INDIANAPOLIS — There's a special emphasis on Sunday's game for Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.
But it has nothing to do with the team on the opposing sideline and everything to do with his club's suddenly fruitful postseason chances.
"We're in a situation where we're tied for that last wild-card spot, and every week's a playoff game," Arians said during a recent conference call at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "We can't get behind with Carolina winning again."
The Panthers (7-3) beat New England on Monday night for their sixth straight victory. That leaves them one game clear of the Cardinals (6-4) and San Francisco 49ers, who are tied for second place in the NFC West and the sixth and final playoff seed.
All of that is just to say Arians doesn't have time for sentimentality this week.
The Indianapolis Colts (7-3) are coming to town, and that's certain to bring back a host of memories on both sides. Arians, of course, was the offensive coordinator for Andrew Luck's record-setting rookie season.
He famously left the light on in Chuck Pagano's office as the first-year head coach was treated for leukemia, and he led the team to a 9-3 record as interim coach in his close friend's absence.
When the season was over, Arians' name was mentioned in connection with several jobs. But only the Cardinals came through with an offer, and he's led a similar turnaround effort in the desert.
The plain-speaking New Jersey native's no-nonsense approach already has led to more victories than last year's 5-11 season for Arizona.
"I really haven't met or played for a guy like him," Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said. "He's not a man of a ton of words, but when he talks there's always meaning behind it. He doesn't let anybody get away with anything, no matter who they are or what their salary is or any of that stuff.