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THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS

Colts Get a Real Test

November 25, 2005|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

It's nervous time for the Miami Dolphins.

The 1972 Dolphins.

Players from that Miami squad aren't like many athletes who claim that they don't mind when their records are equaled or surpassed, mouthing the cliche that records are made to be broken.

You don't hear that from many of the '72 Dolphins. They make it clear that they enjoy their status as the only team in NFL history with a perfect 17-0 season.

The Indianapolis Colts are the latest club threatening to equal the Dolphins' unblemished mark. Adding a solid defense this season to an already dominating offense, the Colts are 10-0 heading into their Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) in Indianapolis.

Although the old Dolphins don't deny their joy at seeing teams drop from the ranks of the unbeaten every year, their coach in that 1972 season, Don Shula, denies the often-told tale that his players get together with a bottle of champagne when the last undefeated team loses every season.

"[Nick] Buoniconti, Dick Anderson and Bob Griese all live in the Coral Gables area," Shula said, "and they have been accused of opening a bottle of champagne when that final undefeated team gets beaten.

"The truth is that maybe that does happen with those three, but we've never gotten together and had a team celebration.

"Every year when people get to 6-0, 7-0, 8-0, 9-0, they start resurrecting the '72 Dolphins, and that's always nice to be resurrected and talked about."

Although 10-0 is impressive, the Steelers have some numbers on their side. The last two times Pittsburgh has faced a team that was at least 6-0, the Steelers have won. Pittsburgh's coach, Bill Cowher, is 6-0 against Indianapolis, including the postseason.

And most important for the Steelers, their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is expected to play Monday after sitting out three games because of a knee injury.

So keep the cork in that bubbly.

Elsewhere:

New York Giants (7-3) at Seattle (8-2), 1:15 p.m.: "We want to make winning normal," said running back Shaun Alexander of the NFC West-leading Seahawks. He's the biggest reason they have done so, scoring 19 touchdowns and rushing for 1,229 yards, both league-leading totals. Tiki Barber has rushed for 967 yards for the Giants, who have won four of the last five between these two teams.

Chicago (7-3) at Tampa Bay (7-3), 10 a.m.: The Chicago defense is giving up an NFL-low 11 points a game. As a result, the Bears are playing as they did two decades ago when they won a Super Bowl. A victory would give Chicago its first seven-game winning streak since 1986. The Buccaneers have enjoyed playing host to the Bears, having won six of their last seven against Chicago in Tampa.

New England (6-4) at Kansas City (6-4), 10 a.m.: With Priest Holmes out for the season, the Chiefs are depending on Larry Johnson. "We're looking for big things from him," said Kansas City quarterback Trent Green. That's what they got last week when Johnson rushed for a team-record 211 yards. The Patriots have won three in a row in this rivalry.

St. Louis (4-6) at Houston (1-9), 10 a.m.: For the Rams, quarterback Jamie Martin takes over for injured Marc Bulger. For the Texans, their biggest personnel decision may be choosing between Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart in the draft if they can hold on to the NFL's worst record.

Baltimore (3-7) at Cincinnati (7-3), 10 a.m.: The Bengals hope to ride their high-powered offense to a victory that would give them their first 8-3 record since 1988. That season ended for Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII. The Ravens have the lowest-scoring offense (116 points) in the league, but a defense that has given up only 21 rushing touchdowns since 2003, fewest in the NFL over that span.

Jacksonville (7-3) at Arizona (3-7), 1 p.m.: With field goals on 31 attempts in a row, the Cardinals' Neil Rackers can pass Fuad Reveiz with a successful first attempt to gain sole possession of third place on this all-time list. If the Jaguars score 30 points, it would be the first time in franchise history they have done so in three straight games.

Carolina (7-3) at Buffalo (4-6), 10 a.m.: If the Panthers' Steve Smith, the league's leading pass catcher, has 100 receiving yards, it would be the eighth time this season he has reached triple figures, a team record. The Bills have never lost to the Carolina, going 3-0 against the Panthers.

San Diego (6-4) at Washington (5-5), 10 a.m.: Attention fantasy football owners: Charger tight end Antonio Gates is listed as questionable because of a sprained right foot. San Diego Coach Marty Schottenheimer would relish a chance to come back to Washington, where he spent only one season as coach, and beat the Redskins.

San Francisco (2-8) at Tennessee (2-8), 10 a.m.: The 49ers have won six of their last seven against the Titans. These days, San Francisco is happy to celebrate a win anywhere. With 10 rushing yards, Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair would pass John Elway (3,407) for the fourth-most by a quarterback in league history.

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