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NFL

Colts' young team hopes magical run continues in playoffs

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 7:04 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — The playoffs can't start soon enough for Donnie Avery.

Five years after being the first receiver taken in the 2008 NFL Draft, he will finally make his postseason debut at Baltimore.

It's about time.

“It's great. It's like starting the season all over again,” the Colts receiver said Friday. “It's got my juices flowing again.”

The veterans who have been there say the playoffs are exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time.

And this week, Avery isn't the only one in the Colts' locker room going through this for the first time. Of the 53 players on this year's roster, 28 have never played in an NFL playoff game.

Perhaps that should be expected from a team that has relied on rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, piled up more combined rushing and receiving yards by rookies than any team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and endured a thorough housecleaning project after last year's 2-14 debacle. More than a half-dozen key players from the Colts' 2009 Super Bowl team, including Peyton Manning, were let go.

But the truth is only nine rookies are on that first-timer list as the surprising Colts (11-5) visit AFC North champion Baltimore (10-6) in Sunday's wild-card game.

“It's a special moment. I've never been to the playoffs being in Miami. My brother, Vernon Davis of San Francisco, he went to this first playoffs last year. He said it's a great feeling, a great experience,” Vontae Davis said. “I asked him for any tips, and he just said ‘play harder.' ”

What the Colts have done best is find ways to win.

“It's another week, we know the stakes are higher,” Pagano said.

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