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AFC Powers Meet in Foxborough
By Charean Williams
It is the best rivalry the NFL has these days. New England and Indianapolis no longer are in the same division, but they play every year.
The Colts and Patriots meet Sunday for the eighth consecutive season, the league’s longest streak between non-division opponents since realignment in 2002.
The Patriots own a 7-5 advantage, including 2-1 in the playoffs.
Tom Brady won his first six starts against the Colts, but Peyton Manning has won five of the past six.
“It’s a great matchup, and I think both our team and the Colts have been winning a lot of games over the last 10 years,” Brady said. “We’ve had some great games between the two teams, and I’m expecting this game to be the same.”
Brady and Manning remain the standard for all quarterbacks in the league. They are friendly, if not friends, and each professes respect for the other.
“He’s an incredible player,” Brady said. “The thing that I love [in] watching him is his consistency. He’s such a competitive player and being around him, in the experience that I’ve had around him, it’s no surprise why he’s such a great player. He loves the game. He loves studying it. He loves talking about it. I think we definitely have that in common.”
Bucs hope not to leave their hearts in SF
The Buccaneers have been California Screamin’ since they entered the league. They are 2-23 in the regular season in California. (Their only Super Bowl championship happened in San Diego.)
“It hasn’t been a big deal up until right now when you brought it up,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris said, chuckling. “Nah, I was well aware of that. I’ve got some personal losses myself. Going out there hasn’t been kind. It’s a long trip. It’s a hard trip. … There’s no excuses. You have to go out there and try to get a win on the West Coast.”
The Bucs have set all kinds of records for futility since they entered the league in 1976, including the most consecutive losses and the most consecutive double-digit loss seasons. Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden changed the team’s fortunes and its history.
Morris will now try to do something neither of those coaches did. The Bucs are 1-11 in San Francisco, with their only victory coming in 1980 on a Garo Yepremian field goal for a 24-23 win over the 49ers.
The Bucs will travel out to California a day early, leaving on Friday to try to get acclimated. Tampa Bay left for Arizona a day early and beat the Cardinals, 38-35, earlier this season. They also won at Seattle last December.
“This is a different team. They’ve got a different team,” quarterback Josh Freeman said. “Anytime you go to the West Coast, it’s a long trip, and you’ve got to get mentally prepared.
“We’re leaving on Friday. It’s going to give us the opportunity to get there and get settled in for a day. It’s going to definitely be a challenge.”
Lions’ road victory a long time coming
The Lions set the NFL record for road futility last week in a loss to the Bills, their 25th consecutive away from home. How long has it been?
When the Lions last won a road game — Oct. 28, 2007 — Jon Kitna was their quarterback and Roy Williams was a starting receiver. Williams caught eight passes for 77 yards in the Lions’ victory over the Bears, and Kitna was 24-of-35 for 268 yards.
Kitna and Williams will play against the Lions on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
“Wow! Yeah, that makes me seem old,” Williams said of the Lions’ road losing streak. “Yeah, I’m surprised. I’m surprised about that, because we’re all professionals. You should be able to win on the road; you should be able to win at home. But it’s unfortunate. They have had things that have happened to them, and I can testify they have had things that have happened that shouldn't happen, that don't happen to other teams.”
Fourth and short
Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas is not a one-catch wonder. Thomas, who caught the Hail Mary pass that beat the Texans on the last play Sunday, leads his team with 41 catches for 536 yards and two touchdowns.
• The Chiefs offense has struggled since they lost Dexter McCluster to a high ankle sprain Oct. 24. While his offensive numbers aren’t impressive — 26 touches for 207 yards and a touchdown — his speed makes defenses play the Chiefs differently. Kansas City is 1-2 without him, with its lone victory an overtime win against the Bills. The Chiefs averaged 36.5 points per game in the last two games McCluster played. They are averaging 20.7 points in the three games he has missed. Their rushing average has gone down from 190.4 in the first seven games to 77.5 the past three.
• The Panthers’ third-string running back became their first to rush for 100 yards this season as Mike Goodson gained 100 against the Bucs.
• Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is 18-1 (.947) at home. It is the most home victories for any quarterback over the past three seasons. Ryan has won 14 consecutive starts at home.
• The Colts are 14-12 when Peyton Manning doesn’t throw a touchdown pass. They are 69-13 when he isn’t intercepted.
• The Panthers have allowed 59 first quarter points and have given up a touchdown in the first quarter in seven of nine games.
• Jason Campbell has a passer rating of 104.3 in the Raiders’ three-game winning streak. He is 46-of-80 for 743 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
• Rams rookie Sam Bradford hasn’t thrown an interception since late in the Oct. 10 game against Detroit. That’s four full games and 138 consecutive passes. It’s the longest streak for a rookie since Tampa Bay’s Bruce Gradkowski had a streak of 147 consecutive passes without an interception in 2006. Chris Miller holds the Rams’ club record with 146 consecutive passes without an interception.
• Bucs receiver Mike Williams is two touchdowns shy of tying Michael Clayton’s single-season rookie receiving touchdown record of seven. Williams has 40 catches for 627 yards this season. It is the most receiving yards for a rookie receiver.
• Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has had 13 interceptions returned for touchdowns since becoming the starter in 2004. That is the second-most in the league, trailing Brett Favre, who has had 14.
• When the Broncos last traveled to San Diego, they beat the Chargers, 34-23, to improve their 2009 record to 6-0. They have gone 5-14 since.
• The Packers have a league-high 11 players on injured reserve, including six starters.
• Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has 1,078 yards from scrimmage on 153 touches. He is averaging 17 touches and 119.7 yards per game. But Charles has scored only three touchdowns.
• Since Week 3, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.
• Marshawn Lynch has rushed for 217 yards on 74 carries in five games for the Seahawks, a career-low 2.9 yards per carry.
• Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has accounted for four total touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) on just 13 offensive touches to lead the NFL in touchdown percentage.
• Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins has made a seamless switch from cornerback and ranks second on the team with 67 tackles. He has one sack, a forced fumble and has broken up a team-high nine passes.
• The Giants have had at least one turnover in every game this season. Even during their five-game winning streak, which ended with the loss to Dallas last week, the Giants had 12 turnovers (seven lost fumbles and five interceptions). They added another lost fumble and two more interceptions against the Cowboys.
• The Steelers have failed to score a touchdown in the first half of three games and have scored only three points in the first half in three games.
• Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff took over the NFL lead on touchbacks this week. Cundiff’s 25 touchbacks put him one ahead of Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski. He has produced touchbacks on 58.1 percent of his kickoffs.