The Indianapolis Colts have provided one of the feel-good stories of this NFL season.
They went 2-14 in 2011, then early this season, coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. Riding a wave of emotion and the arm of superstar rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts rolled to a surprising 6-3 start.
The book hit a rough chapter last Sunday when Indianapolis was routed 59-24 at New England. Now the Colts host Buffalo on Sunday in a game that could have a lot to do with how happy the ending will be.
Indianapolis still plays Detroit on Dec. 2 and AFC-leading Houston twice down the stretch, so losing this game against the struggling Bills would be costly.
“We are in a position now where if we win out, we’re in,” Colts receiver Reggie Wayne said. “There are a lot of teams that want our position. They are going to treat every game like a playoff game and we need to do the same. Every game from now on is going to be real crucial for this ball club.”
Luck said older teammates have helped him understand the importance of Sunday’s game.
“This is a new experience for me, everything about this year,” he said. “But it does seem to be that way, the way the veterans talk about it and the feeling around the building. You get a sense that the games mean that much more.”
The game is critical for the Bills as well. Buffalo is two games behind the Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers for AFC wild card spots and can’t afford any wrong steps.
“The Colts are ahead of us in the standings,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “This is almost a playoff game for us in terms of one we have to have at this point in the season. We do look at it in those regards.”