Last year, the Indianapolis Colts were in the midst of a disappointing season but hosted the Houston Texans in a mid-December matchup that was likely to decide the AFC South.
The Colts lost 16-10 in that one without their franchise quarterback, but this Sunday they’ll get another chance in a similar situation - only this time, they’ll have Andrew Luck.
The Colts and Texans are tied atop the AFC South with the Titans at 6-6, and this Sunday’s game will undoubtedly be the biggest in the division race this season, as the winner becomes the clear frontrunner to win the AFC South while the loser faces an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
So in many ways, this has the feeling of a playoff game for both teams. Or, to the Colts, it has the feel of a game seven: you have to give it everything you’ve got for this one, because the season could depend on this game.
“It’s game seven,” wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said yesterday. “Must-win.”
Tight end Dwayne Allen picked up on that theme too, not shying away from expressing the importance of this one.
“A lot of people came to me before the Monday night game and was like, ‘are you excited, we’re playing on Monday night?’ I’m like, ‘it’s an exciting stage to be on, but no, it’s another football game,’” Allen said. “This game this weekend, that’s exciting. This is what you play the game for. As T.Y. said it best, this is a game seven atmosphere. You win this one, you take first place and you control your destiny so to speak. And that’s what we’re preparing for, a game seven atmosphere. We’re going to get everything from them, and we’re going to prepare the best that we can to give them everything that we have also.”
The Colts are a team that always heavily emphasises the next game and doesn’t always express publicly just how big a game actually is to them, throwing out the standard lines such as ‘this game’s big because it’s the next game’ or things like that. So it’s nice to see the honesty from guys like Hilton and Allen, because they realize just how important this game is. While every game in a 16-game season is important, this one is especially so. This one’s for the division lead, and quite possibly will wind up being for the division title. The stakes are high, and the Colts know it.
The Texans know it too. Houston head coach Bill O’Brien isn’t trying to downplay the significance of this one. “No, this is a divisional game, big game,” he told the Indianapolis media yesterday. “I think everybody understands that.”
Houston’s quarterback, Brock Osweiler, understands it too. “It certainly feels like a playoff game,” he said yesterday. “I know personally our football team knows how important this game is. We know that it’s a must-win game if we want to accomplish the goals that we set out for early in the year. I know the Colts feel the same exact way so I expect this game to be played in a playoff-like atmosphere and I am sure both teams are going to give it everything they have.”
The Colts and the Texans both know what’s at stake this week. This game’s for first place in the division with only a few weeks left, so the Colts are treating it like it’s a game seven.