LOOKING INWARD

With Divisional Playoff opponent unknown, Colts return to something close to training camp mode for postseason bye week.

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Colts Focus on Fundamentals During Postseason Bye Week

INDIANAPOLIS – Whatever the future holds, it holds.

And because the Colts can't control next week, and because they don't yet know which of three possibilities will be their first opponent in the postseason, this week is being spent in something as close to training-camp mode as is possible in the NFL.

The focus is on fundamentals. The focus is on details.

And through it all, the focus remains on continuing good health.

"As a team, you hope to have all your players available, everybody healthy," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said Wednesday after the first of three bye-week practices the team is scheduled to hold this week at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

"You just try to have good weeks of preparation. We have two weeks this time. It's imant to use this week for what it is, to kind of prepare to get your team better. Then, next week you prepare specifically for the upcoming opponent, whoever that may be."

The Colts (14-2), who won their first 14 regular-season games and clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed with three weeks remaining in the regular season, are one of four NFL teams this week with a first-round postseason bye. Because they are the No. 1 seed, there are three teams they could play when they play host to an AFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 16 at 8:15 p.m.

If the Baltimore Ravens (9-7) beat the New England Patriots (10-6) in New England in an AFC Wild Card game Sunday at 1 p.m., the Colts will play the Ravens in the divisional round. Indianapolis beat Baltimore, 17-15, in Baltimore on November 22.

It the Patriots win, the Colts will play the winner of the New York Jets-Cincinnati Bengals Wild Card game, which will be played Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

The Jets (9-7) beat the Colts, 29-15, two weeks ago in a game the Colts led, 15-10, until removing several front-line players late in the third quarter. The Colts lost to the Bengals, 38-7, in the preseason finale.

"We have three opponents we could possibly play," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "Rather than dilute your practice with just focusing in on a couple of teams not knowing who you ultimately will play, we would rather get some good work in and concentrate on ourselves.

"We'll do a little bit more individual work. We'll work on our fundamentals and technique. . . . We also do a little bit more competitive drills with our offensive starters versus our defensive starters."

While such work doesn't focus on scheme, it does focus on execution and timing, Caldwell said.

"Those things, I think, benefit you in the long run," Caldwell said. "We take a couple of areas we feel we may have been weak in. We concentrate on those areas and focus in to try and get some of the problems solved this week as well."

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne called the week "training-camp mode."

"You go into it just working on little things and do that to the best of your ability," Wayne said. "You take all of the things we felt like we needed to get better in and focus on those, and make them perfect.

"You get a chance to just focus on yourself a little bit and not a team, per se. This is an opportunity for us to have the training camp mentality – just going in, getting better and focusing on little things."

The Colts will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, then return to practice on Tuesday to begin preparation for the first playoff game.

"On the field, the idea is just to try to improve," Manning said. "You try to keep your fundamentals sharp. From a preparation standpoint, I think your theme is, 'How can the Colts get better?' Years ago, I stopped trying to play the guessing game as to who we're going to play, and who I think is going to win. I'm not very good at that. It's another week for us to improve. We're going to get some good work in. We're going to practice the whole week. We have a lot of guys out there, some guys that haven't been practicing that are back practicing, which is a positive. (We're) just trying to use this week to improve our team.

"You're looking for a lot of tempo, guys flying around. You're not out there for an extremely long period of time. We're practicing in the mornings, which is different. Coaches will use the afternoon to study film. Players will lift weights. But the idea is to get in and get out, and keep your mind and bodies fresh. The idea is to have crisp practices."

Come this weekend, Manning, Caldwell and Wayne all said they will watch the Wild Card games. Manning said he is looking forward to watching the games, and Caldwell said there is much to be learned from the process, especially now that games are televised in HD.

Wayne, for his part, said while he knew which teams he wanted to win this weekend, he opted to not share that Wednesday.

"Come Friday evening to Sunday night, I'm a true fan," he said. "I'll be sitting in front of the TV with some friends, and I'll watch the game and cheer. It's a good feeling to be in and hopefully it will work out for us."

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