Location: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, NC
Kick-off time: 1:00 pm ET
Key injuries: Freddie Keiaho and Marvin Harrison are both out (tip beckmania). This likely means Aaron Moorehead will start in Marvin's place, not Anthony Gonzalez. But, they doesn't mean Gonzalez won't see significant time in this game. Also, since Freddie is out, Tyjuan Hagler will likely get moved to WILL backer and Rocky Boiman will start at SAM.
Keys to the game:
- Focus and toughness. The schedule for this game sucks, but the Colts have to suck it up and take it to Carolina. This game, more so than the game next week, will tell me more about this team's focus. We've seen them overcome injuries and adversity before, but playing a team coming off a bye week (which means they've had two weeks to prepare) while the Colts are coming off a short week is not an easy thing. And, they are playing in Carolina. And they are without two playmakers: Keiaho and Harrison. Dungy is aware of this "trap game," but like the Washington game last year, I want to see how this team reacts to a tough situation. Last year this time, the Redskins knew they had to beat the Colts in order to salvage their season. The Colts clobbered them. That showed me the Colts were focused. This year, we've seen them show their focus, but this game is a super test. This team must remain focused, minimize mistakes, and kick serious butt.
- Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez. With Marvin out, these are the guys who must step up. Dallas has stepped up big all season, but now he's got to take to another level. Gonzo has made some plays as well, but Carolina's secondary is a bit suspect, and both Gonzo and Dallas need to find holes in their zone to exploit.
- Marlin Jackson. I haven't mentioned his name that much this year, but it's not because he's been invisible; far from it. Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden have been tremendous all season. When the Colts play the Bob Sanders Beatdown Defense (BSBD), that means Marlin and Kelvin have more one-on-one match-ups with WRs. Yes, they still play a zone, but there's less room for error. Marlin now has the tasks of going up against Steve Smith, one of the best WRs in football. The Colts may very well play the BSBD, daring the Panthers to throw the ball. Vinny Testaverde, starting in place for David Carr (tip metalmilitia), still has a great arm. He will take some shots with Smith, who is very physical. This match-up is a big one, and a huge test for Marlin and the secondary.
It seems each and every week, the games seem to get harder and harder and harder. This is how it is for this team. Really, it how it always was. Here's to a good, clean game with no injuries. Go Colts!