Indianapolis Colts (8-4, second)
Analysis: The Colts have weathered all sorts of things that would kill a lot of teams. They were decimated early by injuries to their offensive line as quarterback Peyton Manning needed time to round into form after missing all of training camp and the preseason after two knee surgeries.
Sunday: vs. Cincinnati
Dec. 14: vs. Detroit
Dec. 18: at Jacksonville
Dec. 28: vs. Tennessee
This team has a similar look and feel to the 2006 version that won the Super Bowl. It has functioned for a good share of the regular season without safety Bob Sanders -- just like that championship team did. The Colts hope to have him lined up and healthy for a postseason run. They'll enter as a wild card.
Indianapolis has fallen short a lot more than it has succeeded in the postseason, but these Colts are gritty. They still have Manning running the show and could be a dangerous draw in January.
Difference-maker: Presuming Sanders' knee injury settles down and allows him to play in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, the key Colt come January could be center Jeff Saturday.
In an offense with Manning, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Joseph Addai, Saturday's sometimes underappreciated. But he works in sync with Manning and communicates the calls to the offensive line. He's currently out with a calf injury, with Jamey Richard playing in his spot.
Odds are to make a run, the Colts will have to beat a team or two with an imposing defensive tackle like Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth, the Jets' Kris Jenkins, Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton or Baltimore's Haloti Ngata.
Saturday's going to need to be recovered from his calf injury and ready to go to maximize the Colts' chances.
Ticket to Tampa: They aren't a favorite, but don't be surprised.
-- Paul Kuharsky, AFC South blogger
But they survived 1-2 and 3-4 starts, and another rash of injuries to the defensive backfield. The Colts are riding a five-game winning streak in which they've consistently found clutch plays they needed to win close games.
This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors.