INDIANAPOLIS –There are only seven AFC teams at the moment that have four or more wins, and there is only one game this weekend that matches conference teams with winning records.
That match will be on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium between the Colts and Miami, teams that have surprised observers with 4-3 records.
The Colts are rebounding from last year's 2-14 record and enter the contest having won consecutive games. Miami righted last year's 0-7 start with a 6-3 finish, and Sunday will find the Dolphins lining up as winners of three straight games.
It is a game that might surprise those not affiliated with the teams. For the contestants, it is a chance to keep on keeping on.
"I can't speak on them (Miami) but talking about our locker room, we've been saying from day one that we believe we have the talent to get the job done this year. We're in the mix of things," said cornerback Jerraud Powers.
Powers is in his fourth season. A Super Bowl participant as a rookie, Powers saw the team slide a year ago. He also saw new Head Coach Chuck Pagano urge the team to bounce back quickly. Hard work, a positive attitude and a motivational shirt helped point the Colts in the right direction.
"We had the T-shirts made that had us (number) 32 in the power ranking. I think Miami might have been 31," said Powers. "It's all about what the guys in the locker room believe. (If) you get a group of guys no matter what the talent level is and everybody believes in one another, you're going to go out there and play well enough to win games.
"Right now, we're in the thick of things fighting for the playoff picture. Miami is as well. This game is definitely going to mean something. It's an AFC game, so you want to win that. It definitely could mean something later on, also."
Players never should be faulted for aspirations, and Miami visits with the same mindset that resides in Indianapolis. Each team wants to forward its cause as the midpoint of the season arrives.
While half of the Colts' season will be defined by dusk Sunday, more work lies ahead. Powers will be joined by quarterback Andrew Luck in knowing there is work necessary if success is to be continued.
"I think we are respecting the process, realizing that we have to put the work in during the week," said Luck. "I think we've got a great corps of veteran leaders that point us in the right direction, coaches are putting us in the position to make plays, and we've been lucky enough to get a couple of wins.
"This is no time to let up and start patting yourself on the back. We haven't accomplished squat in the grand scheme of things. We know it's going to be a tough game. We know it's going to take 100 percent focus, concentration, 60 minutes of football to have a chance to win."
Miami Head Coach Joe Philbin is in his first season as a field leader. He has a squad featuring 12 rookies, and his team is playing well.
"I think they're a hungry group. They're a bunch of guys that want to win," said Philbin. "I don't know that I've really been surprised. I don't know that until you really go through a season with each other and go through the ups and downs and the peaks and valleys and find out a little bit more about one another, it's hard to really predict what your record's going to be. Obviously, with seven games in, it's still hard to predict where you're going to be after 16. I wouldn't say that I'm overly surprised."
Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians approached last week's game with Tennessee by urging the players to start stacking wins together. A late touchdown tied the game, and an overtime-opening possession yielded a game-winning score as the Colts emerged 19-13 victors.
That outcome surprised some observers, but not linebacker Dwight Freeney. Freeney knows Sundays are times when teams are measured.
"Like I've always said, you never know what's going to happen from Sunday to Sunday. All those guys who predict losses and that stuff, who is going to lose this week (laughs), it's okay. We get it. The thing is, that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what people say and think outside the locker room. It's for those who read that stuff and the fans.
"For us, we collectively try to move on and try to keep this thing moving in the right direction. When we're in the hunt, like we are now, and the Dolphins are in the hunt like they are, there is some significance. That's why you play on Sundays."
Powers was all ears when it came to the charge to stack wins together. He and Freeney helped stack 14 wins together to start the 2009 season. Stacking wins is part of the business if a team wants to be successful.
"If we can stack chips and stack these wins right now, early, it will help us when December gets here. We're fighting for a playoff spot now. That's what you hope as a team," said Powers. "We want to get as many wins as possible and let everything else play out. … We want to separate ourselves a little bit.
"Last year, our record (was) what it (was). We were in a lot of close ballgames as well, just like we are this year. Last year, things just didn't go our way most of the time. This year, I think this team has found ways to win close ones. We've been in a lot of close games. We know how to finish games. It's a matter of us playing 60 minutes of good football."
The two-game winning streak the Colts are on is a start. It is a streak not to be taken that lightly in a competitive league.
"That's a stack. That's a welcomed stack. It's a mini-stack. It's momentum, no matter how you want to dice it up," said Freeney. "Winning two games, it hasn't happened as often as people thought. We had our years when we ran seven straight. I remember a period of time, my first five or six years, we would be 5-0, 6-0, 7-0. Back-to-back, it does feel good, and it's not easy. A stack is a stack."
Arians will be leading his fifth game for an ill Pagano. He has seen the club inch beyond .500 for the first time, and he is looking forward to Sunday.
"It is fun for two 4-3 teams that are fighting for it," said Arians. "(There are) young, first-year guys on both teams. It should be an exciting game, and we're really looking forward to the challenge. … We're just trying to live day-to-day."