TRULY A CHALLENGE

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning will play the 200th game of his NFL career Sunday, but he said he's more concerned about preparing for the Philadelphia Eagles on a short week.

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Colts Begin Preparing for Philadelphia on Short Week
INDIANAPOLIS – As Peyton Manning sees it, just one thing matters.

Manning, in his 13th season as the Colts' quarterback, said there's a lot of uniqueness to this season, and there is much work to be done, so while there are many intriguing storylines around the Colts' game in Philadelphia Sunday, they didn't much concern Manning Wednesday.

Not the Colts' status as AFC South leaders.

Not their three-game winning streak.

And not even him playing in his 200th consecutive game.

All of those things are facts. They're just not the focus for the Colts' 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback and four-time Associated Press Most Valuable Player.

"Every week is truly a challenge," Manning said Wednesday as the AFC South-leading Colts (5-2) prepared to play the Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) of the NFC East at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Sunday at 4:15 p.m.

The Colts moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC South with a 30-17 victory over Houston at Lucas Oil Stadium Monday.

"We just kind of take every game one game at a time," said Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week after a two-sack game this past Monday.

"What matters is where we are at the end of year, not mid-point or early. We're not really focused on that."

Manning, speaking less than 48 hours after the victory over Houston, said having played on Monday makes this week challenging for the Colts. The Eagles were off last week, so whereas the Eagles will have had 14 days between games, the Colts will have had less than six.

"All we talked about this week was it was a short week for us, and we have some guys banged up," Manning said. "They're coming off the bye week. Everything has to be focused on just trying to get a win versus Philly – not thinking about Houston, or not thinking about who we're playing the week after that."

Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Tuesday he liked short weeks because often there's more focus with a simpler approach, and Manning said, "I think there has to be."

"Your off day is kind of that Monday-Tuesday combined," Manning said. "But I do think it provides a tough challenge, with us on a short week and them coming off a bye. I think you have to really work hard to get your rest and get physically prepared to play, and you're kind of a day behind on your mental preparation.

"But it is an opunity to really hone in and focus on your opponent."

The Colts beat Houston Monday with several young players, including running back Mike Hart and tight end Jacob Tamme, playing key roles. Hart played in place of injured Joseph Addai (neck) and Tamme played for Dallas Clark, out for the season with a wrist injury.

While wide receiver Austin Collie returned to practice Wednesday, Manning said the Colts may be without key players again Sunday.

"You saw a lot of new faces on (Monday), and you could see some even newer faces Sunday," Manning said. "We kind of found out as the week goes on who's going to be available to play, and who's going to be able to practice. In some ways, you have to kind of be flexible and kind of focus in on doing your job.

"I still think we're continuing to form that (identity) and I think each week, every game, has a little something unique about it. You just kind of see as the game goes on what the identity for that game is going to be."

The Colts, after a season-opening loss to the Texans, have moved into first place in the AFC South by winning five of six games, including their last three in succession. They have had a history of such streaks in recent seasons.

They have won at least five consecutive games each of the past seven seasons – five in 2003, eight in 2004, 13 in 2005, nine in 2006, seven in 2007, nine in 2008 and 14 to start last season. They made the post-season each of those seasons, and won AFC South titles in 2003-07 and last season.

"You never take winning for granted," Manning said. "I've learned that. I'm not sure how many of our players who are five- and six-year veterans understand that, because that's what they've done all the time, but it's hard. It was hard the other night, and I know it will be really hard on Sunday."

They also have won 12 or more games an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons.

"I think it's really hard to summarize them all," Manning said. "I think it's kind of been year by year. I certainly feel like this year is different year. We're playing with a lot of new guys, more so than we ever have.

"But if you had to speak to why we've done it in years past, I do think we've taken them one game at a time. We haven't looked at anything else. We prepare for an NFC East opponent, just like we do an AFC South opponent."

Manning, the No. 1 overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft, never has missed a start in 13 NFL seasons. Sunday's game will be the 200th of his career.

"Some days it does, some days it doesn't," Manning said when asked if it felt as if he had played 200 NFL games. "The fun part about that is a lot of those 200 have been wins and have been hard-fought wins. It's the preparation and the working with all the different teammates through all of those that kind of makes it gratifying."

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