Peyton Manning and the undefeated Colts host the Texans in Week 8
The Texans (5-3) head to Indianapolis for a Week 9 showdown with the undefeated Colts (7-0). Kickoff is 12 p.m. CT at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
In Week 8, the Colts topped the 49ers 18-14, capitalizing on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from running back Joseph Addai to receiver Reggie Wayne. It was the 16th consecutive regular season victory for the Colts.
Rookie head coach Jim Caldwell has been with the Colts since 2002, when he was hired as the club's quarterbacks coach. In 2005, he was named assistant head coach and was promoted to associate head coach with the club prior to the 2008 season.
The Colts' offense has been prolific enough during Caldwell's tenure to allow the club to earn an NFL-best seven consecutive playoff appearances. Caldwell joined the Colts after serving as quarterbacks coach with Tampa Bay in 2001. He has more than 20 years of collegiate coaching experience. He spent 1993-2000 as head coach at Wake Forest.
OFFENSE Quarterback: Against San Francisco, perennial All-Pro Peyton Manning completed 31-of-48 pass attempts for 347 yards without a touchdown or an interception. So far in 2009, he's tossed 15 touchdown passes and just four interceptions with 2,227 yards, while completing better than 70 percent of his passes.
The future Hall of Famer is in year number 12 of NFL play, and during his sterling career, Manning guided the 2006 Colts to a Super Bowl title. Last season, he started 16 games for 11th consecutive season and earned his ninth career Pro Bowl selection. Manning has completed more passes and thrown for more yards and touchdowns (3,839-5,960-45,628, 333 TDs) in a career-opening 11-year span than any NFL player.
He also ranks fourth in NFL career touchdown passes and holds Colts records in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. In 2008, he earned his third career Associated Press Most Valuable Player honor, joining Brett Favre (1995-97) as the only players in NFL history to win the award three times.
Running back: Joseph Addai was productive against San Francisco, as he rushed for 62 yards on 20 carries and threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Wayne in the fourth quarter.
So far this season, Addai has averaged 3.3 yards a carry, running 102 times for 336 yards. He's rushed for four touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass. Addai is an integral part of the passing attack for the Colts, as he's caught 29 passes for 160 yards.
The 2007 Pro Bowler had a tough 2008, carrying the ball 155 times for just 544 yards and scoring five times. He started 12 games and caught 25 passes for 206 yards and a pair of scores. Addai cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark in both 2006 and 2007.
At fullback/H-back, Gijon Robinson is primarily a blocker. He hasn't recorded any carries in 2009 but has four catches for 42 yards. His best performance came in a Week 7 victory over St. Louis, when he finished with three receptions for 38 yards.
Wide receiver: Every year since 2004, Reggie Wayne has finished with more than 1,000 yards receiving. He's on pace to pass that mark again in 2009, with 689 yards through seven contests. Wayne has caught 51 passes, six of which have been touchdowns, and has scored in every game except for the Week 2 victory at Miami.
Against the 49ers, Wayne hauled in 12 passes for 147 yards. It was the third game this year he surpassed 100-yard mark receiving.The nine-year vet is averaging almost 14 yards per catch and has been Manning's favorite target all season long.
Anthony Gonzalez has missed six straight games with a knee injury, and will likely miss his seventh straight this weekend.
Second-year receiver Pierre Garcon has been explosive in 2009, averaging 16.3 yards a catch and catching a pass for 30-plus yards in four of seven games. Garcon has a pair of touchdown receptions to go with his 18 total catches for 293 yards. Garcon played sparingly in 2008, catching just four passes for 23 yards.
Austin Collie caught six passes for 66 yards against the 49ers. On the year, he has 30 receptions for 330 yards and four scores. The rookie from BYU recorded his best game of the season when he snared eight passes for 97 yards a pair of touchdowns in the Week 5 victory at Tennessee.
Tight end: Dallas Clark had a big game against San Francisco, finishing with 99 yards on eight receptions. In 2009, he has 584 receiving yards on 46 receptions and has found the end zone three times. Clark turned in a career year in 2008, as he eclipsed the 800-yard receiving mark, finishing with 848 yards on 77 receptions, and scored six times.
Offensive line: The Colts' offensive front is one of the main reasons Manning and company are still undefeated through seven games. In pass protection, they've allowed Manning to get sacked just five times, although three of those came last week against the 49ers. The veteran crew has struggled to break things open in the ground game, however, as the Colts are averaging a mere 3.7 yards a carry.
Eleven-year veteran Jeff Saturday, a former Pro Bowler, starts at center and is the longest-tenured starter up front for Indianapolis. Right tackle Ryan Diem has been a steady presence for the last nine seasons. Charlie Johnson has started at left tackle after a 2008 that saw him start four games in that spot and 12 others at left tackle.
DEFENSE Defensive line: The headliner up front for Indianapolis is the incomparable Dwight Freeney. The All-Pro defensive end is off to a fast start through the season's first seven games, as he's already tallied eight sacks. The picture of consistency, Freeney has recorded a sack in every game this season, and he brought down Kurt Warner twice in the win at Arizona.
Freeney also forced a fumble and has 15 total tackles. In 2008, he sacked the quarterback 10.5 times, the fifth 10-plus sack season of his career.
Freeney's backup is the versatile Keyunta Dawson, who has eight tackles in the season's first seven games. The former Texas Tech standout started 12 games at left defensive tackle last year and finished with 42 tackles.
Robert Mathis, the left defensive end, also is off to an impressive start. With six sacks, three forced fumbles and 22 tackles, Mathis has proven to be a disruptive force for the Colts' defense.
Mathis and Freeney have been one of the most productive defensive end duos in the NFL, as Mathis finished with 11.5 sacks last season, which was the third year in his seven-season career to crack the 10-plus sack mark.
Left defensive end backup Raheem Brock has chipped in with nine tackles and 1.5 sacks this year, and he's coming off a 2008 that saw him record three-and-a-half sacks and force a pair of fumbles.
On the inside, starting left defensive tackle Antonio Johnson is coming off a three-tackle, one-sack performance in the win against the 49ers. He has 15 total tackles on the year. In eight regular season contests last year, Johnson finished with 31 total tackles.
The starter at right defensive tackle is Daniel Muir, who has 16 total stops in 2009. His most productive game came in the Week 7 win at St. Louis when he tallied 0.5 sacks and seven total tackles.
Linebacker: Starting left linebacker Tyjuan Hagler has 27 total tackles but left Sunday's contest against San Francisco with a ruptured biceps muscle. He's been placed on injured reserve and won't play Sunday against the Texans. His spot in the starting lineup will be filled by either Phillip Wheeler or Ramon Humber. Both Wheeler and Humber have played primarily on special teams, and between them they've combined for 20 total tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and two forced fumbles.
In the middle, starter Gary Brackett is a seven-year vet who has eclipsed the 100-tackle mark in each of the four previous seasons. Brackett had five stops against the 49ers.
The starter at right linebacker is Clint Session. The third-year pro from Pittsgburgh has accumulated 42 total stops in 2009 after a 2008 in which he finished with 99 total tackles and two forced fumbles.
Secondary: Strong safety Bob Sanders has missed all but the last two contests due to injury and has just three tackles in 2009. He was only able to start six games in 2008 but still intercepted a pass and finished with 48 total stops. His finest season was in 2007, when he became the first Colts player in franchise history to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
Free safety Antoine Bethea has 49 total tackles this season, and he registered seven stops against the 49ers. The 2007 Pro Bowler finished 2008 with 126 total tackles.
At right cornerback, rookie Jerraud Powers has started five times and has 29 stops. He finished with eight total tackles in Week 3 at Arizona and has teamed up with left corner Kelvin Hayden. But Hayden left the win over the 49ers with a knee injury after suffering a concussion in the game as well.
There's a distinct possibility that rookie Jacob Lacey will start against the Texans. He picked off a pass at St. Louis and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. In all, he has 26 total tackles this season.
Special teams: Kicker Matt Stover filled in nicely for Adam Vinatieri against the 49ers, connecting on all four of his field goal attempts. He was a perfect six-for-six on his point-after tries the week before against St. Louis, and his season long was a 40-yarder versus San Francisco. Vinatieri is expected to return from his knee injury in December.
Rookie punter Pat McAfee was busy against the 49ers, punting seven times for a 46.3 average and booming a 60-yarder.
Chad Simpson is the primary kickoff returner, and he's averaging 22.4 yards per return with a long of 39 yards. T.J. Rushing has taken back nine punts for 57 yards and has broken loose for a 22 yarder this season.