INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis has won three of its past four games and has reached 7-3 with six games left in the season.
A resilient Colts team has fought through slow starts and personnel losses to sit currently in the AFC’s second playoff seed.
Nothing is clinched, but the positioning for Indianapolis is good through 10 games.
This Sunday, the Colts go to Arizona, and here are SEVEN VICTORY KEYS:
SWEEP REUNIONS – The Colts have been particularly adept this year at handling possibly distracting storylines buzzing around games.
FLEENER FAB FOUR – At Tennessee,
FIRST HALF THIRD DOWNS – Slow starts are more than an unpopular discussion point, they have had a nagging presence this year. At Tennessee, the Colts were able to have four different drives that produced at least four first downs. Those four drives accounted for 21:19 of the team’s 32:23 possession time, and they all came after Tennessee had taken a 14-0 lead. Those drives also produced 20 of the team’s 30 points. The Colts converted five third downs on those drives, including the only two they did in the first half among (on six tries). Pagano pointed out this week the club has converted a low percentage of first half third downs (three-of-20, 15 percent) in the last three games, compared to 13-of-21 (62%) for opponents. Reversing that key area could adjust the 66-9 first-half scoreboard differential the Colts have suffered during that span. Converting early third downs can stop recent woes.
DESERT SWARM – Carson Palmer has been hot in the Cardinals’ three-game winning streak with a high rating, six touchdowns and a near-70 percent completion rate. He has big targets and a very competent rushing attack. Getting pressure on him is a must, given the proficiency a passing attack can have under the eyes of Arians and Tom Moore. Observers of history know the first talk on Monday those two had centered around protection. It was a practice hatched in Indianapolis in 1998 when they shared a staff with Howard Mudd.
MAINTAIN ROAD MINDSET – At 4-1, the Colts have thrived away from home with a road mark that is near the best in the league. Chuck Pagano hones his team to treat every game the same regardless of venue. Indianapolis is 8-3 under Pagano in the last 11 road dates. The Colts need to keep that firm mindset of focusing on themselves and blotting out all other distractions.
MATCH PLAYOFF WITH PLAYOFF – Sometimes a team meets another that is desperate and will do almost anything because there is nothing to lose. The Colts face an Arizona team that is not desperate but must do all it can to keep playoff hopes alive. The Cardinals are tied with San Francisco in the division but lost at the 49ers already. Arizona has beaten Carolina, but is one game behind the 7-3 Panthers. It has been enunciated that this is playoff time for the Cardinals. Ditto for the Colts. In reality, Indianapolis has room in the AFC South, but there is no room in vying for playoff seeding. Indianapolis currently sits second at 7-3, owning a tiebreaker over the Patriots (New England has no wiggle room, nor does its opponent, 9-1 Denver). There is a huge difference between the two and three seed, just as this could be a make-or-break time for Arizona. Match playoff need with playoff quest.
QUOTE TO NOTE (Chuck Pagano on the job Arians did with Andrew Luck)
“Bruce did a great job with Andrew. Bruce has done a great job with every quarterback he’s tutored. We know what he did with Ben (Roethlisberger), what he did with Peyton (Manning). Bruce has had success at any stop along the way from a mentoring standpoint.”