This week, it's the red-hot San Diego Chargers that appear on the Colts' dance card. San Diego, which has posted three straight wins, has battled injury issues much like Indianapolis has this year.
"It will be a challenge. They are playing really well. It looks like they've got a number of guys back that have been injured or just haven't been with the team," quarterback Peyton Manning said this week.
"They got their left tackle back, got a receiver back. Their defense has really been playing well all season long. Statistically, they are tops in just about all the main categories. They'll be tough to move the ball against. It will be a challenge."
The Colts are coming off the tough loss to New England, but Manning knows that Indianapolis can't afford to stew about opportunities lost.
"I think everybody will be prepared to (focus on the Chargers). That's what we have to do. It's an AFC game, it's a home game, it's the next game," he said.
"Lots of reasons to be focused and ready for this one. I think the big key is having a good week of practice during this week. It's Thanksgiving (week), so we have somewhat of an altered schedule, but we've always been able to have good practices during this week, and I think that will be important."
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Despite a 6-4 record and being tied for first place in the AFC South, the Colts consider themselves to be a work in progress.
Thanks largely to injuries to several starters and top backups, the Colts have been inconsistent offensively, defensively and on special teams this year.
Finding that elusive consistency as quickly as possible will be the deciding factor in just how well Indianapolis plays over the final month of the regular season.
Freeney says the focus is to get back on track
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
"There has been a lot of discussion and a lot of focus on (last week's loss to New England). But for us, it has to go behind us immediately. In fact, it should be behind us now. Let's get on with the job of playing San Diego. Let's get on with the job of hopefully getting some injured players back. Let's get on with the job of hopefully playing better than we played (against the Patriots)," team president Bill Polian said this week.
"There are areas where certainly we can improve, and the most important game is the next one. The bottom line is win, lose or draw, this (divisional and playoff) race is going 17 weeks and 16 games. We have to concentrate on the next game as the most important one. (The loss to New England) was a great effort. We came up short. That's just the way it is, so let's move on."
With a hot San Diego team coming to Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night, the Colts can't afford to do anything else but concentrate on the Chargers and what kind of effort it will take to win the game.
"They've been giving us problems over the years. Winning this week is important, to get back on track. That's where our focus needs to be," defensive end Dwight Freeney said.
"This game we need to get back on the right track, to get back to doing the things that we're used to doing around here on both sides of the ball."
Playing teams like New England and San Diego present their own special brand of problems.
Both have quality quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. Both have running backs, wide receivers and tight ends that can present matchup issues for the Colts' defense.
"This (game) is more like last week," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "You do understand that we are going to have to hopefully play well on offense and score some points. Their offense is so explosive. I know what kind of challenge our defense is in for going in against their offense and all their playmakers.
"Sure, you feel challenged to do your part and keep your defense out of tough situations. And hopefully put some points on the board. But against this (Chargers) defense, that will be awfully tough."
While San Diego dropped five of its first seven games to begin the 2010 season, the Chargers have now won three straight after a 35-14 win over AFC West rival Denver Monday night.
"I'm sure nobody wants to start in a hole (in the standings). But they have gotten some guys back. Every quarterback would love to get his left tackle (holdout Marcus McNeill) back. I'm sure that makes a big difference to Philip. And (Vincent) Jackson, their (6-5) receiver is back. So they're possibly going to be even more explosive on offense," Manning said.
"Their defense has been pretty steady all year, which is impressive since they lost some marquee names. They've really answered the bell and played well together."
SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 14-9. San Diego is 2-1 against the Colts in postseason games. The Chargers have won four of the past five meetings, including the playoffs. Indianapolis' last series win occurred on Nov. 23, 2008 with the Colts posting a 23-20 road decision. Sunday night's game will be the first to be played in Indianapolis since Jan. 13, 2008 (AFC playoff game) with San Diego winning 28-24. This week's game will be the first regular-season meeting in Indianapolis since Dec. 18, 2005 as the Chargers came away with a 26-17 victory. Two of the past six matchups have gone to overtime, with San Diego and Indianapolis splitting those games (Colts, 34-31, 12/26/04; Chargers, 23-17, 1/3/09, AFC playoff game). Six of the previous eight matchups (playoffs included) have been decided by less than a touchdown.
BY THE NUMBERS: 31 — Receptions for Jacob Tamme in November, tops among NFL tight ends. His 305 yards are also leading the league's tight ends this month.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously, if we ran the ball a little bit better, take some pressure off of our quarterback, and I think you saw that a bit towards the end of the second half (of the New England game), we were able to get some runs, get some things generated. It just opens things up for you. You aren't depending on having to throw the ball an inordinate number of times. It just makes you more effective overall. I think in that area we still need to improve." — Coach Jim Caldwell on the Colts' continued inconsistency in the running game.
- The Colts will be attempting to post their ninth consecutive win at home in the month of November.
- Indianapolis is 4-0 at Lucas Oil Stadium this season.
- QB Peyton Manning is 4-2 in regular-season games against the Chargers. Manning has completed 160 of 266 career passes (regular season) against San Diego for 1,843 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He has registered 300 or more yards passing in four of his six career regular-season meetings with the Chargers.
- WR Reggie Wayne caught four passes for 129 yards and a TD in his last game against the Chargers (1/3/09, AFC wild-card playoff). He has 25 career receptions for 326 yards and one touchdown in four previous regular-season matchups against the Chargers.
- DE Robert Mathis is aiming for his third straight game with two sacks against San Diego. Mathis has registered three sacks and one forced fumble in three career regular-season games against the Chargers.
- DE Dwight Freeney has recorded four sacks in five games with the Chargers (including playoffs). Freeney has two sacks, two forced fumbles in four career regular-season games against San Diego.
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