Colts, Bills stay busy lauding each other [6:40 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: 'Something's been lacking leading up to this afternoon's early-season AFC East showdown between the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills. Namely, bulletin-board material. Rather than spitting verbal barbs back and forth, the two rivals seemed content to swap sugar-coated superlatives.'
Buffalo pulls running back switch [6:38 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: 'Smith, a former first-round pick who rushed for 1,124 yards in 1998, has not taken the demotion well. He lashed out at the decision earlier in the week, saying he was being made a scapegoat for a rushing offense that ranks 16th in the NFL in yards (298) but 25th in per-carry average (3.2). And the bulk of that work has been done by Johnson himself, the team's leading rusher with 109 yards and a 6.8 average. Smith and backup Shawn Bryson have managed 159 yards on 68 carries (2.3). "There aren't any scapegoats," Phillips said. "We're 2-1. Make me the scapegoat if we end up 13-3."'
Opposites attack [6:28 AM]
Boston Herald reports: 'The Bills return from their bye week with the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL (second to New Orleans, believe it or not), allowing an average of only 248 yards per game. The Colts fly into western New York on the wings of very impressive Monday night mauling of the Jacksonville Jaguars, averaging 460 yards of offense per game. That's best in the AFC and second to the unbelievable Rams over the entire league.'
Staff predictions [4:09 PM]
ColtsNews.com reports: 'Colts 27, Bills 16...Colts 27, Bills 24...Colts 31, Bills 24...Colts 27, Bills 17...Colts 27, Bills 14.'
Bring on the Bills [4:07 PM]
ColtsNews.com reports: 'The bottom line is without a consistent rush, the Bills could be in trouble offensively.'
Manning still trying to make Colts proud of draft pick [3:54 PM]
Olean Times Herald reports: 'The only question for the 24-year-old Manning is whether he can catch Kurt Warner and Brett Favre, or have to be content as the NFL's third-best quarterback. On Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Manning's wares will be on display against the Buffalo Bills and the league's second-best defense. But Colts' coach Jim Mora warns that when watching Manning, don't expect to see a finished product. "Peyton is still learning ... he's still a young quarterback," Mora pointed out. "Everybody expects these unbelievable things from him ... and I probably do too, because he's done some great things. So I don't want to sound negative in any way. Still, there are things that happen in games that he hasn't seen before and that he'll learn from."'
Jills to take center stage [9:10 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'The Buffalo Jills, long a sideline attraction at Buffalo Bills games, will move to center stage Sunday for their first halftime dancing and singing performance at intermission of the game against the Indianapolis Colts.'
Bills' menu: Manning in pressure cooker [9:06 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Harassing Peyton Manning figures to be a huge key to the Buffalo Bills' success Sunday in their AFC East showdown with the Indianapolis Colts. The Bills would love to pressure the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback like they did when he visited Buffalo in January. He did not get sacked once. Yet he was forced to hurry throw after throw in the 31-6 Bills victory. Quarterback pressures - not necessarily sacks - will be a prime goal of the Bills' defense. "A pressure is definitely as good as a sack, especially this week," said Bills linebacker Sam Rogers. "He's so hard to get to. If you make him throw the ball away, you've accomplished the same goal as a sack."'
Comedians drop the ball in football pregame shows [9:02 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Speaking of progress and comedy, the Buffalo Bills now have taken to making announcements on their Web site, www.buffalobills.com...the Bills' decision to make some announcements this way essentially bypasses the media as the conduit to the public. If the Bills keep doing things this way, the local broadcast stations might conclude that staffing practices aren't always necessary.'
New approach pays for Pathon [6:24 AM]
Toronto Sun reports: 'As he watched his Indianapolis Colts teammates dash to a remarkable turnaround in 1999, Jerome Pathon was going in the wrong direction. Following a solid rookie season, the Vancouver-raised wide receiver had injury and performance troubles, slipping to just 14 catches for 163 yards from 50 grabs in 1998. Adding to Pathon's pain was not playing a part in the Colts' renaissance from 3-13 chumps to 13-3 Super Bowl contenders, as teammate Marvin Harrison became one of the NFL's brightest wide receivers with help from quarterback Peyton Manning and running back Edgerrin James. Pathon is back in form this season, though.'
Peerless trying to reach his potential [6:13 AM]
D and C reports: 'Price has just eight catches for 78 yards and he seems to be -- at least before tight end Jay Riemersma got hurt -- no better than the third read on most of Buffalo's passing plays. "Eric (Moulds) is the go-to guy," Price said. "I'm just out there running my routes, and you can't do anything about where the ball's going. I have to do my job and when the ball comes my way, I have to make the play. "Eric is the first read on most of the plays, and that's where Rob throws it. And then usually by the time Rob comes off him (and looks elsewhere) he has to scramble."'
Something has to give in Buffalo [6:09 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: '"I haven't looked at all the defensive teams,'' coach Jim Mora said, "but if there is a better defensive team in the National Football League than Buffalo, I'd be surprised."'
Red Scare - Playbook of Buffalo vs Colts [5:00 PM]
CNNSI reports: Nice example of how the Bills hope to exploit the weak defense.
Cowart gaining recognition [5:00 PM]
buffalobills.com reports: 'While people around Buffalo know that Sam Cowart is a great linebacker, the nation is beginning to learn what Cowart means to the Bills' defense. This week, Cowart will be featured in an article in Sports Illustrated, as well as having a feature article written about him for NFL.com.'
'That play' not music to Zeigler's ears [1:08 PM]
Newark Star Ledger reports: 'Said Zeigler: We felt like we should've been the guys in the Super Bowl. Zeigler saw a shot at the Super Bowl flash before my eyes." Giants coach Jim Fassel responded like a typical football man when he heard that Zeigler had confessed he already was line-dancing with teammates as Dyson returned the kick. "That's the problem," Fassel said. "Those guys on the coverage team were probably celebrating, too."'
Scouting the Bills [11:49 AM]
ColtsNews.com reports: 'I predict that this game will be close early, but we will pull away in the second half. Colts 27 - Bills 16.'
Giants' Zeigler feels pain of Titanic loss [9:01 AM]
Bergen Record reports: 'Zeigler felt pain Jan. 8 when the Titans pulled off their wild-card miracle victory. After the Bills took the lead at 16-15 with :16 remaining, he remembers players talking about their trip the following week to play Indianapolis. Then Frank Wycheck tossed his barely legal lateral to Kevin Dyson, who went 75 yards for the touchdown and the amazing finish. "After that I tuned football out for the rest of the playoffs, I didn't even want to watch it," Zeigler said. "People were saying if we had won that game we would have made it to the Super Bowl instead of Tennessee. And we thought we had the game won."'
Cowart's play thrusts him into limelight [8:58 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Sports Illustrated has a story on him this week. ESPN and CBS Sports have done features on the Bills' defense with Cowart as a focal point. He did a conference call with the national media at the request of the National Football League two weeks ago, then followed that up with a 23-tackle performance against the New York Jets. "The attention is nice," Cowart said. "I'm just working hard trying to be consistent and trying to do my best." Cowart is playing so well, he might just be the best linebacker in football right now.'
Manning big test for Bills backs [5:06 AM]
D and C reports: 'Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell has his favorite horror movies. Scream. Nightmare on Elm Street. The replay of the Indianapolis Colts 43-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Monday night. Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in just his third season, threw for a team-record 440 yards and four touchdowns and the Colts rolled up 533 yards offense. Manning is Cottrell's problem this week when the Bills (2-1) host the Colts (2-1) in a key AFC East Division battle. So how does his No. 2-ranked defense stop the Manning Machine? "We're hoping he gets a case of the West Nile virus," Cottrell said jokingly, letting out one of his patented bellylaughs. "Seriously, your technique has to be so sound because this guy is a pin-point passer. He can throw it deep, he can throw it short. Our techniques have to be sound against his receivers."'
Polian's blueprint for success remains in force in Buffalo [4:46 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: '"John [Butler] steered the ship through a lot of uncharted and rocky waters and hasn't gotten nearly the credit he deserves," Polian said. "He's brought in high-character, high-performing people. "There's been a lot of focus on the players they lost, but not nearly enough focus on the players they've kept. And the trade for (quarterback Brad) Johnson was a masterstroke." Polian was full of masterstrokes during his tenure in Buffalo. It's a pattern he is in the process of repeating with the Colts.'
Punter doesn't mind cramped quarters [4:44 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: 'The Bills apparently haven't recovered from last year's special-teams disaster that cost them in their playoff loss at Tennessee. They are 31st in punt returns (3.2), 29th in kickoff returns (17.7), 31st in kick coverage (35.7) and 18th in punt coverage (9.2). The Bills already have had a field goal blocked, allowed a kickoff to be returned 97 yards for a touchdown and have fumbled a pair of punts. The problem can be traced to massive change. Position coach Bruce DeHaven was fired after Tennessee pulled off its "Home Run Throwback" in the AFC playoffs a year ago. Also, the Bills lost 15 players to free agency during the off-season, and many were special-teams performers.'
Defending agsainst the triplets [4:42 AM]
ColtsNews.com reports: 'The Colts have been using a no-huddle in recent weeks. Are there any special adjustments that you make on the defensive front to combat the no-huddle? [Ted] Washington: "We've faced no-huddle offenses in the past and I think the best way to defend it is to get it off the field. If you don't give up a first down and send them off the field, they can't score. We try to play our same style of aggressive and fundamentally-sound defense and hopefully that's good enough to get the job done, no matter what they come out in."'
Colts punter gives poor averages the boot [8:38 PM]
AP reports: 'Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith is making people forget his disappointing rookie season. "I feel like a completely different punter,'' he said. "It's been an absolutely 180 degree turnaround." Three games into the season, Smith ranks first in the NFL with an average of 52.5 yards per punt. Even better is his league-leading net average of 42.1 yards.'
Bills and Colts kill with kindness [8:59 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'If last weekend's Jets-Buccaneers showdown was the trash talking game of the year in the NFL, this weekend's Bills-Colts showdown might be the opposite. Call it the Mutual Admiration Bowl...So it goes when the first big AFC East game of the season is on tap. This isn't a non-conference game devoid of postseason tie-breaker implications, like last Sunday's New York-Tampa affair. The Bills and Colts know this game is too important to allow any headlines to get posted on bulletin boards.'
The numbers support reliance on passing game [8:57 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'The Buffalo Bills rank 13th in passing yards per game and 25th in yards per rushing attempt through three games. Statistics, in this case, don't lie. Coach Wade Phillips acknowledged Wednesday he thinks his offense will be more effective passing than rushing this season. "I think we're going to be more of a passing team this year," Phillips said. "I think we're going to be able to move the ball through the air efficiently. With the players we have this year, that's where we're going. . . . I think everybody can see that we're stronger throwing the ball, and I think we're stronger at this point certainly than where we were last year. "I think we have to run more running plays off the passing game, rather than vice versa."'
Collins primed to start again [5:25 AM]
D and C reports: 'When the Bills (2-1) host the high-powered Indianapolis Colts (2-1) Sunday, quarterback Rob Johnson will be missing one of his favorite receivers in Riemersma, a sure-handed 6-5 target who created great mismatches in the opponents' secondary. If the game turns into a shootout between Manning and Johnson, the second- and third-ranked passers in the NFL, Buffalo's hoping the dropoff between Riemersma and Collins is closer to stepping off a curb than a cliff. "He's a great athlete, but he's young," Johnson said of the 6-4, 250-pound Collins. "Jay's the starter and one of the best tight ends in the league. Bobby's been working hard, though. He realizes this is a great opportunity. But he's got to get ready for a whole game instead of just spot play."'
Flutie returns as No. 1 backup [5:23 AM]
D and C reports: '"(Last week) felt like the first week of training camp where you were a fraction of a second later than what you want to be on that throw, or you were seeing everything but thinking a little too much," said Flutie, who received final medical clearance after a positive MRI result Tuesday. "Today was night and day from last week. I think I've played long enough that that (rustiness) is not really an issue."'
Colts sign running back from practice squad [5:08 AM]
AP reports: 'Running back Lennox Gordon was signed by the Indianapolis Colts off their practice squad on Wednesday. Gordon signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills last year and played in eight games, accumulating 38 yards on 11 carries. He also had one kickoff return for 11 yards.'
Terr-ing it up [5:01 AM]
Fox Sports reports: 'If you're going to double-up on star receiver Marvin Harrison, you better not forget about Terrence Wilkins. Jacksonville did on Monday night, and Wilkins had a career night - catching nine passes for 148 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' 43-14 rout.'
Pathon posts early returns with hard work, commitment [4:51 AM]
Indianapolis Star reports: 'Catching the ball has always been the easy part for Jerome Pathon. But there is so much more to being a productive wide receiver than that. Assigned routes must be run precisely and consistently. Alternate routes must be learned and adjusted to at a moment's notice, when necessary. Downfield blocking on running plays is an unattractive, but necessary, part of the job. Perhaps most importantly with Pathon, a relationship with the quarterback must be built, so timing and trust can be developed. After a frustrating 1999 season when he basically dropped off the map, the athletically gifted wide receiver is showing signs of fulfilling the potential he flashed as a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts in '98. He's making the catches, sure. But he's also where he's supposed to be, and when. And in many instances, the catch has been the beginning of the play, not the end. It might be a little early to say Pathon has arrived, but it's not too early to say he's on his way. After catching 14 passes in 10 games last season -- and not playing at all in four others -- Pathon has come out quickly this year with 11 receptions for 183 yards in three games.'
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