NFL Preview - Indianapolis (5-2) at Philadelphia (4-3)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been perfect after the bye week during his tenure in the City of Brotherly Love. However, he's never defeated the Indianapolis Colts, who'll visit Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday seeking to stay in first place in the AFC South.
The Eagles sport an 11-0 mark following a bye since Reid took over back in 1999, but are 0-3 versus Peyton Manning and the Colts under this current regime. Philadelphia hasn't beaten Indianapolis since the 1993 season.
Preparing for Manning is always a difficult task for any team, but the Eagles had an extra week to study film and get acclimated with his tendencies. Manning has seen perhaps every defense imaginable, though, and knows the Eagles will be throwing blitz packages at him all afternoon.
Philadelphia defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has never coached against Manning, and his unit will have a new cornerback starting this week, with Dimitri Patterson to make the first of his career with Ellis Hobbs nursing a hip flexor.
What a week to make your first career start with Manning on the other side.
"Communication is the key to the whole defense," said Patterson. "We have to be on the same page on every play. If you aren't on the same page, Peyton makes you pay for it. You see it time and time again. He attacks defenses."
Philadelphia's defense was attacked by Tennessee before breaking for the bye, as the Titans leveled the Eagles by a 37-19 score in Week 7. Titans wideout Kenny Britt burned them for 225 yards and three scores on seven catches, with Hobbs getting injured in that game to open the door for Patterson.
The loss in the Music City ended a two-game winning streak for the Eagles and dropped them to 4-3 on the season. They're a game behind the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East.
The carousel that is Philly's quarterback situation will make another turn this week, as Michael Vick gets the nod over Kevin Kolb. Vick hasn't played since cracking rib cartilage in a loss to Washington on Oct. 3, but is ready for this week regardless if Kolb is healthy.
Reid has flip-flopped his signal-callers all season, and if Kolb didn't go down in Week 1 with a concussion, who knows if Vick would have even gotten a chance. The quarterback will be counting on wide receiver DeSean Jackson to be fully recovered from a concussion suffered in a win over Atlanta on Oct. 17 to help keep Indy's defense on its heels. Jackson passed all the necessary tests during the week and appears ready to go.
Manning's skill and knowledge of the game has been well documented since he was taken No. 1 overall by the Colts back in 1998. Arguably the best quarterback in the game today -- and perhaps in the history of the NFL -- Manning will be making his 200th career start on a short week.
"The fun part about that is a lot of those 200 have been wins and have been hard-fought wins," Manning said. "It's the preparation and the working with all the different teammates through all of those that kind of makes it gratifying."
The 10-time Pro Bowl selection, who has never missed a start in 13 seasons, helped move the Colts into sole possession of first place in the AFC South with Monday night's 30-17 victory over the division-rival Houston Texans. The 5-2 Colts, who were beaten by Houston back in Week 1 and have not been swept by a division opponent since 2002, earned a measure of revenge with their third consecutive win.
Manning passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Reggie Wayne eclipsed the 10,000-yard mark for his career and hauled in a scoring pass. Manning and Wayne have hooked up for 64 touchdowns, good enough for fifth all-time in the NFL. Manning-to-former Colt Marvin Harrison was heard an NFL-record 112 times.
Indianapolis has been going by the motto "Next Men Up" this season in reference to reserve players stepping up when their number is called. Already without tight end Dallas Clark, who's out for the season with a wrist injury, the Colts witnessed a strong performance from backup Jacob Tamme. The seldom- used reserve corralled six Manning passes for 64 yards and a score, and the six catches matched his entire career total. Running back Mike Hart took over for injured regular Joseph Addai on Monday, posting 84 yards on 12 carries.
The Colts' defense has two of the top defensive ends in the game in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but face a challenging task in trying to contain the elusive Vick. Plus, Eagles tackle Jason Peters is expected to be back in the lineup after missing two games after undergoing knee surgery. Having played against some immobile signal-callers recently, it will be interesting to see what strategy Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer will unveil.
Coyer's unit has allowed opposing teams to convert just eight of their last 34 third-down attempts and limited the Texans to a 3-of-12 clip on both third and fourth down Monday night.
The Colts hold a 10-6 edge in their all-time series with the Eagles, including four straight wins in the series. Indianapolis was a 45-21 home winner when the clubs last met, in 2006, and also won the most recent meeting held in Philly, in 2002. The Eagles' most recent win in the series came at the RCA Dome in 1993, and they last beat the Colts in Philadelphia during the 1984 season.
During their four-game winning streak over the Eagles, the Colts have outscored Philadelphia by a composite score of 161-61. As previously mentioned, Reid is 0-3 in his career against Indianapolis, while the Colts' Jim Caldwell will be meeting both Reid and Philadelphia for the first time as a head man.
WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL
Manning (2,184 passing yards, 15 TD, 2 INT) is the biggest reason why the Colts are in the top five in the NFL in points scored, total yards and passing offense. He passed Warren Moon for the fourth-most attempts in NFL history when he completed 26-of-45 passes for 268 yards on Monday, and has recorded a passer rating of 100 or better four times this season while helping the Colts immensely in red-zone situations. Indy has scored on 24 of its 25 chances inside the opponents' 20-yard line, including 16 touchdowns. Manning, who has taken every snap in 169 of his 199 games played, owns 20 or more touchdown passes in 12 straight seasons and is on the verge of making it 13, since he has 15 scoring strikes so far in 2010. He is the only player in NFL history with 3,000 passing yards in each of his first 12 seasons and has 2,184 thus far this season. In his career against the Eagles, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback has thrown for 737 yards with seven touchdown passes and just one interception for a 132.3 passer rating. Wayne (49 receptions, 641 yards, 3 TD) is on the cusp of recording his seventh straight 1,000-yard campaign, but only has three touchdowns in 2010. Tamme (6 receptions, 1 TD) has filled in nicely so far for Clark and Hart (177 rushing yards, 1 TD) did the same for Addai (406 rushing yards, 3 TD). Addai is questionable for Sunday with a neck injury, and Hart will get the call again if he's unable to play.
The Eagles know exactly what they have to do on Sunday, and that's get to the quarterback. Manning has a healthy history of scorching the Eagles, leaving sack leaders Trent Cole (36 tackles, 6 sacks) and Juqua Parker (11 tackles, 4 sacks) responsible for applying the pressure. Parker hasn't had a sack in his last four games, while Manning has been sacked just once in each of his last four contests and seven times total in 2010. The Colts average 306.3 passing yards a game and Patterson (11 tackles, 1 INT) will get to see firsthand what Manning and his receivers are all about. Patterson will get the nod over Hobbs (16 tackles, 1 INT), who is still recovering from a hip pointer. He should pick the brain of fellow cornerback Asante Samuel, who's had plenty of experience playing against Manning from his days with New England. Samuel (20 tackles, 3 INT) had an interception in the loss at Tennessee and returned a pick for a touchdown against Manning in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. The Eagles are 11th against the pass for the year, but were exposed by the Titans. Poor tackling led to their demise as well. Philadelphia did well shutting down Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, though, and faces a less-daunting task against Hart and possibly Addai.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
With all signs pointing to Vick (799 passing yards, 6 TD, 0 INT) as this week's starter, the Eagles hope to garner some of the magic the former Falcons star brought to the team before he was sandwiched by two Redskins defenders last month. Vick leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing with 187 yards on 26 attempts, a 7.2-yard average, and is fourth in the NFL with a passer rating of 97.7. The strong-armed Vick may be a bit rusty on Sunday, however, and could use a full quarter to get back into the groove. Vick, who has won eight of his previous 10 starts against teams from the AFC, must be wary of ends Freeney and Mathis. Freeney recorded two sacks on Monday and has seven in his past six contests against NFC foes. That's not good for a Philadelphia o-line that has witnessed more changes than Lady Gaga's wardrobe. Jackson (19 receptions, 3 TD) passed his post-concussion tests and should be ready to go. He took a big hit in a win over Atlanta and missed the loss to the Titans, but makes a difference when he's on the field because most defenses can't keep up with his speed. Jeremy Maclin (30 receptions, 458 yards, 6 TD) leads the Eagles in touchdown catches, while running back LeSean McCoy (477 rushing yards, 5 TD) has a team-high 38 receptions. McCoy is a shifty back that will create mismatches for the Colts' defense.
Indy's top concern is containing Vick, who still has the ability to make something happen with his feet when coverage is tight. Linebackers Clint Session (38 tackles, 1 sack) and Pat Angerer (24 tackles, 1 sack) will be running all over the field if Vick decides to take off on certain occasions, and stretching the field is something else he brings to the offense and something the Colts must take away. Session shook off an elbow injury to post eight tackles, including a sack, on Monday night, while rookie Angerer made his first start at strongside linebacker in place of Philip Wheeler and recorded four stops. Middle linebacker Gary Brackett (41 tackles) is listed as probable for this weekend's game and has been a great stopper for the Colts. Indianapolis has already played against some of the more mobile quarterbacks in the league, such as Donovan McNabb and David Garrard, but Caldwell said Vick is a totally different entity than the team has faced this season and preparation will be key. Colts Pro Bowl safety and leading tackler Antoine Bethea (47 tackles) noted that Vick is a problem because of his speed and arm strength. Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (40 tackles, 1 INT) will try to contain both Jackson and Maclin and returned his eighth career interception 25 yards for a touchdown on Monday. Stopping the run may be a problem, as the Colts sit 28th against the rush.
Manning and Wayne are always going to be in fantasy lineups when healthy, and it's no different this Sunday. Manning traditionally seems to enjoy playing the Eagles and likes to use all his available weapons, so starting Tamme would be a wise choice. Give the Indianapolis defense a try this week, since Vick hasn't played for several game. Don't start Hart even if Addai isn't playing, because Philadelphia's run defense has improved over the weeks. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon is a solid emergency starter.
Vick is among several Eagles that could make a difference, both in reality and fantasy. Start him along with Jackson, Maclin and McCoy. Eagles tight end Brent Celek has been held out of the end zone for two straight weeks and may not see it again on Sunday. Philadelphia's defense isn't a good choice, either.
The Colts have outscored Philadelphia by a tremendous margin during their four-game winning streak in this series and will add to that count Sunday. Playing against a run-of-the-mill pass defense will be beneficial for the Colts to move closer to capturing at least 12 or more wins an NFL-record eight straight seasons. A master of manipulation, Manning will once again have his way with the Eagles and lead the Colts to their fourth straight win. A strong defensive effort on Vick will also be key for Caldwell's team on a short week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colts 27, Eagles 17
11/04 17:24:21 ET