From a friend in need

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:54 PM ET

Buffalo Bills receiver Eric Moulds placed a call to one of his brethren this week, imploring him to have a big game tomorrow. Little surprise that the fellow NFL star in question plays for the Indianapolis Colts.

Besides a win themselves, the Bills need either a Colts "upset" of the Denver Broncos or a St. Louis Rams win over the New York Jets to gain a playoff spot.

On the surface, however, it is a nothing game for Indy, which will host a wild-card round game next weekend and can't improve or hurt its seeding in the AFC.

"We'll play our first group and we'll see how it goes," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "There's a lot of factors involved in how much they'll play or how long. It won't be the type of situation where we're not playing (all starters). We want to continue to be sharp."

The whole issue of what playoff-bound teams do with personnel in meaningless games is a tough one. Besides messing up fantasy football teams, it throws a wrench into the integrity of games central to playoff races.

The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, treated this past Monday's game against the St. Louis Rams as little more than an exhibition. That helped the Rams to score a 20-7 victory, one they needed to keep their playoff options open.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said fans can expect more of the same tomorrow when his team meets the Cincinnati Bengals.

"The main thing is I have a lot of trust in the veteran players (to stay sharp in practice)," Reid said. "If I didn't have that trust, I would struggle to do this. But I know those guys will handle it right."

The Bills can't really complain about who the Colts play and for how long because they'll likely see the good side of that scenario in their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Pittsburgh Steelers may be trying to win, but they won't do it with sensational rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and minimal use of Jerome (The Bus) Bettis, if at all.

Oddsmakers have given their best analysis of the situation -- the Bills 9 1/2 and Broncos 8 1/2-point favourites. Both would be underdogs if their games meant something.

The Colts do have some minor incentive beyond "staying sharp." They might want to take at least the first half to see how that well-oiled offence works outdoors in cold weather. It's possible Indy could be forced to win tough playoff games in both Pittsburgh and New England to advance to the Super Bowl.

About that call Moulds made to his pal, Marvin Harrison?

"Marvin said that he and Peyton Manning may only play about a quarter," Moulds told the Buffalo News. "But I was trying to tell him to ask Tony Dungy to let them play at least a half and let Peyton try to add to his touchdown record.

"Marvin said he would mention it to Coach Dungy. Hopefully those guys will go out to Denver and play well."

BABBLING BROOKS

The way New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks was blathering this week you would think he was the one who had led a team to a Super Bowl.

Brooks stirred the pot leading up to tomorrow's game against Carolina -- a matchup that could send the winner to the playoffs -- by saying there's a reason Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was his backup in N'awlins.

"Jake is a great guy, a good quarterback," Brooks told reporters in New Orleans. "(But) he's on a team that plays well together. I'm the exact opposite. I'm a great quarterback and I'm on a team that's kind of struggling and been very inconsistent a lot of the time.

"I've been able to do some great things. There's no comparison."

Just what "great things" Brooks has been able to do is up for debate. But Delhomme, who nearly led the Panthers to an upset of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, wasn't interested in going to deep into that discussion.

"No, it really doesn't," Delhomme said when asked if babbling Brooks bothered him. "I was there (in New Orleans) and I know the talent they have there.

"I'm here and I'm glad I'm here on a good football team."

RUSH IS ON

The Seattle Seahawks still have to fight to get into the post-season, but running back Shaun Alexander is in another race.

With 1,616 yards, Alexander has a 66-yard lead over the Colts' Edgerrin James and 72 on the Jets' Curtis Martin in the rushing race. Not that Alexander is particularly pumped at the prospect.

"Right now, it's just kind of cool," Alexander said. "Not to take it away from anyone that has won it before, but it's not like the No. 1 thing on my priority list."


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