The Indianapolis Colts have not missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1997-98. In order to keep that streak alive, however, they’ll need a turnaround in the second half of this season.
The Colts are 4-5 at their bye week and in second place in the AFC South, but they’re very much within reach of the first place Houston Texans, who are 5-3. In fact, had the Colts simply held on to their big lead in the final minutes of their game in Houston instead of absolutely collapse, they’d be in first place.
Unfortunately for the Colts that game still counts, but the point is that they’re still not out of it. And with seven games remaining - including three against AFC South opponents - the Colts will have plenty of time to crawl their way out of the hole they’ve created for themselves. The Colts will play four of their final seven games at home and will host all three division opponents. Here are their second half opponents:
Tennessee Titans (4-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)
@ New York Jets (3-6)
Houston Texans (5-3)
@ Minnesota Vikings (5-3)
@ Oakland Raiders (7-2)
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)
The schedule is somewhat formidable, but perhaps not as tough as many expected it to be. The big three games are the ones against division opponents, and the Colts will face the Titans in their first game after the bye week, who they beat already this year. Then a few weeks later they’ll face the Texans, who they outplayed for most of their contest earlier this year before the aforementioned collapse. And then in the regular season finale they’ll face the Jacksonville Jaguars, who outplayed the Colts for most of their game in London earlier this year before Indy mounted a comeback that fell just short. If the Colts take care of business in those three games, they should be in good position to take the division.
The other games feature a Thanksgiving night game against the Steelers, a Monday night matchup on the road against the Jets, and back-to-back road games against the Vikings and the Raiders (two current division leaders), the latter of which is on Christmas Eve. The Raiders are a good team, the Vikings have a very good defense, and the Steelers are dangerous, but the Jets are worse than many expected entering the year. It won’t be easy, but then again nothing will be for this Colts team considering how bad their defense has played. But if the team can play at the level they did against Green Bay, there’s plenty of reason to think they could go 4-3 or better during the second half, and if some of those wins come against AFC South opponents they should be right in the mix at the end of the year.
The Colts have little margin for error at this point, but their season is far from over. With a better second half, they’ll be right there in the AFC South race at the end of the year.