News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 16, 2013

Back in the mix: Colts are hoping to improve their playoff seeding in final two weeks of NFL’s regular season

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

TERRE HAUTE —  Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano stresses that he is not a scoreboard watcher when it comes to other National Football League games.

Pagano maintains that his focus is strictly on the task at hand with his football team and the game they’re playing at the moment.

But with the Colts in the hunt for one of the top four seeds in the upcoming AFC playoffs, the second-year coach might be tempted to take a couple peeks during Sunday’s road game at Kansas City.

Indianapolis will head into the Chiefs game with a 9-5 record and has already clinched a postseason berth by winning the AFC South. Now the question is when and who will the Colts face in the playoffs.

Here’s a possible scenario: Pagano’s team has to win at Kansas City this week, then knock off division rival Jacksonville in the regular-season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium in two weeks.

Combine that with the Baltimore Ravens winning their two final games against New England and Cincinnati. If all that happens, the Colts could possibly secure the No. 2 overall seed. There’s still even a distant possibility that Indianapolis could be the No. 1 overall seed, but the calculations are too involved to even consider at this point.

Will it happen? That remains to be seen.

What makes things even more interesting is that Pagano is a former assistant coach with the Ravens. He has a close relationship with Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh and admits to following how the team does each week.

“I always root for those guys. So I guess we’ll be rooting for them again. But again, our focus is on us and getting better this week and trying to go play as well as we can play and win a football game,” he said Monday.

“It really won’t matter [what the Ravens do] if we don’t take care of business. We’ll focus on that and I guess we’ll root for those guys too.”

But first there’s the talented Chiefs and an expected capacity crowd at noisy Arrowhead Stadium. The weather will probably be a factor as well.

“Sure, and our guys love that type of environment, kind of thrive in it. Our offense will have their hands full,” Pagano said.

“We all know how loud it can be there, let alone the weather conditions, the field this time of year, all those things. Certainly the noise is going to play a factor.

“But our guys, they get giddied up for playing in stadiums and atmospheres like that, playoff-type football, December football in the cold, great football team we’re going against, so that will help.”

The Colts will be preparing this week for the possible cold temperatures and mind-numbing crowd noise.

“Yeah, I let them know last night after we broke it down [after the 25-3 home-field win over Houston] that we would be [practicing] outside. So they can start getting their mind wrapped around it on their days off, whatever they’re doing,” the coach said.

“Certainly we got the tractors out cleaning off the fields as we speak. [Practice facility supervisor] Troy Glendenning does a fabulous job. He’s got tough duty this week trying to keep the fields clear so we can get out in the elements and practice out there. But we play all that crowd noise stuff and make it hard [to practice].”

What will Glendenning do to simulate the boisterous fans in Kansas City?

“We mix it up. [A] little Bob Marley. Little bit of this, little bit of that. The airplane stuff is just really annoying, to be honest with you. They have to pass out Advil after practice to all the coaches and players,” Pagano joked.

“We just get something on there to make it as hard as possible on our offense from a communication standpoint.”

What about the possibility of facing the Chiefs later in the postseason. Will the Colts be tempted to hold anything back that’s in the offensive or defensive playbook?

“I think you do what you have to do to win a football game. Again, they’ve got a great football team. We have to go on the road and play in the elements. We all know how hard it is to play there. We’re going to do what we have to do,” the Colts coach said. “Try to go win a football game and not really worry about what lies ahead or what is down the road. We’ll do, again, whatever is necessary, whatever gives us the best opportunity, the best chance in all three phases to win that game.”

• Injury list — Pagano had some good news about second-year wide receiver Griff Whalen, who was hurt in the latter stages of the Texans game.

Initial speculation centered on a possible foot injury. But the Colts coach said that Whalen had a strained right calf. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious.

“He had a strain behind his knee, upper calf if you will. I don’t know exactly what it is, but he’s fine,” Pagano said.

There’s a possibility that cornerback Greg Toler (groin), among others, might be able to return to practice on Wednesday. Toler has been sidelined since a win over Denver on Oct. 20.

“[Offensive guard] Joe Reitz, as we know, has a concussion. He’ll go through the normal concussion protocol this week. He’ll be day-to-day. [Running back] Donald Brown, stinger. He’ll be day to day. [Safety] Sergio Brown [strained groin] got an MRI. He’ll be day to -day. [Outside linebacker] Daniel Adongo [hamstring], he’s day to day,” the coach reviewed.

“Greg Toler, expected to be out at practice on Wednesday, start moving him around. We’ll keep a close eye on him, obviously, and hopefully get him to Sunday. [Wide receiver LaVon] Brazill [foot] should be back out there Wednesday but he’ll be listed as day to day. [Fullback] Stanley Havili with the knee should be back out hopefully Wednesday, if not Thursday for sure, day to day. [Center] Samson Satele with the elbow came in [Monday], is doing better. He’ll be listed as day to day. [Offensive guard Jeff] Linkenbach with the quad, day to day. [Defensive tackle] Ricky Jean [Francois] is doing well, trending in the right direction and hopefully get him back sometime, maybe by Jacksonville, maybe sooner. He’s doing well.”