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Championship Fever: Week 16

The Colts went into Pittsburgh on Sunday in the hopes of being one step closer to securing their playoff spot with a win. After a 17 point lead early in the third quarter, the Colts let the Steelers crawl their way back to take the 28-24 lead. The Colts were unable to score on their last five drives of the game, and ultimately lost one of the most important games of the season.

This is a huge blow to the playoff hopes of the Indianapolis Colts. There are still several different options for the Colts to make it into the postseason, but now the Colts only have partial control of their destiny.

Let’s check in on the thermometer for week 16.


NEGATIVES

This loss could not have been more damaging to the Colts in terms of postseason chances. The AFC race is so unbelievably tight, and even with an extra wild card spot this year, the Colts could miss the playoffs with an 11-5 record.

It is a scenario that I am sure you have heard and read time and time again since Sunday. The Colts need two things to happen to get a spot in the playoffs. They need to beat the Jaguars and either the Browns, Dolphins, Ravens, or Titans need to lose. The good news is, Indy doesn’t need all of those teams to lose, just one of them. This is the NFL and games can be extremely unpredictable so you never know what will happen.

The crazy thing is, the Colts still have a shot at the AFC South title if they win and the Titans lose. That is how close this playoff race is. It would be devastating for the Colts and their fans to miss out on the playoffs in a season where there was so much promise and a really strong roster.

As far as the Steelers game, in particular, the Colts could not have looked stronger in the first half. They were firing on all cylinders for the first 30 minutes of football.

The second half was the exact opposite. The Colts looked dead and they were struggling majorly on offense. Jonathan Taylor was the clear star of the first half for the Colts offense, and for whatever reason Frank Reich decided to not call his number very often in the second half.

It always surprises me how this team could have the “Run the damn ball” motto and have so many games where they inefficiently utilize the run game. Of course, I realize a big part of that could be that the Colts' number one running back, Marlon Mack, went down with an injury in the very first game of the season.

Taylor had 13 carries for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half compared to just 5 carries in the second half of the game. Tough to look at after knowing the end result of the game.

The defense that looked so solid in the first half, struggled mightily in the second half and took a countless number of penalties.

There were a lot of “what if” scenarios from this game based on calls made by the referees. So many game-changing penalties were called, and most of them were against the Colts. There is and will always be a human error aspect in football, and teams just have to deal with it. The Colts need to be better at controlling what they can control.

If Indy can even make it into the playoffs, they will have a huge obstacle to overcome now that Anthony Castonzo is out for the remainder of the season. Offensive line depth is probably the weakest part of the Colts roster, and Castonzo has been a major piece for this team for years now.

He didn’t play against the Steelers, which could have something to do with the second-half collapse as well. His absence will certainly be noticed if the Colts can find a way into the postseason.


POSITIVES

Look, things are looking bleak at the moment, but there is so much to be confident about with this team.

The offense has been more or less on fire for weeks now. A few mistakes here and there, but overall it has been really impressive.

The exact same could be said about the defense all season long. They continue to look good every single week and have been the main reason for probably the majority of the Colts' victories this season.

The biggest problem really is the penalties, and if the Colts can find a way to stop making these boneheaded errors, they will put themselves in a much better position to win games.

I truly believe the Colts can beat any team in the NFL. They have the skill and the players that can get it done, it just depends on if they can play a full 60 minutes of football.

There has been a clear and obvious improvement for Jonathan Taylor this season, which I think is extremely promising for the future.

Philip Rivers has exceeded my expectations of him, and I believe that he deserves to return to the Colts next season if the two parties can come to terms with each other.

The wide receivers have been hot lately and looking way better than they had earlier this season.

Defensively, DeForest Buckner has shown why Indy decided to pursue him in the offseason. His contribution has been one of the biggest for the Colts this year.

The same could be said for guys like Darius Leonard and Kenny Moore, who have done so well for the vast majority of this season.


FEVER

There truly are so many positive takeaways from this season. The problem is, the Colts were unable to stay healthy this year and lost some of their most important games with injuries being a major factor. The loss to the Titans several weeks ago and the Steelers loss this past Sunday were real killers for the Colts season. The point of the thermometer is to give a visual of the Colts' chances at winning the Super Bowl this season. Unfortunately, the Colts don’t even hold a playoff spot as things stand right now. I’m going to have to cool off the thermometer big time this week. Need to make the playoffs to even have a shot at a championship, and I am not so sure the Colts will be playing deep into January and early February. The biggest week of the year for Indy on Sunday. They need a slight miracle.