INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts host Buffalo on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, and it is the first time the team has been at home since November 4.
The two games since that 23-20 victory over Miami both were decided by double digits.
Indianapolis produced its largest victory margin of the season two games ago at Jacksonville, 27-10. The last time the Colts had beaten an opponent by that wide a margin was early in the 2010 season.
Last Sunday at New England, the outcome was quite different. Despite two seven-point leads, the Colts allowed 31 points over the middle quarters in falling, 59-24. It was the largest margin of defeat this season.
Any outcome only counts once, and every Sunday counts. As the Colts host the Bills, they still stand as one of six AFC teams with six or more victories.
There are five teams with four wins, and Cincinnati was the lone AFC team last Sunday to get to five wins. The Bengals, 5-5, remain one game behind the Colts and Pittsburgh in the Wild Card hunt.
The Colts have done a number of very impressive things this season, and one of the best is the resilience they have shown when losses happened.
After each of its first three losses, Indianapolis responded with a victory. A decisive 35-9 loss at the New York Jets was met with a level of character that produced four straight victories.
Now, the club must respond after a defeat more sobering than the one incurred at New York. Bruce Arians was firm after the New England by stating the team had darn well remember the result in Foxborough.
Arians vowed the game tape would be viewed critically, not swept under the rug. Players responded to the critique with a resolve to improve. The practice week was good, even with a holiday included, and Sunday will be a time for another gauge of where the team stands.
Getting to a seventh win is important in keeping pace with conference leaders as well as for keeping a nose in front of the rest of the posse.
Getting their seventh victory is the aim for the Colts on Sunday, and here are SEVEN THINGS NEEDED TO WIN:
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SCORING OPPORTUNITIES – Buffalo comes to Indianapolis with a very potent offense. The Bills can score points and move the ball. The Colts need to score points down deep every time. It must happen. Seven is a sweet number, particularly on the scoreboard.
NEGATE SPECIAL TEAMS – Difficult moments cropped up last week that contrasted sharply with the overall play of the units over nine previous games. A 61-second segment of last week's game at New England flipped things against the Colts and a punt return was a big culprit. Buffalo has three return scores this year already. Keep it at three by 4:00 p.m. Sunday. Buffalo's Brad Smith had an 89-yard kickoff return at Tennessee this year. His 106-yarder against the Colts in 2009 while with the Jets is the longest one ever surrendered by the franchise. No player has two scoring returns in Lucas Oil Stadium. Sunday is no time to let Smith make history. Bruce Arians said special teamers must "cover with our hair on fire because these cats will take it back in a minute." You have to love a quote too good not to use.
USE HOME ADVANTAGE – The Colts are 4-1 at home this year. After Sunday, there are only two remaining home dates in five games. While winning on the road is important, winning at home is critical. Fans are providing an 86th straight sellout. They created a playoff-type atmosphere at the Miami game. Get the crowd involved early, keep them in it – and win. NOTE TO FANS: Be ready.
BE SMART WITH BALL – The bulk of the club's -13 turnover ratio has come from road problems. The team was minus-four at Chicago, the New York Jets and New England – all double-digit losses. Turnovers speak for themselves. As Bob Dylan might say, "they don't talk, they swear." Turnovers can make coaches swear. Let's have no swearing on Sunday.
STAY TWO-DIMENSIONAL – 'Nuff said. When the Colts have been able to keep opponents guessing, they have been able to move the ball. Being able to run the ball when a team wants to is very important. Indianapolis has benefited this year in those scenarios. Linemen love being the aggressors. Backs like the opportunity to contribute. Keep the score in check, or better – take the lead.
SHARPEN THE AXE – Buffalo can be very dangerous when it finds a groove. Fred Jackson had a career day against the Colts in the last game of the 2009 season. Ryan Fitzpatrick can get on a roll. C.J. Spiller is a package and has spit out 100-yard scrimmage days consistently in 2012. End Cory Redding said the team's defensive axe got duller at New England. "At the beginning of the season we had a whole forest of trees in front of us. The goal is on the other side, the playoffs. You can't get there if you don't chop one tree at a time. We're chopping one tree at a time. Last week, our axe got a littler duller, I guess not sharp enough. We have to get back to sharpening things and keep chopping these trees down."
HAVE FUN – In baseball, they say, 'Play ball.' Players are fond of saying they are fortunate to play the kid's game for a living. Just play the way you know how.
QUOTE TO NOTE: Bruce Arians (on what he is thankful for on Thanksgiving week)"Oh, gosh, I'm thankful for the Pittsburgh Steelers letting me go to be here. Truthfully, I couldn't think of a better place to be at this point in time and to have felt more needed, probably in my entire life. So, thank you, Pittsburgh."