INDIANAPOLIS – Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium marks the return of Head Coach Chuck Pagano.
Pagano will be making his first home appearance since September 23 against Jacksonville. His three-month fight with leukemia has been a rousing success, just like his team.
The Colts hold the AFC's fifth playoff seed. Houston is trying to nail down the top spot and could fall down to third, too.
Indianapolis has everything for which to play, and it will. Pagano and his crew want a victory and momentum entering the playoffs.
Getting their 11th victory is the aim for the Colts on Sunday, and here are SEVEN THINGS NEEDED TO WIN:
TURNOVERS – The Colts are 3-0 in games this year without a turnover. Having that many games without a miscue with a young offense and a line that has been battered is pretty good. Keep it up, particularly against a more veteran opponent. Since 1998, the Colts are 41-3 in the regular season when not having a turnover. That always is the goal, and the results show why.
AVOID THE 1-2 – Last week, Indianapolis allowed two 100-yard rushers in the same game for only the eighth time in franchise history, and eight is enough. Six of those have come since the merger and all have come inside the division. Arian Foster has topped 100 yards in all four outings against the Colts. Ben Tate did it once in 2011. The Colts have yielded 178 and 352 rushing yards in the last two games. Tightening up is essential.
WORK THE PROCESS – It was a mantra used by Bruce Arians because he got it from Chuck Pagano. There will be extra emotion because of that, but don't lose sight of competing. Emotions never should be taken from competition, but execution is king.
MAXIMIZE POSSESSIONS – Two early red zone trips at Houston netted only three points. A penalty wiped out a touchdown and a fumble at the one-yard line ended a possession. Those errors are difficult to overcome. Against a team fighting for what Houston is fighting for, maximize point possibilities at all times.
STAY PERFECT – Indianapolis is 10-0 at home against Houston. This sport never really is about stats, but some statistics matter – like victories. Last year, a 1-13 Colts team beat a 10-4 Houston team in Indianapolis. Winning division games is big. Houston is shooting for a 6-0 divisional record. The Colts want to get to 4-2. Keep home clean. Give the fans what they want.
SOLID PROTECTION –This weekly entry is never more important than this week, given what happened two games ago in Houston – five sacks and 10 QB hits of Andrew Luck. J.J. Watt had three sacks, four hits, a forced fumble and six tackles for losses. The only busy nature of the passing pocket needs to come from Andrew Luck leading the offense, and not by him dodging in-coming traffic.
LET'S GO BIG MO – The regular season is concluding and the cut-throat playoffs loom. Though 15 games have brought growth, momentum going forward is critical. The Colts have not lost consecutive games all season, and will end the regular season with that intact. The playoffs are not about consecutive losses with the single-elimination nature. Keep momentum fresh. Play to win.
Chuck Pagano (on if there were a ceremony when he turned off the lights in his office when he returned since they were left on during his three-month leukemia battle):
"No, it shouldn't be an emotional moment, but gratifying and again (I'm) blessed to be able to do it. It was one heck of a gesture on Bruce's (Arians) part and everybody else's. Just to be able to finish that first day up and turn the lights out and officially be back at work, it was awesome."