INDIANAPOLIS – Earlier this week, trash bags filled the locker rooms of 20 NFL teams.
The bags were used to clean out lockers, thus signifying the end of 2014 dreams for more than half of the league's franchises.
For the third straight year, trash bags remained locked up during the Wild Card round of the playoffs for the Colts.
Dwayne Allen was just fine with returning to work on Monday sensing a different feeling among a locker room filled with helmets and pads for at least one more week.
"We're not wide-eyed. Of course, we're very fortunate to be in 'the dance' so to speak, but our goal is to win it all," Allen says.
"My first couple years it was nice to just be in the playoffs. Then it was nice to win a home game. Now, it's time for us to play up to our potential and go and win it all."
In three NFL seasons, Allen has watched his team play in January each year.
At the other end of the Colts locker room, D'Qwell Jackson hasn't had anywhere near the same postseason fortune as so many of his teammates.
Sunday will mark Jackson's 114th career game and his first in the playoffs.
When Jackson took to the podium earlier this week, he looked out to the larger than normal media contingent and said, "Well, this is new."
"This is why I play the game. This is why I play," Jackson said of his first postseason experience.
"Especially having the opportunity to be here, you look around you there's banners everywhere---here (media room), in the indoor facility, the locker room. There's constant reminders of, 'We win here.' I love that. I love that. What else would get you through the dog days if you didn't love what you were doing and you didn't want to be in these types of situations."
Back in the offseason, Jackson was particularly struck when he received a "Hoist It" t-shirt with the Lombardi Trophy across the back.
Seeing that goal inside his locker, Jackson knew he was in the right place.
Chuck Pagano never hesitates from talking about that end goal, but like any head coach he knows where his team's mindset must be this weekend.
"We know what our ultimate goal is and we're going to keep grinding and scratching and clawing, and doing whatever we have to do to try to reach our ultimate goal," Pagano says.
"Do we want to take the next step? Yes. Do we want to reach the Super Bowl that's going to be played in Arizona on February 1? Yes. That's our number one goal but we have to take care of business first. That all starts this week with Cincinnati. If you don't do that, then you aren't going to take the next step. We're glad to be in but we're never satisfied. Until we hoist that thing, we're never satisfied."
INTERESTING MATCHUPSBengals running back Jeremy Hill versus the Colts defense:Cincinnati has made it clear through their words, and more importantly their actions, that an emphasis of running the football is their mindset this time of year. That means rookie Jeremy Hill getting the load. At 239 pounds, Hill has shown that he's much more than a power back with more than 140 rushing yards at four different times this season.Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus the Bengals secondary: Luck will get another crack at the postseason on the one-year anniversary of the Colts thrilling Wild Card comeback from last season. The Cincinnati defense is an opportune group with five former first-round picks at cornerback. The Bengals have produced 20 interceptions this season, the third most in the league. The Colts have survived losing the turnover margin at times in 2014 but that can't continue in the postseason.Quick Facts
-The Colts have made the playoffs in an NFL-best 14 of the last 16 seasons.
-Kicker Adam Vinatieri will play in his 28th career postseason game on Sunday, the second most in league history.
-With 74 receiving yards on Sunday, Reggie Wayne will move into second place on the NFL's all-time postseason receiving list.
-The Bengals are looking for their first postseason victory since 1990 and first road playoff win in franchise history.
-This marks the fourth straight year the Bengals have made the playoffs and the sixth time they've made it under head coach Marvin Lewis.
-Since Week Eight, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill leads the NFL with 929 rushing yards.NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the job Pep Hamilton has done in year two of being offensive coordinator):
-"I don't know if you can price on it really. We've got obviously a bunch of guys in there that have played in a bunch of playoff games, and we've got a bunch of guys in there that haven't seen the field in a playoff game. So having guys in there obviously that can share insight with the young guys, with guys that haven't been in a playoff game. Really at the end of the day, what we're trying to do is, it's still a football game. We know what the stakes are. We know it's single elimination, win and you move on, and lose, you pack your bags. But other than that, it's still a football game. It's going to come down to who executes best, who takes care of the football, who blocks the best, who tackles the best, throws, catches, all the technique and fundamental things that you have to do to win football games."Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on what he takes away from the first game with the Bengals this season:
-"That seems like it was 10 years ago since we played that game and it was a good day for the Colts but that was a long time ago and it really has no bearing on this game. We'll look at the tape obviously but there's a lot of other games that have been played since that time. So we'll take what we can take from it but they're a different team right now, we're a different team right now. We've just got to stick to the process and go through a normal week of preparation and do the best job that we can to get our team prepared and ready to go and play the best game that we've played to date. It's got to be on Sunday at 1 o'clock."
Colts Kicker Adam Vinatieri(on playing in his 28th career playoff game this weekend):
-"You never take them for granted. You can build on past experiences. You can gain something from that, but that doesn't mean anything. The fact that we beat Cincinnati earlier in the season means nothing coming out on this game. They're going to be ready to go. It's 0-0 when the coin toss goes. You have to build, fight and scratch, do everything you can to win that game. Experiences in the past, yeah, I think a lot of young guys will ask us about playoffs. It's obviously heightened. The excitement level is there, everything's faster, the crowd is louder. Everything about it is fun. That's playoff football. That's what we play for."
Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis(on the importance of making a playoff run for the organization):
-"Well it's important, as you said, it's important for us as a football team to move on and be able to move forward towards your goal. (Inaudible). For the organization, it's very, very important."
Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis(on paying attention to the meeting with the Colts earlier this season):
-"Well they kicked our tails. We've got to be ready to know that they're a very good defensive football team and we've got to play much, much better. They took advantage of every opportunity offensively and defensively and beat us handily."Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton(on looking back on the first meeting with the Colts):
-"I mean, obviously you're going to watch that to see the looks and to see what they did against us. Obviously the way we played isn't indicative of who we are. Yeah, we're not putting a whole lot into that game, but you've got to watch it. You've got to see some things that they'll try to do to stop us."