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Colts need Broncos to win on Monday night in order to stay alive in playoff race

If the Bengals win on Monday night, the Colts will be eliminated from the playoffs. So, in other words, the Colts really need the Broncos to win.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be a lot of confusion over playoff scenarios, so let's get this out of the way right now: the Indianapolis Colts aren't dead yet.  Though their playoff hopes are very slim, they have not yet been eliminated.

Entering the weekend, the Texans had a few clear clinching scenarios in which they would win the AFC South and eliminate the Colts from playoff contention (the Colts cannot make the playoffs as a wild card this year).  The easiest scenario was with a Texans win and a Colts' loss, but Indy's late defensive stand gave the Colts the victory.  The Texans won 34-6 over the Tennessee Titans today, however, so that opens them up to other scenarios regardless of the Colts' result.

There were two scenarios in which the Texans could still clinch this week despite a Colts' win, assuming Houston won, of course.  Here are those two scenarios:

The Jets defeated the Patriots in overtime today, but the Panthers lost 20-13 to the Falcons.  So that second scenario cannot happen anymore since Carolina lost - at best the Saints and Jets could win but not the Panthers.  So then it all comes down to the first scenario, and since the Jets won, it all comes down to Monday night's game between the Broncos and the Bengals.

Basically, here's the deal: if the Bengals win on Monday night, the Texans win the strength of victory tiebreaker and win the AFC South, eliminating the Colts.  But if the Broncos win on Monday night, the Colts will stay alive heading into the season's final week.  Then they would need to win next week (over the Titans) and would need the Texans to lose (to the Jaguars) and then would need to win the strength of victory tiebreaker.  Again, it's unlikely, but a Denver win tomorrow night would keep the Colts alive heading into the final week of the season.

It gets confusing, but that's partly because of how many tiebreakers there are.  The Colts and the Texans are tied on the first four tiebreakers, resulting in the strength of victory (the fifth tiebreaker) being the one that would break the tie if the Colts and the Texans were to end up with the same record (which is only possible if the Colts win next week and the Texans lose next week).  That's why other games mean so much to the Texans and the Colts, as it all depends on the strength of their victories.

So no, the Colts aren't dead yet.  They're in a lot of trouble, but they're not eliminated.  If the Bengals win tomorrow night, however, they will be.  If the Broncos win, the Colts will still be alive heading into week 17.