1:00 PM ET, December 13, 2009
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
The Colts seek a record-setting 22nd consecutive regular-season victory and look to clinch the AFC's top seed Sunday when they host a Broncos team coming off back-to-back impressive wins.
With Peyton Manning having another MVP-caliber season, Indianapolis (12-0) has already clinched the AFC South for the sixth time in seven years. The only time the Colts didn't win the division in that span was last season, when they lost at San Diego in a wild-card playoff game.
Trying to avoid a similar fate, Indianapolis is one victory away from earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Playing at Lucas Oil Stadium has provided a decisive advantage for the Colts, who won their 12th straight there with last Sunday's 27-17 victory over Tennessee.
After needing fourth-quarter comebacks in each of their previous five games, the Colts scored 24 first-half points to coast to the win.
Indianapolis matched New England's record for consecutive regular-season victories while extending its own NFL record of consecutive 12-win seasons to seven.
"You try to tell these guys that when you win a couple in a row, or three or four in a row, this is not normal," said Manning, who has extended his NFL record streak of consecutive 25-TD seasons to 12. "It's not normal to win 10 or 11 or 12 games every year. But these guys that have been here five years would tell me it is normal for us. That's all they've done."
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels was on Bill Belichick's staff during the Patriots' 21-game run from 2006-08 and insists he has no added incentive to deny Indianapolis the record. McDaniels simply wants to win because it will put the Broncos (8-4) closer to ending a three-year playoff drought.
"I mean, my big focus this week is beating them because it will mean we're 9-4. And I think that's the most important thing for me, for our team," McDaniels said.
"If in some way it can derail history, then it is what it is."
Denver is in the thick of the playoff race following wins over the New York Giants and Kansas City, whom they outscored by a combined 70-19. The Broncos had lost four in a row after a 6-0 start -- the franchise's best since opening 13-0 in 1998.
The Broncos, atop the AFC wild-card standings, remained one game back of the Chargers in the West with last Sunday's 44-13 win over the Chiefs.
Denver piled up a season-high 245 yards on the ground and is averaging 154.5 rushing yards in its last four games.
Rookie Knowshon Moreno, who scored twice last Sunday, is averaging 87.8 rushing yards over the last four and leads all rookies with 774 yards.
"We're peaking at the right time," said Correll Buckhalter, who rushed for 113 yards on 12 carries last week. "You want to start peaking in December in order to have a chance to do it in the playoffs, and that's what we're doing."
Denver's defense has also stepped up in the last two games. The Broncos limited the Giants and Chiefs to an average of 244.5 yards after yielding 350.8 yards and 29.3 points during their skid.
The defense, second in the NFL in allowing 180.3 passing yards per game, now has the difficult task of trying to slow down Manning and the high-powered Colts offense.
"They have one of the best receivers in all of football in Reggie Wayne," McDaniels said. "They have one of the best tight ends in football in Dallas Clark. They have one of the best quarterbacks in football in Peyton Manning. I could go on and on."
Manning passed for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the Colts' last game against the Broncos, a 38-20 win Sept. 30, 2007.
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|Avg Points Allowed||17.7||16.7|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DEN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DEN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Indianapolis leads 7-2|
|Sep 30, 2007||DEN 20, @IND 38|
|Oct 29, 2006||DEN 31, IND 34|
|Jan 9, 2005||DEN 24, @IND 49|
|Jan 2, 2005||DEN 33, IND 14|
|Jan 4, 2004||DEN 10, @IND 41|
|Dec 21, 2003||DEN 31, @IND 17|
|Nov 24, 2002||DEN 20, IND 23|
|Jan 6, 2002||DEN 10, @IND 29|