No Talk of Playoff Scenarios Yet, Colts QB-Peyton Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Inside the Colts, the storyline remains the same.
Peyton Manning, the Colts' nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback, said while many observers may talk of playoff scenarios and what the Colts must do to clinch a postseason position, such things are not discussed much these days around the team.
The focus, Manning says remains on the opponent, solely on the opponent.
And he said that focus begins at the top.
"I really haven't thought about that and we haven't talked about that [postseason scenarios]," Manning said Wednesday afternoon as the Colts (10-0) prepared to play the Houston Texans (5-5) in an AFC South game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.
"[Colts Head] Coach [Jim] Caldwell doesn't really address that with us. He gives us the Houston scouting rejust like he did Baltimore last week and New England the week before. That's really all we prepare for, is going down there and trying to beat Houston. That's kind of been our approach all season. I think it's been a good one.
"We'll figure the rest of it out when the season's over."
The Colts, one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL with New Orleans, can clinch a sixth AFC South title in the last seven seasons Sunday with a victory if Jacksonville (6-4) loses to San Francisco. The Colts also lead the AFC by three games over San Diego (7-3), New England (7-3) and Cincinnati (7-3).
The Colts won five consecutive South titles from 2003-07, making the postseason as a wild card in 2002 and 2008.
"What I talk to them about are the things that put is in position to win," Caldwell said. "I don't talk necessarily about what's going to happen after we win. We try not to get ahead of ourselves. We figure if we prepare like we've been preparing, if we focus in on getting better and if we prepare to win, those other things will take care of themselves – we'll talk about those when the season's over."
The approach, Manning said, marks a difference from past seasons, when then-Head Coach Tony Dungy would outline potential playoff ramifications for a given week.
"I truly think we have taken it one week at a time," Manning said. "One thing that Coach Caldwell doesn't do, he doesn't post where we are in the division. He doesn't really give us the weekly update. He just talks about this game and says 'Let's count them up at the end.'
"I think the team has taken on that approach and is just truly worried about the next game in front of us every single week."
The Colts, who have won a franchise-record 19 consecutive regular-season games, not only are two victories shy of tying the NFL record for consecutive regular-season victories, they are 10-0 for the second time in five seasons.
"I guess we really haven't taken much time to reflect on that," Manning said. "I think even our young guys realize how hard it is to win. . . . They've seen how close our last two games are, and how we've had close wins. Were we fortunate to win? I don't know. That's up for opinion. But we ended up getting the win. I think our guys, because of the kind of games we've had, have realized that it is tough to win in this league, and you never take winning for granted."
The Colts' matchup Sunday will be their fourth division game of the season, and their second matchup with the Texans this month. The Colts beat the Texans, 20-17, at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, and Manning said the quick turnaround between games is "really unique."
"They had a bye week after us, then a Monday night game," Manning said of the Texans, who lost to the Tennessee Titans, 20-17, this past Monday. "There's really only one additional game to study. Obviously, you can study a lot from the time we played them. They'll be fresh. They've had a bye week and we've had two tough, emotional games.
"Going down there to Houston is always a tough place to play. We've always had close games down there. It will be a challenge. It's a team we're familiar with, but they're familiar with us.
"It kind of comes down to who executes better."
Preparing for Houston, Manning said, becomes a bit trickier – not because of the 20 days between games, but also because it is the second time the teams will have played this season.
Since the AFC South's inception, Indianapolis is 35-10 in division games – 20-4 in first meetings of the season against division opponents and 15-6 in second meetings. The Colts are 14-1 all-time against Houston, with their lone loss in the series coming in the second meeting between the teams in 2006 in Houston.
"You prepare for what you've seen on film, but you also have a little preparation for the unexpected, for something new," said Manning, who has thrown for 4,177 yards and 34 touchdowns with six interceptions in 15 games against Houston. "There's always, a lot of times, a change in a team's game plan the second time around. They could give you something totally different that you hadn't seen before.
"You have to be prepared to adjust to that. At the same time, some of the things that worked for them the first time you probably expect to see some of those things again. Some of the things that worked for us the first time, we could still try to do those things and the things we didn't do well, try to do them better."