INDIANAPOLIS – Before Jim Irsay laid out earlier this week just how important the 2016 season opener was for the Colts, Chuck Pagano had beat his Owner to the punch.
Towards the end of Training Camp, Pagano was asked on "1070 The Fan" how vital it was to be on the right side of the win column early in September.
"We have a home opener and we have to win at home," Pagano said in Anderson. "We have to win that damn opener. Nothing more important than that. You have to get off to a great start.
"Two years ago we (started) 0-2 and this past year we were 0-2. You can't dig yourself a hole in the National Football League."
Detroit. Detroit. Detroit.
That might just be the most common word heard inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center over the past month.
The contract talk that dominated the offseason from GM, to head coach, to franchise quarterback is finally in the past.
All the injury talk the Colts faced in August still has some remains with the regular season here.
The Colts will not have cornerback Vontae Davis against a Lions attack that wants to chew up yardage through the air.
Andrew Luck will be full go on Sunday, despite being listed with a right shoulder injury on this week's injury report.
Luck did participate throughout the offseason and a completion percentage of 80 percent this preseason was a strong indicator of where No. 12 is at health wise.
"He's had a good training camp and a good preseason," Pagano says of Luck.
"I like where he's at."
On Sunday, the Colts will face a Lions team that played spoiler throughout much of the final two months of 2015.
After a Week Nine bye, the Lions finished the season going 6-2, with one of those losses coming on a Hail Mary from Green Bay.
A 7-9 season was salvaged and the Lions retained head coach Jim Caldwell for a third season.
Lucas Oil Stadium and the city of Indianapolis provide some fond memories for Caldwell, who coached the Colts from 2009-11, after assisting Tony Dungy the previous seven seasons.
"It is going to be unique coming into the stadium to play the ball game," Caldwell says.
"It is going to be fun. I know one thing, they have great fans and they always have been great fans. We know it will be loud and we know it will be a real challenge for us."
Such a home field advantage is what Pagano has been talking about since Training Camp.
Pagano knows what is on the schedule in Week Two---the Denver Broncos and a trip to the defending Super Bowl Champions, who have 10 days to prepare for the Colts after playing their opener on Thursday.
It only adds to what is at stake on Sunday.
"They're going to start putting hash marks on one side or the other," Pagano says of the regular season finally here.**
INTERESTING MATCHUPSColts offensive line versus the Lions defensive front: The strength of the Lions relies in what they have in their defensive front. It will see a Colts offensive line that could have Jack Mewhort back in the lineup though just two weeks after suffering a knee inury. Earlier this week, Owner Jim Irsay said he was "concerned" about the offensive line going into this season, but believes the group can get things "stabilized." Detroit's Ziggy Ansah (14.5 sacks last season) is one of the NFL's best outside pass rushers.Lions wide receivers versus the Colts secondary:Calvin Johnson is no longer playing football, but that doesn't mean the Lions will halt their passing attack. Detroit has plenty of weapons in the pass game and is expected to employ a no-huddle, slightly quicker paced offensive attack. The Colts head into Sunday with just four healthy cornerbacks on their active roster, three of who were not even with the team prior to August 22.
- The Colts have lost five of their past six season openers. This is just the second season opener at home the Colts have had since 2009.
- Colts running back Frank Gore leads all active players with 12,040 rushing yards.
- Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is averaging 16.4 yards per catch since 2014, which is the best mark in the NFL for receivers with at least 100 receptions.
- Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri enters 2016 having made 25 straight field goals, the longest current streak in the NFL.
- Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was with the Colts from 2002-11, including 2009-11 as the team's head coach.
- The Lions finished last season 6-2 in their final eight weeks. In that stretch, quarterback Matthew Stafford had a plus 17 touchdown-interception ratio (19-to-2).
- In 2015, Lions running back Theo Riddick led NFC running backs with 80 receptions.
NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on if he's changed the message to his team after how last year ended):
"We know what last year was and we don't talk about it until you guys talk about it and bring it up. It's history. Every year is different and every team is different. Even though we took a step in '13 and '14 and so forth, those teams were totally different. The seasons are totally different and the schedules are totally different. You have different adversity, you have different obstacles, injuries and all that stuff. We're going to face the same things. Our foundation, our message and our culture has never changed and it will never change. The way we go about business, the way we practice and the way we work, that will never change. We'll take it one day at a time. We're not looking ahead. We're just trying to work our tails off and get better every single day."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on having 11 rookies on the 53-man roster):
"That's why they have Pepto-Bismol, right? Yeah. It's like a player, you go throw up and clean up and go kick it off. Once you get that first lick in, that's how I was when I played, it's all gone. You hope you won that battle. If you didn't, you're fighting a mental war the rest of the game. We'll be fine. They're going to be prepared and they're going to go play. I just look back at the Cincinnati game and what we saw out of a group of young guys that went into that game and played on both sides of the ball and special teams and that was impressive. I went back and watched that film and saw guys flying around having fun and competing: the physicality that they played with, the temperament that they played with, the tempo, the competitiveness it was really fun to watch. We have a good group of young guys. Again, there are going to be some mistakes made, but they're going to make them 1,000 miles per hour."
Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck(on if there will be more nerves making his return to regular season action for the first time since November 2015):
"Probably not. I've been nervous before every game I've ever played – professional, collegiately, high school and middle school – I get the butterflies and it will probably be just about the same."
Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell(on what impresses him about the Colts):
"I think, for me, the first thing that really jumped out was this defense. I know statistically the numbers aren't what you would think of as far as great numbers, though when I watch this defense those numbers don't match up because it's a salty defense. They play hard, they're aggressive. Every once in a while there will be a big play given up, but overall I was shocked to see the stats because I think we got our hands full with this defense. They're all over the place. They've got big run stoppers in the middle, they've got good edge rushers, (Robert) Mathis, they got two backers in the middle that are very active and good players. Vontae Davis is a shutdown corner so that was the first thing that jumped out and the other thing offensively is, I know there have been a number of injuries but you still, with (Donte) Moncrief and T.Y. (Hilton), that's a lot of speed on the field. Hasselbeck has done this thing for a long time and he's seen enough football in his time that he can still hurt you."
Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell(on his favorite memories from spending 2002-11 as a coach in Indianapolis):
"The easy one is to talk about our Super Bowl run and I think that more so than anything else jumps out at me. It was a pretty special year. To win a Super Bowl is very difficult to do. To be able to get one was pretty special so you don't forget those times."
Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford(on preparing for a defense with so many injuries, especially in the secondadry):
"It is interesting. When it comes to corner and safety and things of that nature, you have to look back at some past target tapes to see how some guys play. Having a new coordinator is definitely a challenge as well. They still have really talented rushers, guys up front that can really play. They have some guys on the back end who have been successful with other teams but are new to the situation there. It is a unique challenge for us, something that we are going to have to spend quite a bit of time on."