INDIANAPOLIS – Starting the second quarter of the season at 3-1, the Colts confront Seattle, one of the NFL's hottest teams with nine straight wins.
Indianapolis helped Seattle by beating San Francisco two weeks ago, and the Seahawks have a two-game lead in the NFC West.
Seattle helped the Colts last week by rallying for a 23-20 overtime win at Houston. That left the Colts tied with Tennessee for the AFC South lead, something Indianapolis has had three of the season's first four weeks.
Both the Colts and Seahawks are intent on helping themselves Sunday in one of the weekend's top games. For Indianapolis, here are SEVEN THINGS NEEDED TO WIN:
NIP THE FLAGS – Seven penalties at Jacksonville matched the Colts' three-game total entering last Sunday. On Monday, Chuck Pagano mentioned there were too many "self-inflicted" wounds that needed to stop before they became trends. Those were opening-statement remarks made on the offensive within hours of the win, and one thinks those were stressed to the team on Wednesday. This bunch listens and knows the quality of Sunday's opponent. Here's thinking the team will be sharp in this area.
SAN FRANCISCO, NOT OAKLAND – This is the third offense in five games that features a quarterback who can employ a diverse attack. Terrelle Pryor was a huge issue in the opener, topping 100 rushing yards. Colin Kaepernick was kept under tabs two weeks later. Russell Wilson excels tremendously with his arms and legs. The dimension he provides is like that of Andrew Luck – a leader who delivers downfield and can break containment if necessary. Twice he has 10-carry games this year, and he has completed 61.5 percent of his passes with an 8.20 yards/attempt average. Colts defenders know Wilson can buy time and make throws. Antoine Bethea says the need is to remain "plastered" to receivers. Cory Redding says to play "assignment football." Indianapolis has prepared. Coaches are sharp. Perform like you did at Candlestick this time at Lucas Oil Stadium.
MEET THE AVERAGES – Three times in the club's local era it has had a seasonal rushing average exceeding 140 yards (152.4, 1985; 142.9, 1987; 140.6, 1988). Indianapolis is at 149.5 right now. The aim is not to achieve numbers for number's sake, but this is a great number to hit – one of the best. Getting there could mean Seattle might not reach its 144.3 rushing average. The team that gets closest to its average could have the advantage on Sunday.
NICKEL AND DIME – The Colts have eight drives exceeding five minutes this season. That is tied for first in the league. Indianapolis has 12 10-play drives, the NFL's best total. The point is to do something with the ball when you have it. Scoring is king, but possession coupled with on-point play means opponents have to produce with fewer possessions. Twelve teams have possession averages exceeding 31 minutes per game and the nine from that bunch who couple it with a plus turnover ratio have combined for a 29-7 record. The Colts and Seattle are two of those nine teams. Get the ball, protect it, hold it, move it and score.
PLUS TWO –Entering the season, Pagano said teams that are plus-two in turnover ratio traditionally win 83 percent of the time. Since 1998, the Colts are 55-3 (.948) in games with at least that ratio. More importantly, they are 3-0 this year at plus-two. Without the ratio advantage, Indianapolis is 0-1. Seattle has won the turnover ratio each week this year, so neither team has lost when winning the category. The Seahawks' 13 takeaways are second in the league.
START EARLY/FINISH LATE – Seattle has two road comeback wins, including from 17 down last Sunday at Houston. The Seahawks have not allowed a first-quarter point all year, and have a 44-7 fourth-quarter bulge on opponents. The Colts have a 64-20 edge in middle-quarter scoring over opponents and a 24-7 edge in the final period. Seattle has playmakers on all units. A slower-than-wanted offensive start last week at Jacksonville was overcome. Try to hit on all cylinders early and late Sunday.
ENGAGE CROWD – Seattle has made its home venue one of the toughest in the league with a boisterous home crowd. Estimates are the 12th Man there set a Guinness World Record with a 136.6-decibel noise level in a win over San Francisco on September 15. That was the last date the Colts played at home, and Chuck Pagano laid the challenge down this week by saying he knows which market has the best 12th Man. Get our faithful engaged early and often. A 90th straight sellout crowd provides a distinct tangible intangible.
QUOTE TO NOTE(Anthony Castonzo agreeing that Trent Richardson has earned locker room respect)
"Absolutely. He came in, he was ready to work. From day one, he came in with the mentality to come in and learn the offense first and get to work. We all respect that."