Top 3 Individual Matchups
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Kick return – The Bills kick return unit had a tough go of it last week in Atlanta as Buffalo had an average drive start of their own 19 yard line. But they’re still a top 10 kick return unit and Indianapolis struggles mightily in that area ranking 31st in the league in kick coverage. The Colts gave up a 106-yard return for a touchdown just last week to the Jets’ Brad Smith.
Best advantage – Pass defense – If Peyton Manning was set to play the whole game, this might not be an advantage at all for the Bills. The Colts are the best passing team in football, but that’s not the case when rookie backup QB Curtis Painter is in the game. When Manning left last week’s game against the Jets in the third quarter Indianapolis was outscored 19-0 after their Pro Bowl signal caller left the game. Going against the league’s third-ranked pass defense on the road won’t be easy for Painter.
Bills Number 1 Must
Stay close – With perfection no longer an issue and the game serving no benefit in playoff positioning for the Colts, they’re expected to pull the majority of their starters off the field at some point in the first half including Manning. Buffalo has to stay close on the scoreboard until the personnel changes are made to give themselves a good chance of ending the season on a winning note.
Streak over, but success is proven
After an NFL record 23 straight regular season victories stretching back to last season was broken last week in the 29-15 loss to the Jets, the Colts do not have a shot at perfection, but they do hold several impressive distinctions with respect to success.
Last week’s loss ended the best start in franchise history for Indianapolis. The Colts will already finish the decade with 115 victories, with a game to play, already giving them the all-time league record for most wins in a decade in league history.
Earlier this season the Colts became the only franchise to win seven or more consecutive regular season games in six straight seasons and this season marked their fourth 10-plus win season since 1999.
Colts head coach Jim Caldwell has played it close to vest with respect to playing time for his starters in the season finale against the Bills. Most regular observers anticipate the Indy starters to go a quarter to a quarter and a half on Sunday before most take a seat on the bench.
Third down dominance
The Colts enter the final game of the season ranking first in the league in third down conversion percentage at better than 50 percent (50.5%) a rare figure. But it is far from a one-year occurrence. Since 2002 Indianapolis has been the best third down conversion team in football with a conversion rate of 48 percent. The team’s defense on third down however, has more trouble than the Bills in getting off the field. The Colts rank 31st in the league in third down defense.
Dwight Freeney is a household NFL name, but his counterpart on the other end of Indy’s defensive line is still not nearly as respected by the average NFL fan. Robert Mathis is headed to his second Pro Bowl after compiling 9.5 sacks through the first 15 games. Freeney will be making his fifth Pro Bowl appearance after logging 13.5 sacks this season. The two pass rushers have combined for nine of the 15 double-digit sack seasons in Colts history.
Red zone rollers
The Colts are one of the most successful teams in football when it comes to putting the ball in the end zone once they reach their opponents’ 20-yard line. Indianapolis is first in the AFC and second in the league in red zone touchdown percentage scoring six on almost two-thirds of their opportunities this season (65.4%). Conversely, Buffalo is last in the league in red zone touchdown percentage scoring with half the success rate of the Colts (32.4%).
Quote of the Week
“To be honest I think it would have been cool for them to come in 15-0 and for us to knock them off. Still it’s a great opportunity for us to play probably the best team in the league and to go out there no matter who they had out there and compete with them.”
Stat of the Week
If Buffalo’s coverage units can keep the Colts returners out of the end zone it will mark the second consecutive season in which Bobby April’s specialists have not surrendered a return touchdown.
Milestones in reach
Lee Evans needs a 100-yard receiving game for the 14th in his career to tie for the fourth-most in team history.
Sunday’s game will mark the 16th anniversary of ‘The Comeback Game’ when the Bills overcame a 35-3 third quarter deficit to defeat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in overtime in the 1993 AFC Wild Card game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.