Heather Hill Lloyd, a.k.a. “The Blue Mare,” is ready for the playoffs. She shares her insights with Phillip B. Wilson on how the Indianapolis Colts closed out the regular season and then Sunday’s AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Phil B: We look back first. They won. That’s what they’re supposed to do. What did you take from the Tennessee Titans game?
Heather: Like we’ve said, were the Colts really going to impress us with anything they could do against the Titans? Not really. But the reality is they went in there, they got it done and they got it done well enough that they could pull out Andrew Luck toward the end and get a little bit of Matt Hasselbeck time in there. They also took care of the ball, which is nice. Andrew didn’t have that sack-fumble, which we’ve held our breath on. I do think they minimized their mistakes a little bit, so that was a step in the right direction. Sadly, we could not escape injury with Hugh Thornton going out. And who else went out? There was one more?
Phil B: A.Q. Shipley.
Heather: Yeah, Shipley, exactly. The last thing the Colts needed was to get more injuries on the offensive line, but it sounds like we’re going to get a few players back there. All in all, they got it done, so we’re happy about that.
Phil B: I don’t feel like we need to say any more about Tennessee. Let’s get to the playoffs. Were the Bengals the best matchup for the Colts?
Heather: I think the Bengals are definitely the best matchup for the Colts. I can tell you I was rooting hard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as painful as it was last weekend, because I think the Bengals are the better matchup. The fact that we beat them before is somewhat irrelevant because they didn’t have wide receiver A.J. Green. We had Ahmad Bradshaw. A.J. Green may be walking through that door for the Bengals, but Ahmad Bradshaw won’t be for the Colts. So it’s a little irrelevant that we shut them out last time. I just feel much better about going against the Bengals because I don’t think quarterback Andy Dalton is a lot to worry about in January. He’s his worst enemy at times. No one wanted to see the Steelers here in a first-round playoff game. The Steelers are very unpredictable, but that’s a team when it gets hot, it can do anything. We all remember way too well when they were here for a playoff game a few years ago (21-18 Colts loss in 2006).
Phil B: How confident are you about Sunday?
Heather: I am confident that if the Colts go in there, play good football and take care of the ball, I’m not going to say they shouldn’t have a problem winning this game but they should win this game. I don’t care if it’s ugly football. I don’t care what they have to do. They need to win this game and they need to play good football. I know they’ve been working day in and day out on how they’re going to do that. I just hope it comes together on the field. The defense has really performed, and hopefully they keep doing that. Again, whether or not A.J. Green is in there is a big factor but they’ve got a running back in Jeremy Hill who has been unbelievable. Stopping him is going to be a big thing, too. On the offensive side, the Colts just need to play good, solid football. Hopefully wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is back to T.Y. Hilton shape and we can get him out there doing some stuff. Tight end Coby Fleener has been fantastic, you get him involved. Again, if they take care of the ball and protect Andrew Luck, the Colts should win this game. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will win this game but they should win this game.
Phil B: I’m 50-50 on it, Heather. I won’t lie to you.
Heather: You’re 50-50 on it?
Phil B: Yep.
Heather: I honestly think they’ll win it. I heard what coach Chuck Pagano was telling them in the locker room about how it’s time for us to take the next step. I know the fans agree with that. We all kind of feel like every year they’ve taken one more step forward. Of course, this would be the year to win that first playoff game, go onto the next playoff game and take another step from there to the AFC Championship Game. That’s what we all want. Now, again, all kinds of stuff happens, though. Injuries happen. Stuff gets in the way. In no way is a football team’s season a perfect story. But if it was a perfect story, yes, the Colts would take another step forward here and end up in the AFC Championship Game and we’d all be thrilled. Unfortunately, we have to see what happens on the field but the first step is a big win on Sunday and I really do think they will get it done.
Phil B: So you’re telling me you want to see them play New England again?
Heather: You know … (laughs) …
Phil B: You’re laughing, Heather.
Heather: I can’t even pick who I want them to see next because the reality is the difference between the first-round game and the second-round game is going to be huge. There’s no question about that. I’d like to get another shot at Denver. I really would. I think, right now, playing Denver would be my preference. But it’s hard to even think that right now because all I want them to do is win against the Bengals. Let’s cross that bridge when we get there. I feel like we’ve approached games before, as fans, thinking about the next game and the next opponent we want to play. And the reality is you can’t do that. You’ve got to put all of your effort into the game that’s coming and you can’t overlook the Bengals. Next week, I’ll be happy to talk about who I hope they play next as long as they beat the Bengals and we go into the next round. How’s that?
Phil B: You sound like you’re on the Colts’ payroll.
Heather: (Laughs.) The Colts? Is that Pagano’s speech coming out? Listen, I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve been guilty of that. I’ve gone into playoff games with the Colts thinking about who I want to play in the next round and they’ve lost the game and the next round never came. I’ve taken my lumps as a fan. I’ve learned over the years. You have to appreciate the fact that your team is going to the playoffs and you’ve got a home playoff game and you have to enjoy it because the reality is you don’t know if you’re going to get a game next week.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.