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A Lot on the Line this Sunday for Colts vs. Patriots

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There is a lot riding on this Sunday's game between the Colts and the Patriots: namely, the inside track for a first round bye in the playoffs.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

This Sunday night all of the eyes in the football world will be on Indianapolis as the Colts host the New England Patriots in a game that will have big implications down the road: namely, as to which team holds the inside track to a first round bye in the playoffs.

Here's the way the AFC playoff picture currently rests: the first seed is the Patriots (7-2), who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver.  The second seed is the Broncos (7-2), who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Indy.  The third seed is the Colts (6-3) and the fourth seed is the Browns (6-3).

Let's start off by looking at what would happen should the Patriots win.  They'd improve to 8-2 and hold tiebreakers over both the Broncos and Colts, who would be the two teams most likely to push New England out of a bye.  With the Patriots' brutal schedule coming up, the tiebreakers would be a huge boost to the team and would give them the clear edge in getting that first round bye.  Now what would happen should the Colts win?  This is where things get interesting.  If Indy beats New England, the Colts would improve to 7-3 while the Patriots would fall to 7-3, and the Colts would hold the tiebreaker edge.  Regardless of if Denver would win next week (they play the Rams, so it's likely but not a given), if the Colts win they'd be in line for a first round bye as the two seed.  That would leave the Patriots on the outside looking in as far as the week off is concerned.  Should the Colts win, all three teams would be within a game of each other, with the Patriots holding the tiebreaker on the Broncos, the Broncos holding the tiebreaker on the Colts, and the Colts holding the tiebreaker on the Patriots.

In short, here's the deal: this Sunday's game in Indianapolis features two teams very likely to make the playoffs regardless, but it will have a big impact on seeding and the coveted first round bye.  Not to mention that it's Sunday Night Football against a very good team and a rival.  It should be a great game and one that has a lot riding on it.

Is it Sunday yet?