NFL Nation: Indianapols Colts
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
This will be an interesting matchup of strengths Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts play host to the Baltimore Ravens.
Indianapolis has been inconsistent, but its strength remains on offense. Baltimore enters the game with the NFL's top-rated defense. Something has to give.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is 4-2 against the Ravens in the regular season and averages 283 yards passing per game. He also has a win over Baltimore in the playoffs in 2006, so there is a track record of success for Manning.
Baltimore is coming off back-to-back heart-breaking losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. The Steelers overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half to win 23-20 in overtime Sept. 29, and Tennessee scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes left during the Titans' 13-10 win last week.
The Ravens need to get a win to create some momentum. They have five of their next six games away from M&T Bank Stadium.
Head coach Marvin Lewis will try to prevent the first 0-6 start of his career when the Cincinnati Bengals travel to face the New York Jets.
The Bengals are one of four winless NFL teams remaining, but they are getting more competitive. They've lost their past three games by an average of 6.7 points per game, including last week's solid outing in a 31-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Quarterback Carson Palmer will not start because of his inflamed right elbow.
The Jets are coming off a bye week after putting up 56 points in a victory two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals. New York quarterback Brett Favre has nine touchdown passes in his last two starts.
Coming off a bye week, the Cleveland Browns will try to right their season against arguably the NFL's hottest team in the New York Giants.
Despite lofty expectations, the Browns are off to a disappointing 1-3 start and need this win to keep their postseason hopes alive. Cleveland had 15 days to get healthy and prepare for this game against the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Browns are the second-most penalized team in the NFL and need to be much more disciplined. Starting quarterback Derek Anderson has twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three).
The last time these two teams met -- in a preseason game that featured starters in the first half -- the Giants jumped to a 30-3 lead.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Tennessee Titans remain at second in the Week 6 edition of the power rankings, trailing only the league's other undefeated team, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Indianapolis came in at 11th, Jacksonville at 17th (despite having beaten Indy just two games ago) and Houston at 28th. The Texans rank as the best of the NFL's four winless teams. Hey, you take small victories when you've just blown a 17-point lead.
As always, here's a link to an excellent breakdown of the voting by NFC West maven Mike Sando.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Jacksonville at Tennessee, 1 p.m. ET
In the wake of Richard Collier's shooting, the Jaguars are likely to be in an all-or-nothing state. Are they drained from hospital visits and sleepless nights considering whether their teammate would survive the night? Or do they rally on his behalf, calling on a reserve to help provide some good news for him and the city? I think we'll have a feeling for which way the Jags go in the first five minutes of the game.
Never mind the players for a moment. Many of us are expecting another low scoring, defensive battle like last year's 13-10 Tennessee win at Jacksonville on opening day. But it could amount to a coming out party for two offensive coaches. Dirk Koetter, the Jags second-year offensive coordinator, now has a better handle on what he's got and a better comfort level calling an NFL game. The Titans Mike Heimerdinger is back for a second term in the same post. Neither coordinator was showing much in the preseason. Now we'll see some of the plays they rate as their favorites. That should make a big difference, shouldn't it?
While it's a huge game, it seems to me the Titans are the team that can better handle losing it. Jeff Fisher's teams have a history of starting slow, and have often managed to dig out of it. The Titans couldn't get anything going offensively with their first team in the preseason, so it won't be a surprise if they don't move the ball effectively. Jacksonville, meanwhile, is a popular pick to catch or pass Indianapolis. They seemed to be gradually ramping up in the preseason. How will they handle a loss after a month of listening to all the big expectations? Maybe better than I imagine. They did, after all, lose their opener to Tennessee last season in Jacksonville and recover just fine.
It's been a football lifetime since Gregg Williams was the defensive coordinator for the Oilers/Titans, so it's hard to imagine such a thing would carry over. But it's still worth a mention: while his defenses beat some very good quarterbacks, they also tended to go after young and unproven guys and see it backfire. Remember Ryan Leaf? With Young's questionable decision-making and ability to dodge a rusher, is it better to send extra people at him or to complicate coverages and await mistakes? Six of his 30 regular season interceptions have landed in the arms of Jaguars' defenders.
Houston at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET
Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes averaged a ridiculous 18.1 yards per catch last year. For the Texans to cap that, they need to find a consistent pass rush and they need cornerback Fred Bennett to prove he can stick with Holmes. I'd also expect the Steelers to get a third wide receiver on the field in order to put Houston in nickel to get chances to test DeMarcus Faggins.
Against a 3-4, Houston's offensive line is likely to need to cut more linebackers as part of Alex Gibbs' zone blocking scheme. It's one thing to take down bigger linemen, another to get to the second level and deal with more athletic players.
Indications to this point are that the Texans may feel the need to pass to set up the run instead of vice versa. Either way, we find out if a couple skill position players like Steve Slaton and Kevin Walter can be factors or get cancelled out once the games begin to count.
The Texans won in Pittsburgh in 2002 despite gaining only 47 yards of total offense. The Texans forced five turnovers, returning three for touchdowns.
Chicago at Indianapolis, 8:15 p.m. ET
The Peyton Manning questions are twofold: How does he do on a left knee that kept him out of the entire preseason after he had an infected bursa sac removed from it on July 14? And how does he do without his center, Jeff Saturday? Will Saturday's replacement, probably Jamey Richard, work to adjust things at the line of scrimmage the way Saturday did? Will another lineman? Will Manning take on even more responsibility? Look for Manning to get rid of the ball even faster than usual with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai looking to break a tackle and get yards after the catch. The Colts aren't going to ask Manning to stand in very long with three new offensive linemen working against a defensive front that includes Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Harris will surely work to make it a long night for the likely center Jamey Richard.
Lucas Oil Stadium makes its regular season debut on national television Sunday night. Will the crowd be able to influence a game the way it did at the RCA Dome? It's a much more difficult task with all the additional square footage under the roof, be it open or closed.
Kick coverage is always a Colts' issue. Will they kick to Devin Hester as they did to open the Super Bowl two years ago? Can Courtney Roby (kicks) and Keiwan Ratliff (punts) help the offense out with some field position on returns?
Spotlight issues, obviously: Manning's knee, Dwight Freeney's foot, Bo Sanders' shoulder