With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, a lot remains up in the air in terms of playoff positions for the AFC in particular. The Colts aren’t excluded from the drama, and find themselves in a fight to the finish that could end them as high as the 2 seed, and as low as watching the playoffs from the comfort of their couches.
Despite a somewhat clearer playoff picture as we head into week 16, a lot remains to be decided, making the final two weeks critically important for the Colts. They will head to Pittsburgh Sunday to face a reeling Steelers team that has dropped three in a row, two of which have come against teams with losing records. Finally, they’ll close out the season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Here is a look at the different ways the Colts can make the playoffs:
The simplest way for the Colts to guarantee their spot in the playoff race is to just go win both of their remaining games. It is important to point out that the Colts don’t have tiebreakers in their favor. That means they need to have a better record than their competition to make it in, and this would get them there. While winning out wouldn’t necessarily mean they’d lock the division, it would mean they’d secure their playoff spot, and a 12-4 record that would be the best the team has posted since they went 14-2 back in 2009. Should the Titans lose a game and the Colts win out, they’d win the AFC South for the first time since 2014.
Win one of their remaining games and the Baltimore Ravens or Miami Dolphins lose or tie a game
A Colts win would set their record at 11-5. That would typically be completely adequate to get you into the playoffs, and in a year where the NFC East will likely send a sub .500 team to the playoffs, it is a bit frustrating that it might not be enough on its own. However, getting a win and making it to 11-5 would give the Colts some breathing room, because it would mean that the 9-5 Dolphins and the 9-5 Ravens would have no room for error. The Dolphins face the Raiders and Bills at home in their final two games, and the Ravens face the Giants on the road before hosting the Bengals to close out their regular season. None of those games would give the Colts anything like a sure thing in terms of a loss, but it means that with a loss by either of those teams and a win in Pittsburgh, the Colts would be in.
Win one game and the Tennessee Titans or Cleveland Browns lose out
Now we begin reaching far less than ideal scenarios. The Colts could get into the playoffs with significant collapses of the Browns or Titans, both of which seem unlikely. A win by the Colts and losing out for either team means the Colts are in. Should the Titans lose out, it would mean the Colts would take the division.
Given their opponents, this isn’t impossible, but given how both teams have played, it would be a less than ideal situation to have to depend on. The Titans face the Packers and Texans in back-to-back road games, which could certainly be tough for them, although they have been playing really well lately. The Browns travel to face the hapless New York Jets before heading home to host the Steelers for a game that could decide the AFC North. The Browns could absolutely lose both those games, because… Browns. Should the Colts hold their breathe for that outcome? Probably not.
Baltimore Ravens or Miami Dolphins lose out
Should the bottom completely drop out and the Colts lose their remaining two games, they could still be bailed out and find a way into the playoffs by way of a collapse by the Ravens or Dolphins. This would obviously be a far less than ideal way to enter the playoffs, and would likely spell an early exit, but it means that even in spite of themselves, at this point, they might already be in it, should the results fall in their favor.
Full playoff picture heading into week 16
*There are also several scenarios involving ties that could potentially get the Colts into the playoffs, but the last time the Colts had a tie, they were in Baltimore, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.