INDIANAPOLIS – Before heading into the final calendar month of the year with five regular season games, the Colts (6-4) will close out November and their AFC East schedule with the Buffalo Bills (4-6) on Sunday.
Indianapolis will be playing at Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time in three weeks and has controlled its home field with a 4-1 record this season.
As playoff discussions arise occasionally, Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians continues to preach the day-to-day schedule of the NFL and wants to keep that entrenched in his players' mind.
"We talk about the process all the time, it has to be consistent every week. Win, lose or draw you put that behind you Monday night and you move on," Arians said.
Buffalo currently sits two games behind the Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC Wild Card spots.
Just like the Colts did last week, the Bills are coming off an extended break after defeating the Dolphins, 19-14, on November 15.
The Bills offense has been streaky this season, putting up at least 31 points in two of the past four games.
Arians called the unit "explosive" and credits speed at the skill positions.
"(Running back) C.J. Spiller can score at the drop of a hat. (Ryan Fitzpatrick) is a streaky player, I mean he can really get on a roll," Arians said.
"They probably lead the league in screen yardage. They've got every type of screen known to man. Middle screens, running backs are devastating on screen passes, and they do a very good job of their screen game. They are the best in the league, I think they're averaging 11 yards per completion on a screen."
Spiller has been the feature back for the majority of the season as running back Fred Jackson is recovering from a concussion.
In just his third season in the NFL, Spiller is a big reason why Arians is so complimentary of the Bills screen attack. Spiller has gone over 100 yards from scrimmage in the last five games, and he leads the NFL with 6.6 yards per carry (109 attempts for 723 yards).
Wide receiver Stevie Johnson is a big-play threat in the passing game for Fitzpatrick. Johnson put his name among the great Bills receivers last year when he became the first Buffalo wideout to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons (2010-11).
"Stevie is a guy who is great versus one-on-one coverage. He has shown time and again that is a favorable matchup for us, really with any corner in the league we think that is a favorable matchup," Fitzpatrick said.
"Being an emotional guy, he is kind of the emotional leader of our group. He brings a lot to the table because he has been here. We all know his story, not being a name or anything like that. He just fits in, kind of epitomizes what we do here in Buffalo."
Buffalo's Chan Gailey is in his third season as Bills head coach and cannot point his finger as to why his team has been inconsistent this season.
This offseason the Bills addressed some needs on defense and signed former No. 1 pick Mario Williams. His 5.5 sacks lead the team and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams (5.0 sacks) has paired with the former Houston Texans standout to from a pretty impressive defensive front.
The duo will be applying pressure to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on Sunday while trying to limit a rushing attack that has been successful lately.
Luck's 2,695 passing yards through 10 games are the most among rookie quarterbacks in NFL history.
In five home games this season, Luck has eight touchdowns compared to just two interceptions, and Gailey has been impressed with the rookie's progress.
"An exceptional football player, very poised for a rookie, plays well under pressure and handles the game extremely well," Gailey said of Luck.
The task of defending Luck will be one thing for Gailey, but his team is also going up against a Colts squad that has not suffered consecutive losses all year long.
Arians credited the veterans inside the Colts locker room for the team's success in bouncing back from losses and does not expect that to change this weekend.
"If you bask in the sunlight of a win, you're going to get beat. If you pout and worry about getting beat, you'll get beat again," Arians said.
"It's back to work. The Buffalo Bills are a great challenge, and we need to protect our home turf and get win number seven no matter what the cost."
Bills 30, Colts 7 – January 3, 2010
With a 14-1 record and snow falling in Buffalo, the Colts' starting offense played just three series before making way for the second unit in a game that had no playoff implications for Indianapolis. Indianapolis already had wrapped the No. 1 seed in the AFC prior to the regular season finale. The Colts' offense played three series because Head Coach Jim Caldwell wanted to get the unit some more work after an opening drive interception by quarterback Peyton Manning. Buffalo took advantage of the interception with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finding running back Fred Jackson for an 11-yard touchdown to open up the scoring. The Colts responded with a 12-play, 72-yard touchdown drive after running back Mike Hart plunged in from one-yard out. After the Colts' starters exited early in the second quarter, the Bills began to take control. Fitzpatrick would throw his second touchdown of the afternoon, this one from 21 yards out to wide receiver Lee Evans. Down 14-7, Colts quarterback Curtis Painter fumblde on the next possession and Fitzpatrick wasted no time finding wide receiver Terrell Owens for a 41-yard touchdown. Painter was picked off on the Colts' next play from scrimmage and Bills kicker Rian Lindell added a late field goal to give Buffalo a 24-7 halftime lead. Lindell connected on a pair of third-quarter field goals to complete the scoring on the afternoon. For the game, Jackson had a career-high 33 carries for 212 yards, while Fitzpatrick was impressive in the adverse conditions with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
*Bills running back C.J. Spiller versus the Colts front seven: *After taking a break from the shifty backs of Chris Johnson and Reggie Bush, the Colts defense now has the challenge of trying to stop Spiller. In just three seasons in the NFL, Spiller has become an electric weapon for the Bills offense and his 6.6 yards per carry leads the NFL. The Colts had success in limiting Johnson and Bush and seem to be extremely healthy in the front seven with defensive end Cory Redding (hip) being the lone question mark this weekend.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus the Bills defense: It is no secret that Luck has found more success at home than away from Lucas Oil Stadium. While the Colts will worry about the road problems next week, they hope the production at home continues. Luck has eight touchdowns and two interceptions in his five games at home this season and the emergence of rookies Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton in the receiving department have given him a few more weapons.
-The Colts have won six of their past seven meetings with the Bills.
-Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has five 300-yard passing games this season, which is the most all-time by a rookie.
-Running back Vick Ballard ranks second among AFC rookies with 386 rush yards.
-Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (1,003) has recorded his eighth season with 1,000 receiving yards.
-Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had his third 100-yard receiving game of the season last week, which is the most among NFL rookies.
-Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is looking for his fifth straight home game with a sack.
-Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had three touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last meeting with the Colts.
-Bills running back Fred Jackson had a career-high 212 rushing yards on 33 carries in his last meeting with the Colts.
-Bills tight end Scott Chandler is tied for third among AFC tight ends with 11 touchdown catches.
-Since entering the NFL in 2009, Bills safety Jairus Byrd is tied for third in the NFL with 17 interceptions.
-Bills punt returner Leodis McKelvin leads the league with a 21.9-yard punt return average.
Colts Interim Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians(on what it says that team has not lost consecutive games):
"I think it talks about the veteran leadership we have in our locker room. They're the best I've been around. They are continually harping on these young guys on what it takes to win. Fortunately, we've been able to come back home after those losses and win. This is another one we need to make sure we take care of the homefield advantage we have. The 12th Man again needs to be outstanding, like they've always been, especially against this offense."
Colts Interim Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians(on the idea of rookie fatigue):
"We have eight (rookies) playing. We address it all the time. I started two weeks ago harassing them about the rookie wall and what to expect. It's more of a mental fatigue than a physical fatigue. They're all doing a good job of taking care of their bodies right now. They're running fast and doing those things. It's the mental grind, and this is when the big boys play, December. What you did in November doesn't mean a dag-gone thing. It's what you do in December that they remember. These guys have a chance to do something special, if they'll just stay in the moment, not worry about the future, take care of their bodies, take care of each day. I told a couple of them it's the first (week), and I've been in the NFL 20 years, we've two rookie captains. I've never seen it. They're not rookies any more. They've logged enough snaps to be second- or third-year players by now. We don't consider them rookies any more, so there's no such thing as a rookie wall, unless you got here three weeks ago."
Colts Interim Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians(on when he thought T.Y. Hilton could be special and when he is reminded Hilton's still a rookie):
"I think, really, it was back in the spring, he flew by a couple guys in practice and it was like, 'This guy's got some speed.' Then he missed the rest of the OTAs. He was only out there one day and he re-aggravated an injury from a bowl game that set him back. Then in training camp, probably not until one of the early preseason games, I saw the speed actually show up for the first time. Then he just got better and better from there. I'm very pleased with him as a wide receiver. As a kick returner, he looks like a rookie a lot of times, but he's getting better each week. I think we're all surprised that he's got three 100-yard games, but he can run fast and he gets behind people. He can take a short one and take it to the house. I'd like to see him get a little bit better at some of those screens and take one of those to the house."
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck(on how he plans to progress after Patriots game):
"I think not repeating your mistakes is something I try as a player. I think a lot of guys try and use that as a measuring stick for getting better. I think we are on the right path of not making the same mistakes twice. I don't know how difficult it is. For us, we realize what's at stake for this Buffalo game. We know that we have to fix the mistakes from the past game and other games before for a chance to win."
Colts defensive end Cory Redding(on what makes Buffalo of concern):
"It's just the weapons they have. They have two outstanding backs, both of them elusive, fast and quick. They have a quarterback who can get the ball down the field, receivers whocan run deep and intermediate routes that give guys trouble. Like any other team we play every week, they pose lot of weapons and trouble. On defense, we have to stay fundamentally sound, know where we're supposed to be, be there when the play is to be made and make our plays. Don't press. Continue to do what we did in the four-game stretch we had – great games, good effort, good plays. We have to get back to that. We haven't lost it. We got our butts whipped by a good team. You have to man up, own up to it and move on. We have Buffalo this week, and we're getting ready for it. You win some and lose some. Learn from it and move on."
Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey(on if season has been hit-and-miss for his team):
"Well, I think that describes it fairly well. We have played well at times and we have played poorly at times. We have very seldom played sort of in-between. We have yet to put a whole game together. Maybe the Kansas City game, the second game of the season we hit on all phases, but we have to become more consistent to be a contender."
Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey(on reasons for team's inconsistency):
"I think we just have not been able to do it for whatever reason. If I could put my finger on it, I would have already solved the problem. We just have not been able to do it yet. Hopefully, we are improving and getting better. Our defense is getting to know each other a little bit better with the new scheme. Hopefully, we are coming around defensively and we have to be more consistent in areas offensively, red zone and third down, to be where we need to be there."
Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey(on if he talks playoffs to team or lets it happen on own):
"You talk about it. It is not like you stick your head in the sand and say it does not exist but at the same time, you have to take it this game. You have to go play this game. I have always said you play as hard as you can play, you look up after game 12 and you kind of see where you are. To me you just play as hard as you can play right now and try to get better as a football team. After game 12, you kind of see where you are, evaluate it and what your chances are."
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick(on this season has been up-and-down):
"No. We just have been very inconsistent this year and it is something where we are trying to still find our rhythm. There have been games we have been very good. There have been games we have been very bad. It is not just one phase of the game. We have done some great things in the red zone and had games where we could not score. We have done great things on third down and had games where we could not convert. It is just a matter of us being consistent and everybody being on the same page. I think our confidence level now is as high as it has been all season, so it is headed in the right direction."
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick(on if been impressed with Andrew Luck):
"Yeah, I am very impressed. The thing for me, I am probably looking at things a lot differently than everybody else just because I am a quarterback but the mental aspects of the game, the way he carries himself and the way guys respond to him – that stuff is all evident to me. You can go out there and have a game with a few turnovers and people get on you a little bit, but the way that you respond to those turnovers. He is not shy to throw the ball anywhere. I was really impressed more so with his mental toughness in the mental aspects of his game."