapolis Colts (8-6) vs. Oakland Raiders (7-7)
Sunday, December 26, 2010 (4:05 p.m. ET)
Oakland Coliseum (63,132 capacity) – Oakland, California
Television/Radio: CBS Sports and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1

THE GAMEThe Indianapolis Colts have no problem with the situation they face as they prepare to take on the Oakland Raiders Sunday in Oakland Coliseum.

They control their own destiny, and two more wins will gave them their seventh AFC South title in eight seasons.

But the situation is a little different than most of the players and coaches are use to.

"I think most of our players have probably not been in this situation," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "The guys that were here in 2000, which probably was just me and Jeff (Saturday) and (Justin) Snow, we have been in this situation before. We had to win three in a row that year at the end. I think the Jets had to lose three in a row and that happened. I feel like I have been in that situation before. It probably is newer for a lot of our other guys. It is part of football. It is usually what most teams have to deal with year-in and year-out. I don't think winning 12 games in the past years, however many years we have done it, is the least bit normal. It is not. It is very special. I have never taken that for granted. This is kind of a more normal football season, you win some and we lost a couple in a row, which hopefully we can get back on a win streak toward the end of the season. It is different than what most guys are used to, but I think it is very normal football and we are just going to try to take it week to week down the stretch."

Last season, the Colts had the opportunity to rest some key players the final two games as the team already had clinched homefield advantage for the playoffs. This season, the players know there will be no such rest.

"It is a little bit of a different situation because usually we are resting guys this time of year," Colts offensive tackle Ryan Diem said. "It is a bit different, but I think the fact that we've been in the playoffs and we know the feeling of win or go home, it's been a great experience for us. The rest of our games are that situation."

The Colts were 6-6 two weeks ago after falling to Dallas in overtime, but since then have rebounded with two wins over division opponents. The wins were needed for the team to keep its playoff hopes alive, but Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell says the team has been in control of this season since the day it began.

"We have been in control of our own destiny for quite some time," Caldwell said. "When you look at it and start to backtrack, it didn't just happen in these past couple weeks. We were still in the position to control our own destiny. Every week is going to be the same kind of test for our guys. We have to practice hard and get ourselves ready."

Colts players say they feel like they've already played two playoff games the past two weeks and are preparing for another one on Sunday.

"It's the same type of approach," Manning said. "You have to have a real sense of urgency in the way you prepare. That will really be a challenge. You have to be able to reload and regroup and get ready to play again."

Like the Colts, Oakland also is in a different situation than it's been in the past few seasons. The Raiders, who were one of the AFC's top teams in the early part of the 2000s, had fallen on hard times in recent seasons, but this season they are 7-7, and if they win out and get help within the division, they could qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

"There is not a lot in our favor, but what is in our favor is that we're playing Indianapolis here this weekend," Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable said. "Our part is we have to win out, and we need some help, but we can't worry about that help. We can only worry about what we need to do if it were to happen for us."

The Raiders last season became the first NFL team in history to lose at least 11 games for seven consecutive seasons. But even with their improvement this season, the team will not be happy unless it advances to the post-season.

"It matters a lot," Raiders running back Darren McFadden said. "We feel like we put ourselves behind the eight-ball in Jacksonville, and now we have to get help somewhere. We still want to try to win out, and hopefully things will turn out in our favor at the end of the season."

One thing working in the Raiders' advantage this weekend is they will play at home. The Raiders are 5-2 this season at Oakland Coliseum and play in front of one of the loudest crowds in the league.

"Let me put it this way; it is a very unique crowd," Caldwell said. "I think they have rabid fans, great fans and for any of us who have watched football over the years, have always known that is a place that can be intimidating. I think it is a great football environment. I think that they understand thoroughly the value of a loud, boisterous crowd, and that's what happens when you walk into that stadium. I think they make it a great atmosphere to play in as well."

Manning agrees.

"It's a tough place to play, loud," Manning said. "They have great fan support out there. The fans are long-time Raiders fans and love their team. I think last time we played them, I think they were mathematically out of it (the playoffs) at that point. So, I expect an even tougher environment because of what is on the line for them and where they are in their division. It's loud. We were behind in that game and had to come from behind late, so I think it will be a very challenging place."

FOCUS ON THE COLTS
One of the goals for the Colts offense every week is to be balanced in the passing and running game. The offense has not always been able to maintain the balance this season, though as Manning already has set career-highs in pass attempts and completions. But despite those numbers, a balanced offense is what the team strives for every week.

"We'd sure like for it to be," Manning said. "That's been our goal for a long time, every single Sunday trying to have some balance. You never know what type of game is going to occur, the flow of the game. We know we'll have to score some points because their offense is very explosive. They have a great running game, they throw a lot of deep passes, so they are explosive. We are going to have to do our part."

The Colts have been doing a much better job of being balanced the past two weeks in their wins over Tennessee and Jacksonville. Against the Titans, the Colts had 32 rushes and 35 passes. While the 32 rushes only gained 87 yards, it did enough to open up some options passing, and Manning's 35 pass attempts were the fewest this season for him on the road.

"I think we have been able to build upon what we did against Tennessee," Manning said. "I thought we ran the ball a little bit better than we had previously against them and obviously last week we took it a step further. It's something that teams play upon that should be conducive to us running the ball, primarily because they play more pass defense which gives us a few more opportunities. It was something that we had not been doing well previously and the guys here these past couple weeks have made some strides and now we have another challenge to do it again."

Last week against Jacksonville, the run game was more explosive. The Colts gained 155 yards on the ground on 24 carries. Running back Donald Brown had his first career 100-yard game, and he had two carries for more than 40 yards. His first carry, a 49-yard jaunt to set up the Colts' first touchdown of the game, was the longest rush by the Colts this season, while his 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the Colts a two-possession lead.

"We need to complement the passing game," Brown said. "That is what our job is, and when teams are putting six defensive backs out there, we need to be able to run the ball and run the ball effectively and take some pressure off those guys."

When the Colts offense can get big plays and sustain drives out of their rushing game, it opens up things for the passing game, especially the Colts' vaunted play-action passing attack.

"It just gives you good balance where your play action probably gives you a little more 'pop'," Manning said. "On (Austin) Collie's touchdown (against Jacksonville), his second touchdown was on play action. It keeps the backs involved and of course the lineman feel good. It just gives you good balance."

And the Colts offense is not the only beneficiary of a good rushing attack and balanced offense. The Colts are 4-0 this season when they out-rush their opponent and 8-0 when they rush 22 times or more in a game.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE RAIDERSOakland enters Sunday's game at 7-7 on the season after defeating Denver, 39-23, last week. The Raiders have a chance to make the playoffs, but need to win their last two games and also have Kansas City and San Diego both lose at least one more game. Even if that scenario does not play out, Raiders players and coaches know they have helped change the state of mind for the franchise.

"We have changed the mentality around here," Cable said. "I think we've changed the culture and the attitude. We welcome this. We're trying to be like those teams that are considered every year to be playoff teams, like Indianapolis. We want to be like people like that, that have had a consistent success, and we're trying to grow into that. Our next step is to see if we can come in the backdoor and get a playoff spot. It just depends on how we perform and how we take care of we can control."

One of the reasons for the Raiders' success this season is the play of third-year running back Darren McFadden. McFadden battled injuries in the first two seasons of his career, but other than missing two games with a hamstring injury earlier this season, the running back has been healthy in 2010.

"He's been that way all year," Cable said. "He had one minor setback earlier in the year, but prior to that and ever since then, he's been healthy. He's gone out every game and got a number of carries, and he seems to be one of those guys who gets better and better as the game goes."

Despite missing two games, McFadden ranks seventh in the AFC with 1,112 rushing yards. Rushing for more than 1,000 yards means a lot to the former Arkansas Razorback.

"That's something that is hard to do in the NFL," McFadden said. "That's a very big accomplishment for me. The first couple of years I didn't do as good a job as I wanted to do. That's something I can really be proud of."

McFadden is enjoying this season, especially when he thinks about how just this preseason he was being described as a possible 'bust.'

"I heard it several times, more than once or twice," McFadden said. "I knew it was something I had to just let roll off my shoulders. I knew once I had the opportunity to go out there and show what I can do that I could do it. I knew I wasn't a bust."

His head coach said he did worry about the effect the whispers would have on McFadden and wished his talented running back just wouldn't hear them, but Cable knew there was no way McFadden wasn't hearing them.

"I don't think there is anyway you can't," Cable said. "When you're a high pick and people start to whisper that you're a bust or that you're not worthy of where you are picked or whatever it is, I think we're all human and I think guys hear it."

Nobody is saying or thinking that now, especially Caldwell, who raved about McFadden's ability this week.

"He brings is an inordinate amount of power-speed blend," Caldwell said. "He is a guy that also is a big back that is very elusive and that accelerates extremely, extremely well. But he's got vision. He is a very fine cut-back runner, but he also can hit seams on you very quickly. He's a patient runner. You will be able to see he is not going to rush it. He is very, very patient and follows his blocking extremely well and he's multi-dimensional in terms of his abilities. He can catch it out of the backfield. He runs the Wildcat from the quarterback position, which he did in college and also is capable for doing that for them as well. He is a very versatile guy. He is in the top three or four in terms of receptions for their team. He does a lot of things for them."

It is clear on film McFadden can run over an opponent, but he also can run away from them. He is one of only two running backs in the NFL this season who has more than 200 carries but still averages more than five yards a carry, and he is tied for the NFL lead with 13 20-plus-yard rushes.

"This guy has churned out about 1,100 yards," Caldwell said. "He is averaging 5.2 yards a carry. So that tells you right then and there that there is a lot of big runs in there and he is one of those guys that he can wiggle you, but he's got power, he's got unbelievable speed. So if you give him a crack, you are going to have some difficulty."

McFadden says as he has gotten more comfortable playing running back in the NFL he has gotten a better feel for when to lower his shoulder and get what he can and when he needs to try to bounce it out and go for the long gain.

"I'm very comfortable, whether it's trying to make a move and get around a guy or taking him head on," McFadden said. "I feel like it's just the situation where you're trying to get a touchdown or trying to get a short-yardage run or get a big play. You just have to take it as it comes to you."

"I feel like whenever I get the ball in my hands, I just want to try to do the best that I can and make the best of the opportunity, whether it's a big load or just a small load. I want to make the best opportunity out of any touch that I get."
QUOTABLES"In our business, they do not give you any points for that. What counts and what matters is your win-loss record, and that's really what you have to focus in on and that is trying to win games. Anything else is, I think, a kind of a sidelight. I am certainly proud of the way our guys have fought and hung in there and played and banded together, but the fact of the matter is that we have got to win. That's what it boils down to. The way in which our guys have been able to still give themselves an opportunity, still have a chance to get it done in terms of our first goal, we certainly are proud of that, but we have another test ahead of us."
*- Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on if he takes pride in how much perseverance his team has shown this season in fighting through all the injuries.

*"To be honest with you, we don't care what they say. They've been saying that since 2002, 2003. Two Super Bowls, (six) AFC South banners, we're still here fighting. All the talk is just talking unless you put action behind it."
*- Colts DE-Robert Mathis on if he is motivated by people doubting the Colts.

*"I just don't like to see anybody get injured, I really don't, especially when you see somebody go down and you know that it is potentially another concussion. Like I said, my heart and prayers just go out to him during that time. I know how important he is to the team, but also I know how much football means to him. It's not a fun feeling that anybody wants to experience. I'm glad he was okay and came back on the sidelines in the second half. I know how disappointed he was. Like I said, just think about him and pray for him."
*- Colts QB-Peyton Manning on WR-Austin Collie.

*STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR… 1. Manning has chance to throw for most yards ever in single season on roadEntering Sunday's game at Oakland, Peyton Manning is 323 yards shy of throwing for the most yards on the road in a single
season.

This season, Manning has thrown for at least 300 yards in six of the team's seven road games while completing 68.0 percent of his passes for 2,426 yards and 17 touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns are the most of any quarterback in road games this season. He is averaging 347 passing yards per game on the road this season.

Former Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon currently holds the record with 2,748 yards passing yards in 1990. Moon completed 59.1 percent of his passes in road games in the 1990 season with 17 touchdowns.

Manning already took over one road passing mark this season. Manning has thrown for 300 yards in 34 road games in his career, the most all-time by any quarterback in NFL history. Brett Favre is second with 29.

MOST PASSING YARDS ON ROAD IN SINGLE SEASON PLAYER                        YEAR  YARDSWarren Moon               1990   2,748
Dan Marino 1984 2,742
Daunte Culpepper 2004 2,678
Rich Gannon 2002 2,650
Matt Schaub 2009 2,559
Tom Brady 2007 2,511
Tony Romo 2009 2,507
Dan Marino 1986 2,491
Drew Bledsoe 1999 2,459
Drew Brees 2006 2,449
Drew Brees 2008 2,435
Kurt Warner 2001 2,433
Peyton Manning         2010  2,426* 2. Reggie Wayne on cusp of back-to-back 100-catch seasonsColts wide receiver Reggie Wayne enters Sunday's game against Oakland needing just one catch to hit the century mark for the second consecutive season. When he reaches 100 catches this season, he will become the 11th player in NFL history to record back-to-back 100-catch seasons and will be just the seventh player in NFL history with three or more 100-catch seasons.

This season, Wayne ranks second in the league in receptions (99) and third in yards (1,247). He needs five more catches to tie his single-season high of 104 in 2007.

Wayne's next touchdown reception will be the 69th of his career and will move him past Raymond Berry for the second-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history.

3. Colts run defense will need to continue to play strong against the run.Sunday marks the third consecutive week the Colts defense will face a top rushing offense.

This week brings the Oakland Raiders and running back Darren McFadden.

McFadden ranks seventh in the AFC with 1,112 rushing yards on the season, but five of the six players ranked ahead of McFadden have at least 40 more carries than him. McFadden's average of 5.2 rush yards per attempt is second-best in the AFC for players with more than 100 rushing attempts.

In the previous two weeks, the Colts have faired well against Tennessee and Jacksonville's running games.

Against Tennessee two weeks ago, Titans running back Chris Johnson rushed for more than 100 yards against the Colts, but most of those yards came after the Colts had jumped out to a 21-3 lead.

Last week against Jacksonville, the Colts held the Jaguars to just 67 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Coming into the game, Jacksonville ranked second in the NFL in rushing, averaging 157.8 yards per game. The Colts also held running back Maurice Jones-Drew to 46 yards on the day, snapping his streak of six consecutive 100-yard games.

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