MAKE IT, TAKE IT

The Colts (7-6) will play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5) Sunday in a key AFC South game. 'We have a great opportunity ahead of us,' Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Monday.

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Caldwell Says Colts' Situation Entering Final Three Weeks Very Clear
INDIANAPOLIS – As Jim Caldwell sees it, it's all pretty simple.

Caldwell, in his second season as the Colts' head coach, said that's not only true of the comparatively straightforward post-season possibilities facing the team, but of this week's opponent in a very critical late-season game.

The Colts need to win. That's simple. And the opponent? The Jacksonville Jaguars?

While Caldwell said there is nothing easy about playing the Colts' AFC South rivals, the reality is there's not much complex facing either team in preparations.

The teams have played often. Their systems seldom change from year-to-year.

Caldwell said that means come Sunday there will be few surprises.

"Obviously, we are where we are," Caldwell said Monday afternoon as the Colts (7-6) prepared to play the AFC South-leading Jaguars (8-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.

"They are two teams that basically don't change a whole lot from one point to the next."

Caldwell did offer an addendum to that thought about the Jaguars.

While the Jaguars, who beat the Colts, 31-28, on a 59-yard, last-play field goal by Josh Scobee in Week 3, have essentially the same approach as always under eighth-year coach Jack Del Rio, they have improved drastically in recent weeks.

The Jaguars, who rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat the Oakland Raiders, 38-31, at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, have won five of six games after a 3-4 start.

"They're still doing the same things, and they're doing them better," Caldwell said. "That's our challenge. They're playing awfully well right now, so it's a real challenge for us. They're certainly not overlooked by us. They are a very, very tough team. They're a tough team to deal with and a tough team to play. They're a very well-coached group.

"They're going to give you all they've got. It's going to be one of those games: whoever executes best and makes the fewest mistakes is going to win."

The Colts, who played in the Super Bowl last season, have won six of the past seven AFC South titles, and have made the post-season an NFL-best eight consecutive seasons. In five of those seasons – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and last season – they had clinched the AFC South title entering the season's final game, and in 2002, 2003 and 2008 they entered the regular-season finale with at least post-season appearance clinched.

The last time the Colts made the playoffs without clinching a post-season appearance entering the regular-season finale was 2000, when they won their final three games to make the playoffs as a wild card.

"It's a make-it-take-it situation," Caldwell said. "I used that term last week, and I think it's probably appropriate. It's a game we all played back on the old basketball courts. If you were able to get a string going and able to stay out there and keep playing, it was your ball. That's the way it is.

"One of the things I've learned over the years is you have to navigate where you are, not where you wish you were or where you have been previously. It's where you are right now.

"What I'm looking at is the fact that we have a great opunity ahead of us against a challenging team in a great setting. We play them at home. It's going to be an exciting ballgame."

The Jaguars and Colts have played 17 times since the 2002 inception of the AFC South, with the Colts winning 12 times. The last six meetings have been decided by seven points or less, with the Colts winning four times and the Jaguars winning this season and in Indianapolis, 23-21, in Week 3 of the 2007 regular season.

"Within our division, it's kind of the way it is," Caldwell said. "It's just a tough division that's highly competitive where you have a lot of teams that play well against one another. When you think about that, how tight it is and how tough it is, there's not much room for error.

"That, I think, is the way it's going to be."

Caldwell on Monday said most of the players who missed Thursday's game with injuries remain uncertain for Sunday.

The Colts, who have placed 15 players on injured reserve this season, played Thursday's 30-28 victory over Tennessee without running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, linebacker Clint Session, wide receiver Austin Collie and cornerback Kelvin Hayden.

Offensive linemen Charlie Johnson and Jamey Richard also left Thursday's game, with five offensive linemen dressed at the end of the game.

Session likely will practice more this week, Caldwell said, while he said the others are "still day to day."

"We're hoping there's a possibility we could get a few guys back, but I don't know who that's going to be," Caldwell said. "I tend to wait until the medical people say, 'Hey, he has been released to go play.''

Colts players had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before returning to the facility Monday. They will have their normal Tuesday off then full-scale preparations for Jacksonville will begin Wednesday.

"I know it helped us," Caldwell said. "It certainly helped us in just the amount of turnaround time for those guys who even played in the ballgame (against Tennessee) to kind of recuperate and get their bodies back to feeling good. I think that's key, and that's important to us.

"But even for the guys who had not been playing, getting those few extra days will maybe get us a chance to get a guy or two back – maybe."

Caldwell said the extended period between games could benefit the Colts as much mentally as physically.

"I think that's a huge part of it," Caldwell said. "The mental is to the physical 10-1. I'm a real believer in that. The mind has a big part to play – getting your mind in the right position to be able to perform effectively through some of these very, very difficult times – with a little adversity facing you.

"That was key. A little respite helps in those areas."

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