INDIANAPOLIS – When asked earlier this week about the meaning of Sunday’s contest, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians did not hesitate with his answer.
“Well, this is a playoff game for us. We’re in a situation where we’re tied for that last Wild Card spot and every week’s a playoff game. Every week we’re in a playoff mode right now that if we lose, we’re out.”
A few hours later, Chuck Pagano was asked about his own team’s outlook after hearing Arians’ comments.
“And us,” Pagano said of the playoff atmosphere. “It’s them and the same thing for us. So our guys, it’s all playoff football right now.”
Different implications reside for each team on Sunday but there’s no denying the importance a win could do for the Colts (7-3) or Cardinals (6-4).
With wins the next two weeks, the Colts could clinch the AFC South and secure a playoff berth with four games left in the regular season.
The first half of that scenario comes this weekend with the Colts hitting the road to face one of the game’s elite defenses.
All season long the Cardinals have ranked near the top in several defensive categories but it’s their offense that has taken off during the team’s current three-game winning streak.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is fitting right into Arians’ offense that is looking to stretch the field at every chance.
The veteran Palmer also carries out the same message that his head coach told the Indianapolis media earlier this week.
“We’re in a must-win situation from here on out,” Palmer said. ”The urgency and the timing of this game is huge. We understand where we are, and (Arians) lets us know about it, so we understand the situation and we’re playing this game like it’s a playoff game.”
From the Colts perspective, executing on third-downs is the major focus in trying to end their streak of sluggish starts.
That is especially true with the month of December approaching and a playoff contenting team awaiting on their home field this weekend.
The Colts currently sit at the No. 2 spot in the AFC Playoff Picture.
With over a third of the regular season remaining, there is a significant amount of shuffling that can take place over the next six weeks.
For now, it’s a playoff approach in Week 12 of the regular season and don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
“No doubt about it. November, December are all playoff mindsets from here on out,” defensive end
“We don’t want that. We worked too doggone hard the last two years to build what we built, to be where we’re at now. Me, myself, personally, my teammates, Chuck (Pagano), this organization, we’re not just going to stand by and watch everything we worked so hard for go down in flames. We’re going to go out fighting. We’re going to give our best effort. Whether it’s a slow start or not, we’re still going to give our best effort, still going to put our good foot forward because we deserve it. Nobody’s going to give it to us, we got to go out there and take it. We got to prove it every week. It’s another opportunity to do it.”
Cardinals wide receivers versus Colts secondary: There isn’t a better pair of receivers on the same team that are better at going up and attacking the football than Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Carson Palmer is coming off a 411-yard passing effort last week and has played extremely well during the Cardinals three-game winning streak. Having
Colts rushing attack versus the Cardinals front seven: Coming off a 137-yard rushing night last Thursday, the Colts ground game will face a stiff test this weekend. The Cardinals have allowed just 81.4 rushing yards per game, which is second fewest in the NFL. Arizona has the second most tackles for loss in the NFL and has allowed just one 100-yard rusher in 2013 (Frank Gore-101 yards).
-The Colts have won five of their past six games against the NFC and are 4-1 on the road in 2013.
-Colts cornerback Greg Toler played for the Cardinals from 2009-2012.
-Colts outside linebacker
-Cardinals outside linebacker John Abraham has seven sacks and three forced fumbles in his past four games.
-Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers (2009-2012), offensive tackle Bradley Sowell (2012), quarterback Drew Stanton (2012) and cornerback/receiver Teddy Williams (2012) all used to play for the Colts.
-Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is the only player in the NFL with at least 10 interceptions (12) and three punt returns for touchdowns (4).
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano (on if this Arizona defense is the best the Colts have seen this year):
-“You could argue that. They’re really good, front to back. Got playmakers at all three levels. The front is outstanding. The linebackers are very, very active, athletic and fast, make a lot of plays. The secondary is really good. You could argue that. They’re ninth in total defense, second against the run, pretty impressive.”
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano (on if he sees Bruce Arians’ offense in the Cardinals):
-“Run it and throw it down the field as far as you can and complete a lot of them. He’s been doing it a long time. He’s a great play caller. We all know that. You see a lot of similarities in there and he’s utilizing their talent very well.”
Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck (on the opportunistic Cardinals defense):
-“Very salty defense. They play hard. They do a good of stuffing the run. They got a good front seven and a really talented secondary. They play hard too. You turn on the film, you see guys flying to the football, getting hands on the football. You see number 32 (Tyrann) Mathieu running down and causing a fumble at the one-yard line on a big play. We know it’s going to be tough, tough sledding, but we’re looking forward to it. It will be a great challenge.”
Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians (on what losing
-“Oh yeah, it’s like taking the heartbeat out. Reggie was more than just a great player. All those young guys leaned on Reggie for the words of wisdom every week. ‘How do I do it, Reg? What do I do, Reg?’ And Reg was as good as I’ve ever been around at telling them the right things and being very, very steady on game day. Right now you can tell they’re a little bit of a roller coaster at times, they play really hot and really cold because they do miss Reggie.”
Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians (on his relationship with current Cardinals and former Colts coach Tom Moore):
-“It’s been great. He’s my sounding board. And Tom is so good with Carson (Palmer) on the sidelines. Freddie Kitchens is the quarterback coach, he’s upstairs. And Tom, assistant head coach, offense, he runs all our walk-throughs, does a lot of stuff. Harold Goodwin’s offensive coordinator and does the running game and everything, but yeah it’s just that steady presence. He’s been there and done it all. We got the same thing on defense with Tom Pratt. Believe it or not, he’s a little bit older than Tom Moore. He coached in Super Bowl I. So those guys are just steady influences and great sources of knowledge of the game for our young coaches.
Cardinals Quarterback Carson Palmer (on what he has seen from Andrew Luck):
-“He’s a phenomenal player. There’s no way around it. I watched him play a bunch in college, being another Pac-12 quarterback, and you could just see it. I’m not saying anything anybody else hasn’t said. Very good player. Very good skillset. Can do a lot of things that a lot of guys can’t. He’s patient. He’s decisive when he makes decisions. You can’t say enough about what he’s done and I don’t think there’s been anybody else that’s been close. There’s been some other guys and there’s been talk with RGIII and stuff, but nobody’s played as well as he has. Learning this offense, I had a chance to watch every game they played in last year. Nothing he’s done this year surprised me.”