Back in early October, New England squeaked out a home win over the Ravens when a Joe Flacco pass bounced harmlessly to the turf off the chest of his receiver. Looks like the Colts had their Baltimore.
This past Sunday in Indianapolis, Texans' kicker Kris Brown missed a field goal as time wound down. The miss preserved a Colts' home victory in which Peyton Manning had to engineer yet another late-game scoring drive to overcome a furious Houston rally. After taking a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter, Indy surredered 17 unanswered points and the lead. Manning engineered an 8-play 60-yard drive midway through the fourth to go ahead and they survived with Brown's miss to keep their record pure.
Just as New England has hit the serious part of the year, so has Indy -- or what passes for it. Their early season schedule ranks as the easiest in the AFC and the Colts have treated it accordingly in racking up the wins. Nevertheless, losses have been suffered. Indianapolis will play host to New England with many of its most important players holding down the fort in the infirmary.
Veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden is expected to miss the next 2 - 3 weeks with a sprained knee.
Cornerback Marlin Jackson is now on injured reserve after re-injuring his ACL last week in practice.
Receiver Anthony Gonzales had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. A return date has not been specified, but it won't be next week.
These are the recent additions. Other denizens of the IR list include DB Nick Graham; OLB Tyjuan Hagler; DB Travis Key; backup TE Jamie Petrowski. Indy has been trotting out Matt Stover to kick as Vinatieri has undergone knee surgery and his return date is unknown.
WR Austin Collie left Sunday's game against the Texans with an injury.
No one playing in week 10 is at 100%, but it's worth noting that linebacker Gary Brackett and pass-rushing great Dwight Freeney have both struggled with actual hurts this year and are perhaps less fit than most other week-10 NFLers.
Of course, the obvious big hit is Sanders. Bob is an interesting conversation piece for connoisseurs of safety-play. You hear "for a player his size" a lot in those conversations, but it is undeniable that the Colts are a defense of a different character when he is on the field. Like Harrison used to do for the Patriots and like Belichick evidently hopes Seau will do now, Sanders has an electrifying effect on the Colts. Without him they are notably less dynamic.
None of this should in any way be thought to imply that the game will be easier. Peyton has his starting line intact and is making much hay with his recieving corps -- notably old friend Reggie Wayne and new toys Collie and Pierre Garcon. Oh yeah -- Dallas Clark still plays for Indianapolis, meaning Brandon McGowan has another peach of an assignment this week.
It is nice not to be the team with everyone hurt, however. A win at the Oilcan is always a slippery proposition.