INDIANAPOLIS — Nobody will be happier to see the calendar turn to December than the Indianapolis Colts.
The past month has seen the team embarrassed by a pair of NFC West opponents and pushed to its limit in comeback victories against two AFC South rivals.
The Colts played just one home game in November, and lost it. 38-8.
They survived the month with a 2-2 overall record and cling to a two-game lead in the AFC South. But if December starts just as poorly, real trouble will be brewing.
The Tennessee Titans (5-6) visit Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday as the sixth and final seed for the AFC playoffs. Win, and they cut Indianapolis' division lead to a single game with four remaining. Lose, and just one more victory for the Colts (7-4) or one additional loss for Tennessee will send the AFC South title back to the Circle City for the first time since 2010.
"You know how this team has responded to adversity," Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said Monday, one day after his team's 40-11 loss at Arizona. "They've been always able to bounce back in these certain situations, and so we fully expect as a staff and as a team and our players to have a great week of preparation. We know what's at stake, but we're going to stick to the process and do what we have to do Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in order to give ourselves a chance to redeem ourselves, get this taste out of our mouth and take a stranglehold on the division."
If that sounds familiar, it should.
On Nov. 14, the Colts headed to Tennessee facing a very similar scenario coming off a 38-8 loss against the St. Louis Rams. After falling behind 17-3 in the second quarter, Indianapolis rallied for a 30-27 victory and pushed its lead in the division to three games.