Potential 0-16 season haunts two Colts

History has followed quarterback Dan Orlovsky and linebacker Ernie Sims from Detroit to Indianapolis, where their addresses have changed but the losing has not.

Orlovsky and Sims, part of the 2008 Lions team that went 0-16, are now teammates in Indianapolis, where the winless Colts are challenging the Lions' record and two of their players' sanity.

As the Colts began preparations to host the Panthers on Sunday, Orlovsky said he would rather not be reminded of it, but he knows he inevitably will be.

"I remember the difficulty of being 0-10, 0-11, 0-12, 0-13 there," Orlovsky recalled this week about his days with the Lions. "It's painful, it is. There's a black cloud. No one around work is happy; no one's smiling. There's zero that's fun about it.

"It was really difficult to come to work every day. You work your tail off to change things, but you wonder, 'Is this ever going to end, ever going to change?' When we played, you'd think, 'Who is going to mess it up this time?' You don't want to think that way, but it's hard not to.

"It's difficult. You're embarrassed to be a part of it."

Orlovsky is not in the same frame of mind in Indianapolis -- at least not yet. He insists that the two organizations are entirely different. Detroit had a tradition of losing, whereas Indianapolis has had a history of winning.

Still, the Colts are just six losses short of joining the Lions as the only other 0-16 team in NFL history, and the Colts look fully capable of doing it. Orlovsky doesn't wonder which Colts will mess up, but others do.

Orlovsky is smart enough to know how a season like this affects players in the future. Orlovsky believes there are players in Detroit whose reputations were adversely, and unfairly, affected. The same is likely to happen with many of these Colts. Good players will have their reputations tarnished, just as ordinary players have their reputations elevated when they play on winning teams.

But Orlovsky and Sims, having been through this before, have discussed the best way to handle it so they can try to prevent repeating it. Orlovsky said they've tried to adopt leadership roles, keep their teammates upbeat, enliven practices and block out certain thoughts.

"We don't want the thought process of 'Who will mess it up now?' to creep in," Orlovsky said.

Yet, the more the Colts lose, the more that thought does. It is hard to avoid now. They are six losses from an oh-fer. And Orlovsky and Sims, through their experience in Detroit, are bonded the way any two people are when they endure difficult times together.

Orlovsky and Sims took different paths to the Colts. Orlovsky spent last season in Houston before signing with Indianapolis in September, Sims spent last season in Philadelphia before signing with the Colts in August. But they're tired of being on the same path to history.

On to this week's 10 Spot:

1. Tebow's decision-making: While the debate rages about Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, one factor often gets overlooked: Tebow has been a superb decision-maker. He has been responsible with the football in ways other quarterbacks have not been. Tebow has handled the football 181 times this season -- 125 passing attempts, 56 rushing attempts -- and turned over the football only once, when he threw an interception in a blowout loss to the Lions. Despite his paltry 44.8 percent completion percentage, Tebow has been ultra-careful. He rarely forces the football into double coverage and hasn't fumbled on high-risk option plays. As the Broncos head to San Diego for Sunday's game versus the Chargers, Tebow's ability to secure the ball is one of the most underrated aspects of his game. But here's the ultimate irony: The better Tebow plays and the more he wins, the worse the Broncos' draft position becomes in April. By the time Denver's turn in the first round of the draft rolls around, thanks to Tebow, the Broncos no longer will be in position to pick the most highly rated quarterbacks.

2. Rivers' decision-making: No quarterback has been more irresponsible with the football this season than San Diego's Philip Rivers, who has made the types of throws he never did in the past. Rivers already has thrown 17 interceptions -- two more than he had in any of his five other NFL seasons as a starter -- and the Chargers still have six games to play. It's no wonder the Chargers have lost five straight games for the first time since a nine-game losing streak spanning the 2002-03 seasons. Rivers repeatedly says nothing is wrong, but numerous NFL executives and coaches around the league disagree. What has happened many times in the past is that a quarterback who struggles during the season will acknowledge afterward that he was hurt. It wouldn't be stunning if the same happened with Rivers. Based on the opinion of people around the league, Rivers has to be playing hurt, no matter how much he denies it.

3. The Jets' déjà vu: It feels as if the Jets are right back where they were in Week 15 of the 2009 season. After the Jets lost to Atlanta to drop to 7-7 that season, coach Rex Ryan said, "We're obviously out of the playoffs, and that's unfortunate." Only the Jets weren't out of the playoffs. They went on to win their next two games, make the playoffs and advance to the AFC Championship Game. Now, the Jets are once again at the .500 mark, this time at 5-5. But the schedule sets up favorably for New York. In the next three games, the Jets host Buffalo, play at Washington and then return home for a game against the Chiefs. There's no reason the Jets shouldn't be 8-5 entering a critical stretch of the season in which they travel to Philadelphia, return home to host the Giants and then go to Miami. There are, however, two problems in the back half of that schedule. For starters, there is nothing the Giants would enjoy more than shutting up Ryan and proving they own New York. And the other is the Jets' record on the road this season. Including the playoffs, the Jets were an impressive 15-7 on the road the past two seasons, but they are only 1-4 away from home this year. If the poor road results continue, Ryan eventually might need to proclaim that the Jets have been eliminated -- officially -- from the playoffs.

4. Counterfeit Bills? The situation in Buffalo provides a little more evidence as to why the 49ers and quarterback Alex Smith haven't had any discussions regarding a contract extension. After the Bills gave him a six-year, $59 million contract extension, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led them to a 23-0 win over the Redskins in Toronto. But since then, the Bills' and Fitzpatrick's performances have gone south. In the past three games, Fitzpatrick has completed 55 of 101 passes for 546 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions, and the Bills have gone 0-3 while being outscored 106-26. Injuries have also piled up. The Bills have lost the middle of their team on both sides of the ball -- Pro Bowl nose tackle Kyle Williams and center Eric Wood -- to season-ending injuries. But the magic Fitzpatrick and the rest of the offense had in abundance early in the season has dissipated along with Buffalo's playoff hopes. Sometimes a team signs a player in the middle of the season, the way Green Bay did with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, and it turns out to be a shrewd move. Other teams make a midseason move that leads to more questions and issues.

5. Texans to focus on the run: One of the most intriguing aspects of the last part of the regular season will be whether the Texans can continue to run the football well enough to make up for the difference between injured quarterback Matt Schaub and his replacement, Matt Leinart. Heading into Sunday's game at Jacksonville, the Texans rank first in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (35.7), rank second in the NFL in rushing yards game (158.1), and are tied with the Vikings and the Raiders for first in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (13). Dating to their days coaching together in Denver, Texans coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison always have had offenses that could run the football effectively. In 1998, Kubiak and Dennison lost John Elway to a strained hamstring for two games. Bubby Brister replaced Elway, and, in those two games, the Broncos rushed for 185 yards at Washington and 231 yards against the Eagles. Kubiak and Dennison now will lean heavily on Arian Foster, Ben Tate and an underrated offensive line and will have to hope the scheme makes up for the absence of Schaub.

6. Titanic mistake: With Tennessee's run game limping along, it sure would help if the Titans had a running back like Tampa Bay's LeGarrette Blount. Oh wait -- they did have a running back just like Blount. They had Blount himself. More than one year later, it's still hard to imagine, but the Titans decided in summer 2010 to cut Blount, whom the Tampa Bay Buccaneers promptly claimed on waivers. Blount has not fared quite as well this season as he did last season, when he gained more than 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie. This season, Blount is on pace to rush for 947 yards, and his yards per carry have dropped by nearly half a yard. But Sunday against Green Bay, Blount flashed the type of talent he demonstrated in his rookie year. The thought of Blount and a struggling Chris Johnson in the same backfield, as Tennessee's version of thunder and lightning, would have been enough to give the Titans an answer to Houston's version of Foster and Tate. But now, instead of playing with Blount, the Titans will have to play against him when they host the Buccaneers on Sunday.

7. Raiders' Bush making a free-agent run: Raiders running back Darren McFadden's sprained foot has enabled Oakland's other running back, Michael Bush, to audition for free agency. Bush's contract is up after this season, and, although the value of running backs has taken a hit around the league, Bush still will be in demand. Bush has had at least 30 carries and 100 rushing yards in each of Oakland's past two games, becoming the first Raider to have two 30-carry, 100-yard games in the same season since Marcus Allen did it in 1985. It worked out OK for Allen once he left Oakland, and Bush is hoping to duplicate his predecessor's success. Bush has been waiting for his payday ever since the 2007 draft, when Oakland invested a fourth-round pick on him. Had Bush not broken his right leg in the season opener of his senior season at Louisville in 2006, he probably would have been a first-round pick -- with a bigger bonus. The way he's playing now, the money could be coming. His runs for the Raiders have positioned him to make a run out of Oakland this offseason.

8. Giants can't rush the ball: It has become increasingly obvious this season that the once-smashmouth Giants have evolved into a passing team. The Giants are considered one of the worst rushing teams in the league, and they validated that opinion in Sunday night's loss against the Eagles, when New York gained a measly 29 yards on 17 carries. If the Giants are going to have any chance of upsetting New Orleans on the road Monday night, they will have to control the ball and the clock. In fact, as it gets later in the season and the temperature gets colder, the Giants are going to need to re-establish a running game that has been virtually nonexistent this season.

9. Smith Big Apple bound? Eagles wide receiver Steve Smith returned to New York for a game this past Sunday, but it would hardly be a surprise if he wound up returning there with the Giants after his contract expires, as well. Some people who know Smith believe he is open to going back to the team he left this past summer. He also could rejoin his former college coach, Pete Carroll, in Seattle, but no team makes more sense or is more appealing to Smith than the Giants. Smith and the Eagles have not been the fit either side hoped. Philadelphia dangled him at the trade deadline, and the Giants will have a need at the position because wide receiver Mario Manningham is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. Giants quarterback Eli Manning loves throwing to Smith. And we've seen receiver reunions in the past. Laveranues Coles once returned to the Jets. Deion Branch did the same with the Patriots. It would not be a surprise if the next receiver reunion involved Smith and the Giants.

10. Saints rally around Gleason: Anyone not familiar with the story of former Saints safety Steve Gleason should be. Gleason provided the Saints one of the most memorable moments in franchise history in September 2006. Gleason blocked a punt in the first quarter of a Monday night game against the Falcons and allowed New Orleans to recover it in the end zone for the team's first touchdown in its first home game since Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city 21 months before. Earlier this season, Gleason revealed he is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). On Sunday, in New Orleans' Champions Square, the Saints will hold a fundraiser for Gleason, with an all-day musical celebration and Saints players in attendance. It will come the day before the Saints play the Giants in the Monday night game, and New Orleans players plan to honor Gleason now and in the future. Eventually, the Saints plan to place a statue of Gleason blocking the punt in Champions Square. "His battle with this disease and his family's battle with this disease are difficult enough, but the proceeds will go to a trust for Steve Gleason and his family," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "The one thing about this city is we've always found a way to rally around difficult times or certainly a person in need. This is a great cause." For more information, please go to www.gleasongras.org.

The Schef's specialties

Game of the week: Giants at Saints. After three appetizing Thanksgiving Day matchups, consider this a really good dessert Monday.

Player of the week: Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch. He has scored a rushing touchdown in six straight weeks, with the chance to make it seven against Washington.

Broncos over Chargers: It's not just Tim Tebow. Denver's defense is playing lights-out football.

Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.