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Colts get quick turnaround; turning heads with unexpected contention for playoffs

The resurgent Indianapolis Colts have a quick turnaround for a Thursday night game.

The timing, though, could be just right.

The Colts (5-3) go on the road to face division rival Jacksonville (1-7). The Jaguars are winless at home and are on a five-game skid since beating the Colts 22-17 in Week 3.

Indy is riding yet another emotional win, beating the Miami Dolphins 23-20 on Sunday with their coach, Chuck Pagano, watching from the press box in his first appearance at Lucas Oil Stadium since being diagnosed with Leukemia in September.

Pagano spoke to the team before the game and then delivered an inspirational speech after.

As a veteran player, linebacker Dwight Freeney knows how tough a short turnaround can be.

"It comes real quick," he said. "You get to celebrate that victory for about two hours and two hours after the game after that, we have to get focused on the next opponent and that's the toughest thing."

This week will test the Colts. Can they overcome the injuries, the mental drain and the condensed week? It's a first this season for the young team to play a primetime game and to play a game that didn't have a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Freeney and other veterans on the team can help by keeping the rookies focused.

"They're experiencing it for the first time and it's up to the older guys to kind of keep them, all right look, it's about this week, who cares what happened last week, who cares how many games we've won in a row, it doesn't matter,'" Freeney said. "We have to get this victory coming up."

Even wide receiver Reggie Wayne was visibly exhausted in the locker room Tuesday.

"The body knows that on Tuesdays you're normally in bed," he said. "So it's tough. We're going to have to be dialed in. I think the team that handles this turnaround the best is going to be the team that has the most success."

The short week certainly doesn't do any favors to a team with so many injuries.

"There's no doubt," Arians said. "The recovery time from Sunday to Thursday is ridiculous, especially after playing a very physical game, and then to have to travel. When you add the travel in, you may get some swelling out of your body, but on that airplane, you're going to swell right back up."

Arians said he would know more after Tuesday's practice about the status of players with injuries — running back Donald Brown (knee), linebacker Robert Mathis (back), tackle Winston Justice (knee), center Samson Satele (back) and Jerraud Powers (toe).

Although, Arians says Powers will be out against the Jaguars and is hopeful for the others.

At the same time, Freeney is doing his part to get Mathis back on the field.

"I've been giving him all types of advice," Freeney said. "I've been telling Rob, hang upside down for five minutes, rub that special oil, whatever it is, I'm trying to get him back. I have to get my partner in crime back out there."

Jacksonville isn't in any better of a position with injuries. Maurice Jones-Drew will miss his third straight game, out with a left foot sprain. Jones-Drew rushed for 177 yards and touchdown in their first meeting this season.

But just as important as dealing with injuries on a short week, veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri says, is being able to prepare mentally. And with 17 years of experience in the league, he would know.

"The edge goes to the team that can get themselves mentally prepared," he said. "You really have to get the mental edge. With a short week coming off a tough fought game, the physical side is hard to come by so you really have to be extra special when it comes to mental preparation — a lot of film work, it's just as much mental that you can do to get prepared for this game."