GAME OF THE WEEK: Manning hopes to solve Miami's D

Updated: November 1, 2003, 11:59 AM ET

MIAMI -- They know what's coming.

Miami cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison can close their eyes and envision the steady stream of Peyton Manning's passes flying their way Sunday, knowing the NFL's second-highest scoring offense is going to put them to the test.

Surtain will be matched up with Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison, the AFC's leading receiver. Madison will spend most of his day covering Reggie Wayne, the second go-to receiver the Colts' offense has desperately needed over the past few seasons.

And it's going to be largely up to them whether the Dolphins (5-2) derail the high-flying Colts (6-1) in a midseason matchup of top AFC clubs.

"They're a potent offense," said Surtain, the AFC defensive player of the month for October who enters the weekend tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions. "They're No. 1 in the AFC. We're the No. 1 scoring defense in the league, so it's going to be a pretty good game."

Whatever the Dolphins have done in the past against the rifle-armed Manning and the Colts has worked. Manning is 2-7 against Miami -- his worst record against any NFL team. His rating in those nine games (72.6) is 16.3 points lower than against all other opponents. He's been intercepted by the Dolphins 17 times, against 13 touchdown passes.

Colts coach Tony Dungy used nothing but superlatives to describe this year's Miami defense, which is allowing an NFL-low 12.4 points per game.

"I really like what they do," Dungy said. "They have a personality and a style and that's what they play, and it doesn't matter who they play. ... They've got all the elements you need to be good, and they've got experience. They're a very, very fun group to watch play on tape."

On the field, well, that's another story, especially from Manning's perspective. This, though, is probably the most complete Indianapolis offense Manning has had in his six NFL seasons.

Wayne's emergence (32 catches, 454 yards, five touchdowns) has forced secondaries to play a little more honestly against Harrison (49-687-6). Still, Manning said it would be "a challenge" against Madison and Surtain, among the NFL's best coverage cornerbacks.

"There's definitely a respect factor there," Manning said. "If you throw their way, you better be on time with the ball, and you better be very, very accurate. Obviously, if Surtain is covering Marvin, and Madison is covering Reggie Wayne, you can't say, 'Hey, we can't throw the ball that way,' but you definitely have to be on top of your game."

What could easily help Manning's attempts to solve Miami's secondary riddle is running back Edgerrin James. He missed three games with two broken bones in his lower back, but returned last week and ran 23 times for 104 yards against Houston.

Any extra attention the Dolphins' front seven pays James will put even more pressure on Miami's secondary, which has allowed only four touchdown passes all season.

"Once you get Edgerrin going, that's when Marvin and Peyton really get going, because everyone's biting up on the run," Madison said. "And then you'll see Marvin streaking 72 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. If you peek in the backfield against these guys, you're going to get killed. If you let your guard down one bit -- Boom! -- you can be blown out by this team."

Manning won't be the only quarterback of celebrated NFL lineage trying to solve a stingy defense Sunday. Brian Griese will make his second straight start for Miami as Jay Fiedler recovers from a sprained knee ligament.

Griese threw for 192 yards and three touchdowns last week against San Diego in his season debut. The three scores weren't exactly long passes -- they came on tosses of 5, 2 and 7 yards -- but were one more than Fiedler managed in his last four games combined.

Indianapolis' defense is far more formidable than San Diego's, however. The Chargers have allowed 15 touchdowns through the air this season; the Colts' basic cover-2 scheme has yielded only eight.

"It seems every team in the league now is experimenting with that type of coverage," Griese said. "I think Tony Dungy, if I'm not mistaken, was one of the first guys to run it. So we've had some experience running against it and we'll be ready for it on Sunday."

In the past nine meetings, Miami has averaged 26.4 points against the Colts. But that was pre-Dungy and his commitment to defense, meaning the Dolphins can't count on any sort of shootout.

"They are not going to give you the big play," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They are going to play that soft zone defense and they are going to make you earn everything."

Manning and Griese are the only sons of former NFL quarterbacks to play against each other. Archie Manning's son beat Bob Griese's kid 29-10 in the final game of the 2001 regular season, when the younger Griese was with Denver.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index