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NFL Playoff Picture: For Colts, it’s looking like division title or bust

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

We’re almost done with week ten of the NFL season, meaning that talk of the playoffs will continue to ramp up in the coming weeks as we wind down toward the end of the season. So because of that, let’s take a look at our first AFC playoff picture of the year in what will be a weekly feature for the rest of the season.

The New England Patriots (7-2) currently hold the top seed in the AFC as the leaders of the AFC East division, while the Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) would also get a bye as the second seed and leaders of the AFC West. Then the Houston Texans (6-3) would be the third seed as AFC South leaders, and the Baltimore Ravens (5-4) would occupy the fourth seed due to them leading the AFC North. The Oakland Raiders (7-2) and Denver Broncos (7-3) would be in line for the wild card berths, pitting the Raiders against the Ravens and the Broncos against the Texans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

There are several other teams in pursuit of playoff spots, however, so here’s the full AFC playoff picture, as of right now (which could change depending on how the Bengals do tonight):

  1. New England Patriots (7-2)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)
  3. Houston Texans (6-3)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (5-4)
  5. Oakland Raiders (7-2)
  6. Denver Broncos (7-3)
  7. Miami Dolphins (5-4)
  8. Tennessee Titans (5-5)
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5)
  10. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
  11. Buffalo Bills (4-5)
  12. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1)
  13. San Diego Chargers (4-6)
  14. New York Jets (3-7)
  15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)
  16. Cleveland Browns (0-10)

Looking at it from the Colts’ perspective, they have one realistic shot of making the playoffs: win the AFC South. That’s still very doable despite being a few games back of the Texans, especially with three home divisional games remaining on the schedule. But taking a look at this playoff picture, it seems pretty clear that the Colts won’t be getting a wild card spot unless absolute chaos happens elsewhere in the NFL. To get a spot as a wild card, the Colts would have to beat out teams such as the Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins, Titans, Steelers, Bills, Bengals, Chargers, and perhaps others (such as the Chiefs or Ravens, depending on how those divisional races go) to earn a spot. That’s a tall order to ask the Colts to suddenly in the final seven games finish above all but one of those teams to even earn the sixth seed. So it’s looking like their only path to the playoffs will be through the division, which makes the three remaining games against divisional opponents absolutely crucial.

As for the other conference, here’s how the NFC playoff picture would look if the postseason started today:

  1. Dallas Cowboys (8-1)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1)
  3. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
  4. Detroit Lions (5-4)
  5. New York Giants (5-3)*
  6. Washington Redskins (5-3-1)

* The Giants play tonight, so this playoff picture could change depending on tonight’s result.