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COLTS WILL DO BEST TO PREVENT BIG PASS PLAYS

The series

Bills lead 20-19-1 on strength of 26-10 season-opening victory over Colts at Rich Stadium. Last year, Colts won, 37-14, in Hoosier Dome, but Bills took rematch at Rich Stadium, 30-7. Teams have split season series each year since Colts moved from Baltimore in 1984. Only Bills victory in Indianapolis was 27-3 triumph in 1987 when Buffalo defense held Eric Dickerson to 19 yards in 11 attempts.

Bills on offense

Buffalo sprung a no-huddle offense on Colts in season opener and have used it several times since, including last week when it gave Eagles less time to signal defensive calls from sideline. It doesn't seem likely Buffalo will use it early this week, but Colts have to be ready just in case. . . . It will be more difficult to hit big pass plays because Colts won't gamble with blitzes as much as Philadelphia did, leaving cornerbacks in single man-to-man coverage. Indy uses a lot of zones and forces offense to chip away. Look for Bills to throw more to tight end Keith McKeller and running back Thurman Thomas than in recent games. . . . Colts are 22nd in league in total defense, 22nd against the pass and 21st against the run. They have allowed 63 percent completion rate. Only Detroit is worse. However, they are allowing only 11.6 yards per completion. On the other hand, opponents average 4.1 yards per rushing attempt. . . . Colts defense was missing holdouts DE Jon Hand and ILB Jeff Herrod against Buffalo in opener. Herrod, who is Indy's leading tackler, will play today. Hand, who made hit that separated Jim Kelly's shoulder in last year's game in Hoosier Dome, is doubtful because of a knee injury.

Colts on offense

One of the least productive teams in league on ground, Colts have surpassed 100-yard mark last two games. Their best before that was only 88. It's sign that Dickerson, who did not face Bills in opener, is rounding into shape. He had 143 yards against Bengals at Cincinnati two weeks ago. Dickerson still is capable of carrying an offense by himself and his presence has relieved some of the pressure on rookie quarterback Jeff George. George, who has shaken off injuries and early problems, hit 48 of 81 for 7 TDs in his last three games and has thrown only eight interceptions all season. Four of those came in one game, Week Two against New England. . . . Albert Bentley will line up as H-back. He leads Colts in receptions and in rushing, but has not carried more than nine times in a game since Dickerson returned to action Oct. 21. . . . Billy Brooks and Jesse Hester are having good seasons as starting wideouts. Colts bring in former New England Patriot Stanley Morgan as third receiver. He scored only Indy touchdown against Bills in opener. Buffalo could have problems covering Colts wideouts because three cornerbacks, Nate Odomes, Kirby Jackson and David Pool, are injured. . . . Colts line still having some problems protecting passer, having allowed 36 sacks. Ponderous (6-foot-6, 338-pound) Zefross Moss will try to fend off Bruce Smith. He will need help from tight end Pat Beach and guard Randy Dixon. Dixon missed opener against Bills because he was also a holdout. If Beach has to double Smith, Cornelius Bennett on the other side will be going against Brian Baldinger most of time. Baldinger, who was at RG in opener in first Buffalo game, is brother of Bills' NT Gary Baldinger and is starting in place of Kevin Call (injured reserve).

Bills update

Ex-Ram Clifford Hicks signed to relieve pinch at cornerback. He could end up playing quite a bit if Odomes is bothered by groin pull. . . . Bruce Smith moved into tie for league sack lead with two against Eagles, which pushed his season's total to 15, equaling his career high. Bills' six sacks against Eagles was a season high. . . . Rick Tuten, who has eased a lot of concerns about Bills' punting, had his best game against Philadelphia, averaging 42.8 net. He knocked a 52-yarder out of bounds at Eagle 9 and had a 55-yarder which was downed at 10.

Colts update

Linebacker Kurt Larson backs up Beach at tight end and comes in for short-yardage blocking. He recently changed his jersey number from No. 59 to 87, befitting his new status. . . . Mark Herrmann and Rusty Hilger, who weren't even with Colts when season started, are now backup quarterbacks since injury to Jack Trudeau and release of ex-Bill Joe Ferguson. . . . Another ex-Bill, LB Scott Radecic, is leading tackler on Indy special teams. . . . Colts signed free agent DE Ray Seals last week because of injuries on defensive line. . . . Ralph Jarvis, whom Bills thought would help them as pass rusher this year but was waived in preseason, is on Colts roster. . . . Rookie Alan Grant, who started first game, is no longer in regular lineup at LCB. Chris Goode took over in seventh game.

Outlook

Colts have mathematical but unrealistic shot at playoffs. Still, they have improved as season moved along and can be trouble at home. . . . If Bills strike early, don't let George gain confidence and are in a nasty frame of mind, they can take Colts out early. Even though this is the most important game, except for Miami, on the Bills remaining schedule, expect a slight letdown and a struggle. PREDICTION: Bills, 23-21.
-- MILT NORTHROP

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