INDIANAPOLIS— The old adage of the "next game is the most important" is often heard around the Colts locker room.
As the Colts prepare in a short week for the team nipping at them in the AFC South, the saying might even take on an added emphasis this week.
The Colts currently sit at 6-3 with the Titans, at 4-5, the only team within four games of the division leaders.
A win on Thursday night would give the Colts a three-game lead in the division with six weeks left in the regular season. It would also give the Colts a tiebreaker over every team in the AFC South with home games against all three divisional teams coming in December.
Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck spent the last two seasons with the Titans and after 15 years in the NFL, he certainly knows the meaning of Thursday night's game.
"Division games mathematically are a little bit more important so we are going to approach this game like we do every game but one thing that Coach Pagano has said from the get-go is, 'We would like put a stranglehold on this division.'
"The only way to do that is to win the games that you get to play in the division and that is exactly what this one is," Hasselbeck says.
Last year, these two teams met in Nashville to close out the month of October.
Both teams sat with three wins as the Colts were trying to look for their first road victory of 2012.
It was a 19-16 overtime victory by the Colts that carried them into an 11-5 regular season record, while the Titans ended the year at 6-10.
This year's meeting might come in a condensend week from a preparation standpoint but there's no hiding the significance within the division.
"We control our own destiny and we can make things a heck of a lot easier on ourselves by going down there and winning the football game," head coach Chuck Pagano said. "We talked about it, but we didn't have to say much about it. They know what's at stake and the ramifications between winning and losing this football game."
Thursday's contest for the Colts will be the first of two games in three weeks (Dec. 1 game in Indianapolis) against the Titans.
The Colts players have seen the division standings and know what's at stake on Thursday.
"Every game is important but it ain't nothing like a divisional game. A division game is like a playoff game," defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said. "Getting closer to a division title takes the pressure off of having to worry about other teams around the league to get you into the playoffs."
Playing the Titans twice in three weeks will have a tremendous impact on who the AFC South representative will be come January.
For now the focus is on a trip to Nashville and a chance to put what happened on Sunday firmly behind the Colts.
"All of our goals are still ahead of us," defensive end Cory Redding said earlier this week. "Even though we lost (Sunday), our division helped us out a little bit.
"All of our dreams are still there. All we got to do is continue to keep getting better, keep fighting, keep playing and the rest will take care of itself."