In an NFL season that has proven how hard it is to pick who will win games on a week-to-week basis, the Indianapolis Colts are again alone on top. Certainly, the Colts remain in the same spot they have been in for the past couple of years.
If they don’t win the Super Bowl, the rest of the season is a failure. But after the Bears were upset last week, 8-0 Indianapolis is the lone remaining unbeaten team and will soon be the NFL’s main story line.
“The questions are going to increase, the coverage is going to increase,” quarterback Peyton Manning acknowledged.
Colts coach Tony Dungy joked he was mad at Chicago coach (and close friend) Lovie Smith because he had been hoping the Bears stayed undefeated and kept the spotlight off Indy. But ever since the Bears escaped Arizona with their close win, most were waiting for Chicago’s first loss (even if no one thought it would be at home against Miami).
That leaves the Colts.
Sure, their defense isn’t as good as last season; Indy’s run defense is porous and the Patriots should have stuck to the run more often in last week’s game. While the numbers are similar, the Colts don’t run the ball as well without Edgerrin James. Their eight wins have been closer than they’d like.
But Manning is playing as well as he ever has and is in the driver’s seat for another MVP award. And the Colts have another edge — because of last year’s 13-0 start, they have been here before.
“We had all of the people come in (last year) and the different pre-game shows, the talk radio and everything, and I think our guys pretty much kept it in the building in terms of, ‘Hey, here’s what we have to do,’ ” Dungy said.
The Colts won’t go undefeated. But they might finally be ready to win the games that count — in the postseason.
Manning noted last week the Colts won’t overlook the 3-5 Bills today, in part because “you get to where you don’t even know what the other team’s record is.”
Here’s guessing that, at least for the Colts’ opponents, that isn’t true.
BAD TIMES FOR BUSH
George isn’t the only Bush going through a rough patch. New Orleans rookie Reggie Bush has just 11 yards rushing the past two games on 16 carries and he has averaged only 2.6 yards a carry this season. One local paper is running the “Reggie Meter” to gauge Bush’s production, something coach Sean Payton called “silly.”
“The meter is the team,” Payton said. “We’re 6-2. The expectation level on him is no different than anyone else on this team. We’re winning football games. He’s a big part of why we’re winning.”
Bush is the Saints’ leading receiver, with 46 receptions for 312 yards. But comparatively, it doesn’t help Bush that seventhround pick and teammate Marques Colston has exploded as a receiver, with 44 catches for 700 yards and seven touchdowns already. Bush, after all, was the second pick overall.
That, Payton acknowledged, was a big factor.
“People want to know what’s going on with Reggie Bush after you just finish winning 30-something to whatever, and go to 6-2,” Payton said.
THIS N’ THAT
At 2-6, the Steelers are on pace to have the worst record for a defending Super Bowl champion, in large part because of turnovers. With 24 this season, they already have one more than all of last year. . . .
The Patriots, who lost to Indianapolis last week, haven’t lost two straight in 57 games, the second longest streak since 1970. The 49ers avoided a two-game losing streak for 60 straight games from 1995-99. . . .
Denver has the top scoring defense in the NFL (98 points in eight games) yet is 29th in pass defense. The past two games the Broncos have surrendered 345 passing yards to Peyton Manning and 433 to Ben Roethlisberger. . . .
The Vikings are quietly having a pathetic offensive year. Minnesota has an offensive touchdown in only six of 32 quarters this season and has gone nine straight quarters without a touchdown. They join the Raiders as the two teams averaging less than one offensive touchdown per game.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN TODAY‘S GAMES
Winning her hand
The Bears’ trip to play the New York Giants tonight may be a tell-tale sign for Chicago after their implosion last week against Miami and their near-miss in Arizona. It certainly brought a fresh perspective to the players after a 7-0 start.
“We had a breakup in our marriage, and now we’re back together. We appreciate (victory) and we want her back,” defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. “I want her; I need her in my life. Like in life, if your lady leaves, you’ve got to fight to get her back.”
When Steven Jackson arrived in St. Louis, the perception was Jackson was the opposite type of back than the man he would replace, Marshall Faulk.
Last week Jackson snared a Faulk-like 13 receptions for 133 yards, a reception total that actually topped anything Faulk ever did. Jackson goes into today’s game at Seattle with 41 catches, second on the team to Torry Holt’s 45.
Chiefs quarterback Trent Green (concussion) is almost healthy, but unless backup Damon Huard screws up in today’s game at Miami, Kansas City is almost forced to keep Huard in the lineup when Green returns.
Coach Herman Edwards had said Green would start once he was ready, but Huard has a 5-2 record as a starter and his 105.2 passing rating is second in the NFL behind only Indy’s Peyton Manning’s 106.0.
“The one thing you can never count out is chemistry on this football team,” Edwards acknowledged.
The Eagles, in the middle of a three-game losing streak, host underachieving Washington desperately needing a win. They also have to figure out they have to run the ball more often.
It’s not that Philly can’t run — running back Brian Westbrook is averaging a stellar 5.2 yards a rush — but they don’t even try. Westbrook has just 97 attempts. Meanwhile, quarterback Donovan McNabb is on pace to set career highs in TD passes and passing yards. The Eagles score points and gain yards, but are last in the league in time of possession, which has been a drain on the defense. Looking ahead AFC West supremacy — and the right to be called the AFC’s best defense — is available when San Diego travels to Denver.