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Championship Fever: Week 12

What a disaster. The Colts couldn’t catch a break last week, and when injuries and COVID-19 reserve players piled up, it was too much for the Colts to bear. They got demolished on Sunday against the Titans by a score of 45-26.

Several key players for Indy were missing from this game on both sides of the ball, and many thought Indy would lose this game. But who would have thought it would go down like this?

Let’s take a look at the thermometer for week 12.


NEGATIVES

I’ll start with the obvious here.

This team needs to get healthy. That’s the bottom line. DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry, and Jonathan Taylor were all guys that missed Sunday’s game because they were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. All three players have since been activated by the team and should be good to go this Sunday.

On the injury side of things, Ryan Kelly and Bobby Okereke were out on Sunday, and Anthony Castonzo went down early on in the game with a knee injury. Not to mention, Philip Rivers played the full game with a toe injury, and Jordan Wilkins was playing with hurt ribs. The list really does go on.

With Castonzo and Kelly out, Indy had Le’Raven Clark and Danny Pinter take over for the offensive line. You could tell that this made Rivers a little uneasy when he would drop back to pass. He had little to no trust in his line and that was a recipe for disaster.

Underthrows, overthrows, and forced throws were the name of the game for Rivers after Castonzo left.

Defensively, it was obvious that the Colts were missing Buckner, big time. They desperately needed him to stop Derrick Henry, who was the biggest problem for Indy all game long.

The absence of Okereke, who has had success all season long, was noticeable as well.

The Titans took advantage of these injuries and put together a really solid game. Henry had 178 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Unreal numbers. That’s why they call him the King.

From the perspective of winning a championship, this game was the most important of the season for the Colts. Both teams came in with 7-3 records, and the Colts had the advantage after winning the first head-to-head contest. Once the Titans won, they improved to 8-3 which gives them a one-game lead in the AFC South with only five games to play.

Looking at their schedules, the Titans will play the Browns, Jaguars, Lions, Packers, and Texans.

The Colts will play the Texans, Raiders, Texans, Steelers, and Jaguars to end their regular season.

Regardless of how the Colts finish the season, it doesn’t look easy for them to catch up to Tennessee and win the division. I’m sure the Colts are happy that the NFL extended the playoffs from six to seven teams this year. Even if they don’t win the division, I think they still have a good shot to make the playoffs.


POSITIVES

There’s not much to say here.

Getting Autry, Buckner, Taylor, and Kelly back this week will be huge. Still question marks on the returns of Okereke and Castonzo.

Trey Burton made some key plays, Nyheim Hines did well in the passing game and continues to be an option for Rivers when all else fails, and Darius Leonard put up 14 tackles, one sack, and a defended pass.

The biggest standout, however, might be that T.Y. Hilton scored his first touchdown of the season on Sunday. It took him 12 weeks, but he finally got in the end zone with a rather impressive catch. Hilton also led the team in receiving yards with 81 on his four catches in the game.

With the Colts playing the Texans this Sunday, this could be the turning point for Hilton’s season. Hilton is known for his dominant performances against Houston, and the Colts could really use that this weekend.


FEVER

The extra playoff spot will be key as the season comes to a close. The Colts currently hold that seventh and final spot in the AFC playoff race, which is scary to say the least. The one thing I will say is that it appears that with the lack of fans at games, home field advantage is not a huge factor for many teams in the league. Lucas Oil has been one of the few stadiums to have a consistent number of fans all season long. Some stadiums are slowly filtering in fans and likely will try to have some come playoff time, but it is hard to say how big of a factor it will be. This week I have to cool the thermometer off a little bit. The chances to win the AFC South have decreased, the chances to even get a wild card spot have gone down. The team proved they can’t get it done without Castonzo on offense and Buckner on defense. It’s time to get healthy. The Colts need to go at least 3-2 in their last five games. I think they can and will do so, but they need to prove themselves this Sunday in their matchup against the Texans.