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Broncos Loss Makes Colts vs. Patriots Even Bigger

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With the Broncos' loss earlier today, the stakes for the Colts vs. Patriots are even higher - if that's possible.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It was already by far the biggest regular season game of the year for the Colts, and it got even bigger after the early games today throughout the league.  The Denver Broncos lost to the St. Louis Rams, putting them at 7-3.  The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Seattle Seahawks, improving to 7-3 and in a tie for first place in the AFC West with Denver.  With a Colts win tonight over the New England Patriots, there would be a four-way tie atop the AFC, with the Colts, Patriots, Broncos, and Chiefs all sitting at 7-3 through eleven weeks.

Denver holds the current head-to-head tiebreaker over Kansas City, though the two teams play again in a couple of weeks.  What this means, however, is that since the two teams are in the same division at most one of the two can earn a first round bye, even in the case that they have the two best records.  Denver also holds the tiebreaker over Indianapolis.  New England holds the tiebreaker over Denver.  And if Indianapolis wins tonight, they would hold the tiebreaker over New England.  That would mean it would go to the second tiebreaker, which is conference record.  If the Colts win tonight, the Colts would be 6-2 vs. the AFC, the Patriots would be 5-3, and the Broncos are 5-1 - meaning Denver and Indy would be in line for a first round bye.

Confused yet?  Basically, here's the deal: this is a huge, huge game tonight.  I've said multiple times this week that perhaps the biggest obstacle to the Colts' road to the Super Bowl could be neither playing the Broncos nor the Patriots but rather playing in New England.  With a loss to the Patriots tonight, the Colts would most likely not earn the first round bye and not have the home field advantage over the Patriots.  With a win tonight, however, the Colts would control their own destiny as it comes to the bye.

Furthermore, and this is a secondary note to what we've talked about regarding the potential first round bye, but since the Texans beat the Browns today to improve to 5-5, a Colts' loss would put Indianapolis just one game up on Houston in the AFC South (but with the Colts currently holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, though).  That's a secondary note to the first round bye talk, however, because we've already seen how huge this game is in those regards.

In other words: it's hard to get a much bigger regular season game than the Colts have tonight against the Patriots, and it's easily the biggest game they'll play until the playoffs begin.  The stakes were already big, but with the Broncos' loss earlier today they've just gotten bigger.

Is it 8:30 yet?