As the NFL enters Week 12, two teams – the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints – can clinch their divisions. Since 1990, only three teams – 1997 San Francisco, 2004 Philadelphia and 2007 New England – have clinched their divisions by their 11th game of the season.
Indianapolis clinches AFC South division title with:
· IND win + JAC loss
New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:
· NO win + ATL loss or tie OR
· NO tie + ATL loss
The Colts and Saints are both 10-0 and form just the third pair in NFL history to start a season 10-0, joining the 1934 Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears and the 1990 New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. In Week 12, the Colts will travel to Houston to face the Texans and the Saints will host the New England Patriots on Monday night.
The week’s NFL action will kick off on Thursday with a Thanksgiving Day tripleheader.
“I remember watching Thanksgiving games as a kid,” says Indianapolis quarterback PEYTON MANNING. “Even in high school and college, and now in the NFL, you practice, you come home and you watch Thanksgiving football.”
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-0) at HOUSTON TEXANS (5-5)
The Colts, who have won 19 consecutive regular-season games – the second-longest streak in NFL history – are closing in on a playoff berth for the eighth season in a row.
Indianapolis needed a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Baltimore 17-15 last week and became the first club in NFL history to win four consecutive games after trailing during the fourth quarter in each of them.
“Winning close games, you’ve got to have great leadership in the locker room,” says Colts linebacker Gary Brackett, who had a key fourth-quarter interception. “You’ve got to have guys with great fortitude. Don’t give up, never quit and that’s the mentality of this football team. Until that final whistle blows, we’re never out of it.”
The Texans know that they’re not out of it either. Despite a three-point loss to Tennessee on Monday night, Houston is in the mix for a playoff berth with a 5-5 record.
“We just need to win,” says Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, who ranks third in the NFL with 878 receiving yards. “If we win the rest of our games, we get in.”
ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-3) at TENNESSEE TITANS (4-6)
Two streaking teams will meet on Sunday afternoon in Tennessee. The NFC West-leading Cardinals, winners of three in a row, are a perfect 5-0 on the road for the first time since 1948. The Titans, who began the season 0-6, have strung together four consecutive wins to climb back into the AFC playoff hunt.
“Everybody on the team is playing good football,” says quarterback Vince Young, who is 4-0 since taking over as the starter this year. “Everyone is taking care of their assignments and executing the plays.”
Titans running back Chris Johnson rushed for 151 yards in the team’s 20-17 win on Monday night at Houston. Johnson has now rushed for at least 125 yards while averaging 5.0 yards per carry in five consecutive games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown (1958) as the only players to accomplish the feat.
Arizona gained 444 yards of total offense in last week’s 21-13 victory at St. Louis. The Cardinals have amassed at least 400 yards of offense in three consecutive games, the first time the club has accomplished that since 1969. In the win against the Rams, running back Tim Hightower rushed for a career-high 110 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry.
“We’ve been trying to improve on this running game and build on it each week,” says Hightower. “We’ve been going back and forth between me and BEANIE (WELLS) trying to get some balance to this offense. It’s been in the making.”
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-3) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-0)
“I don’t think there’s any better team in football than the New Orleans Saints,” says Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “They have no weaknesses that I can see.”
The Saints are 10-0, the best start in franchise history, and will host the 7-3 Patriots on Monday night in front of a rocking Superdome crowd.
“We know it’s a good team that we’re playing this week,” says New Orleans head coach Sean Payton. “New England has been a successful franchise and is one of those organizations that has found the right formula. When you play a team like this, you observe from afar the things that they are able to do and how that relates to winning games.”
The two teams are led by their quarterbacks. Drew Brees of the Saints ranks second in the NFL with a 105.8 passer rating and Tom Brady of the Patriots is fifth at 100.4. Brees leads the league with 22 touchdown passes and Brady is tied for fourth with 20.
“Both of these quarterbacks are accurate,” says Payton. “They’re good decision-makers and can decide quickly where they want to go with the ball based on the looks they’re getting. Those are certainly traits you see with both of them.”
Brees knows that it will take a strong effort against New England to extend the Saints’ longest winning streak in team history.
“It’s going to take our best game to beat the Patriots,” says Brees. “We know the type of team they are. We know the type of team they’ve been for the last decade. They’re a dynasty. Obviously, that’s one of the organizations we try to emulate. We’re trying to be a contender year-in and year-out and we’ve got to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The Indianapolis Colts are the first team in NFL history to win four consecutive games in a season by a total margin of 10 or fewer points. The Colts defeated San Francisco by four points in Week 8, Houston by three points in Week 9, New England by one point in Week 10 and Baltimore by two points in Week 11. The previous record was set by the 1986 New York Giants, who won four consecutive games by a total margin of 11 points en route to a Super Bowl XXI victory.
Week 12 Highlights courtesy NFL Media