INDIANAPOLIS –With the regular season distilled to six remaining games, two teams that are not common opponents are taking a common approach.
The 7-3 Colts and 6-4 Cardinals view Sunday's game at Arizona as a playoff battle.
"In a nutshell, every game is no slips," said Robert Mathis. "Every game is a playoff game, for positioning, seeding, things of that nature. It ramps up a little bit."
Indianapolis owns a 5-2 to 4-2 edge in conference records over New England (also 7-3), thus the Colts have a nose ahead of the Patriots as games begin approaching Thanksgiving.
The only teams with better records are division mates Kansas City and Denver at 9-1. The team that does not win the West would move into the Wild Card round despite its record.
With a three-game lead over Tennessee in the South, Indianapolis is not in a giving mood for Sunday, or beyond.
"No doubt about it," said Cory Redding of this being playoff mode. "November, December is all playoff mindset from here on out."
The Colts have won three of their last four. Arizona has won its last three games and is side-by-side with San Francisco in the NFC West.
"This is a playoff game for us," said Bruce Arians. "We're in a situation where we're tied for that last Wild Card spot and every week's a playoff game.
"We can't get behind with Carolina (7-3) winning. We've got to be chasing them and sitting on their heels. Every week we're in a playoff mode right now that if we lose, we're out."
Arizona posted a win over Carolina in October before losing consecutive games to the 49ers and Seattle. Since then, the Cardinals have swept Atlanta, Houston and Jacksonville to get back in the hunt.
Told Arizona was invoking the post-season mode, Chuck Pagano said the same applies to his team.
"And us (too)," said Pagano. "It's them and the same thing for us. So our guys, it's all playoff football right now."
Last year, the Colts chased Houston into week 15 before a road loss there handed the Texans the division crown. The 11-5 Colts had to visit 10-6 Baltimore in the Wild Card Playoffs.
Should the Colts and Tennessee (4-6) have the same outcome this weekend and Indianapolis beat the Titans next Sunday in Indianapolis, the AFC South title will be clinched.
In the immediate sights are the Cardinals, and the Colts will be trying to better their 4-1 record away from home.
"This is another week for us to go out on the road and get another tough win against a team that has a lot of play-makers on both sides of the ball and against a head coach we know very well," said Redding. "It's going to be a huge challenge for us."
VINATIERI HONORED – For the 14th time in an 18-year career, Adam Vinatieri has been named AFC Special Teams Player-of-the-Week for his three field goals in the club's 30-27 win at Tennessee. Vinatieri (791) moved past Dean Biasucci into second-place in Colts career scoring, and his 50-yarder was his 20th from that range, tying him for 19th in NFL history.
T.Y. Hilton was the last Colt to earn the award on special teams (week 12, 2012), while Andrew Luck (week 7) earned the weekly honor this season.
PERSONNEL NEWS – Erik Walden's one-game suspension for a personal foul during the Tennessee game is official for this Sunday. Walden's appeal was denied, and he will return against Tennessee on December 1.
Bjoern Werner will make his first career start in Walden's place. "He can be and will be a good edge-setter in the run game, and he gives you pass rush capabilities," said Pagano.
The Colts signed RB-Chris Rainey (5-9, 180), a Florida product who played 16 games with Pittsburgh in 2012 after being a fifth-round pick that year. Rainey also returned punts and kickoffs.
COLTS IN PRO BOWL FAN VOTING (AFC POSITION) – Andrew Luck (2nd-319,199; Peyton Manning, Den, 654,309); ILB-Jerrell Freeman (4th-48,945; Alonso Kiko, Buf, 188,153; Derrick Johnson, KC, 76,040; Paul Posluszny, Jax, 54,263); OLB-Robert Mathis (3rd-158,486; Tamba Hali, KC, 169,597; Terrell Suggs, Bal, 167,522); SS-Antoine Bethea (6th-32,697; Eric Berry, KC, 82,770; Troy Polamalu, Pit, 50,987; Aaron Williams, Buf, 39,076; T.J. Ward, Cle, 37,043; Duke Ihenacho, Den, 34,483); K-Adam Vinatieri (4th-32,358; Stephen Gostkowski, NE, 105,182; Nick Folk, NYJ, 78,764; Matt Prater, Den, 61,809); P-Pat McAfee (7th-27,286; Dustin Colquitt, KC, 89,051; Brandon Fields, Mia, 47,365; Shane Lechler, Hou, 42,662; Marquette King, Oak, 38,456; Britton Colquitt, Den, 37,518; Ryan Allen, NE, 34,617).
Fan voting will continue online and on web-enabled mobile phones until 6:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 26 by going to www.NFL.com/probowl/ballot. Fans count as one-third of the process, with players and coaches providing the rest of the voting.
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: FB-Stanley Havili (concussion); RB-Dan Herron (ankle), S-LaRon Landry (toe), CB-Greg Toler (groin); Limited Participation: CB-Josh Gordy (groin); Full Participation: WR-Darrius Heyward-Bey (ankle), S-Delano Howell (neck).