All That Matters This Week is Beating Tennessee, Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Peyton Manning sees it, only one thing matters.
Manning, in his 13th season as the Colts' quarterback, said that thing isn't the opponent's record, or the motivation of the Tennessee Titans. And neither does it matter what happens in other games around the NFL on the final Sunday of the 2010 regular season.
What matters for the Colts is this:
If they win, they get in the playoffs as AFC South champions.
Manning said while there may be other possible scenarios, and while the Titans are out of the playoffs and playing for professional pride, none of that is imant to the Colts.
Win, and get in.
That's what matters. That's all.
"I know how important it is for us to prepare for a good team," Manning said Wednesday afternoon as the AFC South-leading Colts (9-6) prepared to play the Titans (6-9) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis in the regular-season finale for each team.
"We had a real close game with them last time in Nashville. It's a division opponent. Both teams are very familiar with each other. It's always been close games in Tennessee and Indy."
The Colts, after slipping to 6-6 and into second-place in the AFC South with three consecutive losses in November, have rallied to the edge of yet another post-season appearance in recent weeks.
"We have an opportunity," Caldwell said. "It's our job to get ourselves in position to prepare and take advantage of it."
And entering Sunday, the Colts will win the AFC South and make the playoffs if:
*They beat Tennessee, or . . .
*The Jacksonville Jaguars lose to the Houston Texans in Houston, or . . .
*Either Jacksonville or Indianapolis tie.
The Colts, who have won six of the past seven AFC South titles, cannot make the playoffs as a wild card. If they win Sunday or Jacksonville loses, the Colts will play host to a post-season game on either January 8 or 9.
"We're still in the same position," Caldwell said. "Nothing has changed. We still have to win."
The Colts, who have won their last three games by beating Tennessee, Jacksonville and Oakland, moved from a game behind Jacksonville to a game ahead with the streak. Still, although the Colts now lead the division, the Jaguars would win the South of they beat Houston Sunday providing Indianapolis loses to Tennessee.
That, to the Colts, makes Sunday pretty much a "must-win" situation."
"It's pretty much the same approach," Manning said. "Every team we've played – really all season; especially these past four weeks – we've concentrated on that team and that team alone. We haven't looked at anything else. That's what Coach Caldwell talked about today, and that's what the players realize.
"It's the Titans, and that's it. That's really all we're worried about and talking about."
Indianapolis can secure the No. 3 seed in the AFC with a victory over the Titans if the Kansas City Chiefs lose to Oakland Sunday.
The Colts have made the playoffs an NFL-best eight consecutive seasons, one shy of the all-time NFL record for consecutive post-season appearances.
Dallas made the post-season from 1975-1983.
"I'd probably like to talk about it after it's done," Caldwell said. "We're not there. We have to earn our right to get there. Then, we can kind of talk about it.
"You know me. I don't like gazing down the street. You're asking for problems. I really do think so. We have to stay focused and what we have to focus on."
The Colts spoke extensively Wednesday of the need for focus and intensity this week, and of Tennessee being a dangerous opponent despite being out of the post-season.
The Titans, picked by many to contend for the playoffs after winning eight of their last 10 games last season, won five of their first seven games and were tied for first in the South at that time. Since then, they have lost seven of eight games and were eliminated from the post-season with a loss to Kansas City this past week.
"Tennessee gets our full attention," Caldwell said. "They're a talented team, a very good group and a very good coach. They will be well-prepared. They'll be excited about the opportunity."
The Colts, after finishing last season 6-0 in the South for the second time in five seasons, are 3-2 in the division this season, and with a victory Sunday can finish above .500 against division opponents for an eighth time in nine seasons.
Since the 2002 inception of the division, the Colts are 12-5 against the Titans. The Colts have won their last four meetings against the Titans dating to October 2008, and including a 30-28 Colts victory in Nashville earlier this month, seven of the 17 games in the series have been decided by eight points or less.
"It just depends on score and flow of the game and what happens," Manning said. "I still think, especially in these division games, it kind of comes down to execution. We need to do a good job of that."
"With the game we have this week, it's easy to keep everything in perspective," Manning said. "Everybody's focused on trying to have a good week of practice, and get ready to play the Titans."
Said Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, "We're going to prepare like we're supposed to prepare. We don't care about their record. It doesn't matter to us. We have to win."