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AFC Playoff Picture: Colts Drop to the Fourth Seed

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With a loss on Sunday, the Colts dropped from being the projected third seed to the projected fourth seed.

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We all know by now that the Colts lost on Sunday in completely embarrassing fashion, falling 42-7 to the Cowboys.  But perhaps the biggest question emerging from the game is this: what does the loss mean for the Colts' playoff standing?  Luckily for you, we have that information here.

The Colts have already clinched the AFC South division, so they're guaranteed at least one playoff game and they're guaranteed to host that game on wild card weekend.  Regardless of tonight's game or how the Broncos finish, the Colts will not be able to beat out Denver for a first round bye (and the Patriots have already clinched a bye).  Even if Denver loses their final two games and the Colts win next week, Denver and Indy would both finish 11-5 - and since the Broncos beat the Colts in week one, they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.  So we know that the Colts have clinched the AFC South and we know that they will host a playoff game on wild card weekend.

Who will they play, however?  That's the big question, and it likely won't be determined until after the final regular season game of the NFL season, as the league has flexed the Steelers vs. Bengals game next weekend to Sunday Night Football.  Currently (and this is written with the Monday Night Football game between the Broncos and Bengals yet to be played), the Colts are projected to host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs.  The other playoff game in the AFC in the wild card round would be the Bengals hosting the Chargers.

I don't think I need to remind you what happened the last time the Colts played the Steelers.  Indy lost 51-34 on the road and allowed Ben Roethlisberger to complete 40 of 49 passes for for 522 yards and six touchdowns without a pick in one of the greatest single-game passing performances in history.  Would that happen again?  Probably not, but Roethlisberger has had a tremendous season and with him at quarterback, Le'Veon Bell at running back, and Antonio Brown at wide receiver, the Steelers are perhaps the worst matchup for the Colts of any of these teams.  And that's the matchup that's currently projected.

Our own Matt Grecco ran the numbers and looked at the chances the Colts have of facing particular opponents in the first round of the playoffs:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Colts Opponent for WC Round as of now:&#10;PIT: 28%&#10;SD: 24%&#10;CIN: 22%&#10;BAL: 22%&#10;HOU: 3%&#10;KC: 1%</p>&mdash; Matt Grecco (@mgrex03) <a href="https://twitter.com/mgrex03/status/547064635879223298">December 22, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Colts Opponent in WC Round if Bengals lose tonight:&#10;SD: 39%&#10;BAL: 35.5%&#10;PIT: 10.5%&#10;CIN: 7%&#10;HOU: 6%&#10;KC: 2%</p>&mdash; Matt Grecco (@mgrex03) <a href="https://twitter.com/mgrex03/status/547069494481272832">December 22, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

We'll keep updating you on the scenarios after tonight's game, as that will certainly have an impact on the projections.  Right now, however, the Steelers are projected to come to Indianapolis to face the Colts in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.  And I think that's the worst possible matchup for the Colts in the first round.