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SAM FARMER ON THE NFL

Colts-Patriots is a big game, even if Caldwell won't say so

Coach of undefeated Indianapolis says merely 'It's the next game,' but matchup again pits star quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady against each other, as well as two of the NFL's best teams.

November 11, 2009|SAM FARMER | ON THE NFL

Jim Caldwell, coach of the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, will try this week to sell his players on the notion that Sunday is just another game.

Good luck with that.

The Colts (8-0) play host to the New England Patriots (6-2) in the latest chapter of the rivalry of the decade. As usual, the matchup pits future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, as well as two of the best teams in football.

Brady is 7-3 as a starter in the series and holds a 3-1 advantage over Manning in Super Bowl rings. Manning is on pace to set the single-season passing yardage record and, along with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, is a midseason favorite to win the most-valuable-player award, which would be his fourth.

A huge game?

"It's the next one," Caldwell said. "The next one for us is a big one. The next one for us is the important one."

In other words, next question.

Steeling one back

Pittsburgh got off to a 1-2 start, including a 23-20 loss at Cincinnati, where the Steelers had won eight in a row. Sunday comes a chance for redemption.

In the Game of the Week Pt. 2, Pittsburgh (6-2) plays host to Cincinnati (6-2) in a rematch for first place in the AFC North.

On one side is Ben Roethlisberger, who is on pace to post a Steelers' record 4,590 passing yards. On the other is Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, whose numbers aren't as gaudy but has led some brilliant comebacks this season and is finally backed up by a solid running game and a solid defense.

Bear market

When San Francisco (3-5) plays host to Chicago (4-4) on Thursday, 49ers Coach Mike Singletary will be reunited with his old team, on which he was the iconic middle linebacker for one of the best defenses in NFL history. Both teams have fallen on hard times lately. The 49ers have frittered away a 3-1 start with four consecutive losses, and the Bears have lost three of four.

"It's definitely frustrating to be at this point," Singletary said. "But we do have eight games left."

Is that a good thing, or a threat?

Trap games

Three of the league's best teams play games they absolutely should win. Then again, you never know.

Minnesota (7-1) plays host to Detroit (1-7), New Orleans (8-0) plays at St. Louis (1-7), and Denver (6-2) plays at Washington (2-6).

The Saints, for one, don't have to think back too far to remember how things can go haywire. At precisely this point in the 2007 season, the winless Rams -- coming off an open date as they are now -- upset the 4-4 Saints, 37-29, at the Superdome.

LJ for hire

Kansas City cut ties with Larry Johnson this week, opening up the possibility the combustible and probably over-the-hill running back could wind up with any number of teams desperate for a ground game.

Three possible landing spots are Houston, Washington and New England, although it remains to be seen if he's worth the headache.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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