INDIANAPOLIS –This time a year ago, Chuck Pagano watched from home as his 9-5 Colts ventured to Kansas City to meet the 2-12 Chiefs.
In the final week of a 12-game absence while fighting leukemia, Pagano saw his club emerge 20-13 victors to clinch a playoff berth.
Fifty-two weeks later, his 9-5 Colts visit the 11-3 Chiefs, with this contest pitting two of only three AFC teams that have secured playoff slots.
Where Pagano's 11-5 Colts went to Baltimore last year in the Wild Card round to face a Ravens team with fewer wins, this year Kansas City could visit Indianapolis in the same round under identical circumstances.
Regardless of the future, Pagano has one approach for Sunday.
"You do what you have to do to win a game," said Pagano. "They've got a great football team. We have to go on the road and play in the elements. We all know how hard it is to play there.
"We're going to do what we have to do – try to go win a game and not worry about what lies ahead. We'll do whatever gives us the best opportunity in all three phases to win that game."
The Colts beat Houston, 25-3, Sunday, a triumph not having last-quarter or last-minute drama.
Indianapolis executed offensively from the outset and took a 17-point halftime lead. The defense limited Houston to 239 net yards, never letting the Texans within 30 yards of the goal-line, producing four sacks, two takeaways and a safety.
It was the type of performance Pagano said the club very much needed compared to some of its eight other victories.
After icing a playoff berth while losing at Cincinnati, Pagano does not want to relinquish any momentum moving forward.
Kansas City is coming off a 2-14 record and is 11-3, the same nine-game improvement the Colts had in 2012, and it ties the third-best one-season jump in history.
A 9-0 start was met with three-game lull, but the Chiefs have zipped off 45-10 and 56-31 road wins over Washington and Oakland and have scored at least 35 points in the first halves of consecutive games. That matches the franchise's own NFL mark it set in 2002.
Indianapolis still remains the only AFC division winner. Denver and Kansas City are tied, but the Broncos have swept the Chiefs.
New England is 10-4 and Cincinnati is 9-5, but neither has clinched a playoff berth. Miami, currently slotted sixth, is two games behind the Patriots. Baltimore can climb within a game of Cincinnati with a win Monday Night at Detroit.
If the Colts and Bengals finish with the same record, Cincinnati would be the higher seed team due to its victory over Indianapolis.
Indianapolis is not locked into the third or fourth seed. One way the Colts can reach the second seed is with victories over Kansas City and Jacksonville, plus Baltimore wins over New England and Cincinnati to close the season.
Pagano is not a scoreboard watcher. His players profess not to be. Achieving 20 wins in 30 games and never dropping consecutive outings shows a process is followed.
One such process is competing well on the road, where Indianapolis has won eight of its last 13.
"Our guys love that type of environment, kind of thrive in it," said Pagano of Arrowhead Stadium. "We all know how loud it can be there, let alone the weather conditions, the field this time of year. Certainly the noise is going to play a factor.
"Our guys get giddied up for playing in stadiums and atmospheres like that, playoff-type football, December football in the cold, great football team we're going against, so that will help."
Remaining Schedules of AFC Teams With Eight-Plus Wins
Kansas City (11-3)#
New England (10-4)
*Clinched Division Title; #Clinched Playoff Berth; Plays tonight
COLTS NOTES – The Colts were the only AFC division leader to win Sunday...Sunday's touchdown on a game-opening drive was the first for the Colts since week three at San Francisco...yesterday's win moved Indianapolis to a NFL-best 16-1 record against divisional opponents in second meetings of a season since 2008…the Colts are 12-0 under Pagano when rushing 30-plus times, and nine 100-plus games this year are the most since 10 in 2006…five of the club's 13 interceptions have come in the last two home games…Luck's (23, 2012; 21, 2013) 44 TD passes rank fifth-most among all QBs in first two career seasons (68, Dan Marino; 52, Peyton Manning, 50, Russell Wilson; 47, Andy Dalton)…with 116 receptions, T.Y. Hilton is tied with Bill Brooks for the fourth-most receptions by a Colt in his first two career seasons (137, Marvin Harrison; 125, Edgerrin James, 118 Austin Collie), while Hilton's 1,737 yards rank second to Brooks (1,853)…Robert Mathis (16.5) tops the NFL in sacks and hopes to join Dwight Freeney (2004) as the Colts' only seasonal league sack champions…Adam Vinatieri has scored in 159 straight games, 112 with the Colts and is tied with Jason Elam (1,983) for the seventh-most points in history…his 29 FGs are the most in his Colts career (2006-13), and he had 31 in 1998 and 2004 with NE…only Mike Vanderjagt (37, 2003; 34, 1999), Cary Blanchard (36, 1996; 32, 1997) and Raul Allegre (30, 1983) have hit 30 in a season for the Colts.
INJURY UPDATE – No players hurt yesterday are believed any worse than diagnosed originally. Day-to-day this week are: Joe Reitz (concussion), Donald Brown (stinger), Sergio Brown (strained groin), Daniel Adongo (hamstring), LaVon Brazill (foot), Stanley Havili (knee), Samson Satele (elbow), Jeff Linkenbach (quad). Griff Whalen had a strain behind his knee/upper calf, but Pagano said he is fine. Greg Toler (groin) should be ready to practice Wednesday. Ricky Jean Francois (foot) could be back for the season finale.