Colts Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne Sees Rest of Season Like an Eight-Game Playoff
INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne can't explain it fully.
What the Colts' 10-year veteran wide receiver said he does know is that given his history of production against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he won't be ignored when the teams play at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday with first place in the AFC South at stake.
"I don't know what it is, but I can guarantee you they're going to key on it this week," Wayne said Friday as the Colts (7-6) prepared to play the AFC South-leading Jaguars (8-5) Sunday at 1 p.m.
"Hopefully, we can get it one more time."
Wayne, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, has had more than 100 yards receiving in seven of the last eight games against Jacksonville, and earlier this season, he set a career-high with 15 receptions for 196 yards in a 31-28 loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
Wayne against the Jaguars has six career touchdowns, including a 65-yarder for a game-winning touchdown in a 35-31 Colts victory in Jacksonville last December.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said there's a pretty basic reason for Wayne's success.
"He's a pretty good player," Del Rio said. "Give him a little credit, he's pretty good."
Wayne said he is less concerned with his Jaguars-Colts history than with Sunday's game, a game with serious post-season implications for each team.
The Jaguars, who haven't won a division title since winning the AFC Central in 1999, can clinch their first AFC South title with a victory Sunday.
"You don't want anybody celebrating in your building, whether it's just a normal preseason game or a regular-season game," Wayne said. "It's not a good taste."
The Colts, who have won six of the past seven AFC South titles, can win the division by winning their final three games. They play host to Jacksonville Sunday, visit Oakland (6-7) the following week then finish the regular season with a home game against Tennessee (5-8).
If the Jaguars and Colts finish tied at 10-6, the Colts will win the South because of a better record against common opponents.
"To me, I would much rather have it the way it has been the last seven years," said Wayne, who leads the AFC this season with 94 receptions for 1,213 yards and five touchdowns. "One thing about this (season) is it's right smack in the face. We don't have to worry about needing help, needing this or 'hopefully this, maybe that.'
"Win, and continue to win, and you're good. You lose, most likely you're done."
Wayne is among the NFL leaders in receptions and yards receiving this season despite extended the absences of not only tight end Dallas Clark, but wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie, the latter of whom practiced twice this week. Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Collie is expected to play Sunday.
"The more guys we have back out there, the more powerful we'll be," Wayne said. "We're going to need everybody. But it's definitely a great addition to have Austin back out there."
The Colts, after losing three consecutive games, were 6-6 entering a victory over Tennessee last week, and like many Colts players this week, Wayne said the approach is the same this week as it was last week.
The Colts must win. And they must keep winning.
"It's just like last week – it's just like a playoff," Wayne said. "I look at it like we have an eight-game playoff. To me, what we have in our favor right now is this is not a bad position.
"We know what's at stake. We just have to go out there and get it done."
The Colts, a playoff team the last eight seasons, during that span have trailed in the AFC South in December just twice – the years they made the post-season as a wild-card entrant. They had clinched at least a wild-card berth entering the regular-season finale each of the last seasons. But Wayne said while that's true, having played in played in 16 post-season games it's not as if the Colts never have faced late-season must-win games.
"If you don't think you're a big-time player, you might want to be one," Wayne said. "We're going to need everybody from this point on out. We're going to need everybody to contribute whether you're in there or not. Everybody in some form or fashion is going to have be a part of this.
"At times like this, points like this, you see what everybody's made of. You see who's going to step up to the plate. You're either going to go out swinging, or they're going to catch you looking. Which one are you going to do? You know what I mean.
"I'm swinging my bat. Hopefully, everybody else is swinging theirs."
Wayne also on Friday said he spoke to Colts wide receiver Blair White this week and was in no way upset with the rookie over a play that occurred last Thursday against Tennessee. White dove for a pass in the back of the end zone that was intended for Wayne. White got his hands on the pass, but it fell incomplete.
Wayne was open in the back of the end zone, but said he didn't blame White for the effort.
"That's just the way it goes," Wayne said. "I didn't blame him for it. As long as he's out there trying to make a play, I can respect that. Now, if you're just standing and in the way, not making an effort, that's when we have a problem.
"We talked about it. He was torn up about it. I said, 'Man, don't worry about it. We're going to be all right.''