INDIANAPOLIS –Sunday's contest between Indianapolis and Miami is the only game this weekend pitting two AFC teams with winning records.
Both teams enter this week of preparation on winning streaks.
Miami has won three straight games and stands alongside Atlanta, Chicago and the New York Giants as the only unbeaten NFL teams in October. This past week, the Dolphins won handily at the New York Jets, 30-9.
Indianapolis has won two straight games – the season's first winning streak – in besting Cleveland and Tennessee. The Colts beat the Browns two weeks ago in Lucas Oil Stadium, 17-13, then captured their first road win since 2010 last Sunday with a thrilling 19-13 overtime win over the Titans.
It is a good time for the club, but a smart team puts past results right there – in the past.
Head Coach Chuck Pagano spoke earlier this year about the team's 24-hour rule where players have a designed period of time to reflect on the most recent game. As interim leader Bruce Arians, who will be leading his fifth game in Pagano's absence, convened the team Wednesday he was concerned with how the team is handling its successful past two games.
"Totally," said Arians on how concerned he is about the matter. "That's the whole focus this week, 'Don't read about yourself. Don't pat yourself on the back. Respect the process – of a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday and a Saturday, of how to prepare.' That doesn't change from week-to-week."
Indianapolis had been successful through the Cleveland game of rebounding from losses to post wins. The team erased the stigma of not having won on the road by scoring late in regulation at Tennessee, then winning the coin toss and marching for a second straight touchdown.
The team, which features eight rookies, 32 players with no more than three years league experience and 33 players new this year to Indianapolis, was euphoric after the key divisional win, and Arians reminded them to keep sawing wood.
"As long as you respect the process, you don't get caught into those peaks and valleys of, 'I'm good, I'm bad, I'm good, I'm bad.' Just keep (working)," said Arians. "It's Wednesday, this is what you do on Wednesday. It's Thursday, this is what you do on Thursday. Don't change that routine, because it's been pretty good."
Pagano and his staff drilled into the players the need to prepare meticulously in OTAs and training camp. They expected players to aspire for success and play like veterans. Arians knows drilling that message into young players can be a challenge, so more tenured players can assist.
"It's hard," said Arians of the job for coaches. "That's veteran leadership. The guys in the room, they see these guys more than we do as coaches. They know who is in tune and who is not, and they get them back on the road where they're supposed to be going."
Cornerback Jerraud Powers joined a veteran-heavy team in 2009 when he came out of Auburn. His maturity was beyond his years at that point, but the savvy group Powers joined did not hurt. Powers was grounded then, and he takes the moment now to ensure no lapse in preparations.
"Definitely as a veteran you want to address that, not to get into reading clippings and all that. The only thing our main focus should be is just winning football games," said Powers. "Miami is up next, and we have to get number five. That should be the main focus.
"Chuck (Pagano) always said from day one, 'If you can win games, all the accolades will come for everybody.' That's something we really don't need to worry about, what people are saying about us, this or that and what's in the paper. Just worry about Miami."
As the Colts look across the line at the Dolphins Sunday, they might see themselves. Miami has 12 rookies, including one at starting quarterback, and 31 players with no more than three years league experience. Miami also has a rookie head coach in Joe Philbin.
The Colts and Miami are two of seven AFC teams with at least four wins. With the season reaching the midpoint for both teams, observers start projecting things beyond this Sunday. It is something Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck will avoid.
"You realize, one, who cares if the playoffs started today...they don't. It doesn't matter what the record is now. It's what it is after that last week (of the season)," said Luck. "It's a week-by-week thing. I know that's very cliché. We're not looking ahead to anything. It's the Dolphins. It's great that people say nice things about us. It's great if people say bad things about us, whatever. It's part of playing this game. We're just worried about trying to win football games."
One of Luck's key targets, rookie tight end Dwayne Allen, has been bitten once before with a fast start followed by a tough finish. Last year at Clemson, his team started quickly and earned a high ranking before losing four of its last six games to end up 10-4. Allen does not want the Colts' 4-3 record to have such a fate.
"I've been fortunate enough last year at Clemson to be part of a young team that had a lot of success early and didn't handle it well," said Allen. "We got to a point where we were 8-0 and in the top five in the country and we weren't ready for that type of pressure.
"Hopefully, some of my experience from last year in that type of situation with a young team will be able to help us out this year. (We need) to take it one game at a time, as cliché as that sounds."
Luck wants no such thing on his professional resume either.
"This is the biggest game to date. That's how we'll approach it, because it is," said Luck. "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'll focus on the next one, which is Miami. 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."
INJURY UPDATE – Arians said on Wednesday that tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder subluxation) and cornerback Vontae Davis (knee) will miss Sunday's game. Arians hoped both would miss only a game or two. He said linebacker Robert Mathis would be full speed today in practice. Mathis (knee) has been inactive the last three games. Cornerback Darius Butler is day-to-day with a shoulder injury that has cost him the last two games.
ANDERSON ELIGIBLE TO PRACTICE – Offensive guard Justin Anderson, the club's first pick in the seventh-round this year has returned to practice, but remains on reserve/physically unable to perform. The Colts have three weeks to place Anderson on the active roster, or he will remain on PUP for the rest of the season.
Anderson, 6-5, 342, started 26-of-40 games for Georgia. In 2011, Anderson started 14 games, helping lead the school to a 10-4 record and berths in the SEC Championship Game and Outback Bowl.