Ahead of this Sunday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Colts find themselves in a great position in terms of playoff positioning. Not only is an AFC South title well within their grasp but if they win their last two regular season games, they have a chance to clinch at least a Wild Card spot.
"You look at all the teams and you look at the side of their names and it has an 'e' because they're eliminated, right? We're not eliminated," wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne said. "So, we got a lot to play for. We got a lot in front of us. We still got a lot of points to prove. We're not supposed to be here. So, it's like, you know what? We're in a situation now where we done changed some peoples' minds. Why not add to it?"
While the excitement around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center is strong, there is a feeling of déjà vu in the air too.
Almost exactly two years ago, the Colts found themselves in a similar situation to the one they find themselves in now. Ahead of their Week 17 game against the Raiders, they sat at 9-6 and were just two wins away from a possible playoff berth. Instead of being able to capitalize on that opportunity, they lost their next two games, which dropped their record to 9-8 and knocked them out of playoff contention.
Though the end of the 2021 campaign was a painful memory for the locker room, linebacker Zaire Franklin said he was still able to take away important lessons from that time.
"One, I would say just take it one week at a time, focus on what's in front of you and focus on the moment," Franklin said. "Don't get so caught up in what should be or what's going to be, focus on what you have in front of you. And then I mean to the same kind of point, [we] can't be thinking about what happened in the past. Obviously, we've been there, we've learned from it, we experienced it, had a whole offseason of hurt to deal with it. But we moved on. It's a new year, a new team, a new Raiders team that we're facing and we got to take advantage of this game on Sunday."
To help ensure that the team is able to do that, leaders around the locker room are stepping up now more than ever when it comes to coaching up their younger teammates. A fact that's especially true for cornerback Kenny Moore II.
With the announcement earlier this week that safety Julian Blackmon was being placed on injured reserve, which ended his regular season prematurely, Moore stands as the only player in the secondary who has started more than 25 games.
When speaking to the team's younger defensive backs, Moore's message to them is simple: It's time to grow up.
"It's not even about who you think you are or whatever the case may be," Moore said. "The standard is growing up and playing the game the right way. So, we just got to play winning football come Sunday."
As someone who's been in the playoffs 11 times, Wayne believes that a player's age or experience level should have no bearing this weekend because considering what's at stake, everyone should be anxious to get on the field and prove why this team deserves to be in the playoffs.
"If you got to motivate a player at this point and time of the season, as a staff we're doing something wrong or we got the wrong people in the locker room," Wayne said. "We shouldn't have to check your pulse right now. You got a chance to do some good things here and continue to move forward."
Thursday practice report: