It’s a good week, when the Indianapolis Colts players can sit on their collective couches and earn an AFC playoff berth without actually playing in a game.
That’s exactly what happened when during their Week 14 bye, the Colts received some much needed outside help from both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers, who took care of business against some of the Colts’ key competition for those last few remaining AFC playoff spots: the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals (both 7-5 entering the day, who fell to 7-6 after Sunday)—which was very fortunate for Indianapolis’ playoff hopes:
AFC playoff standings:— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) December 13, 2021
*Colts jump from 9 to 6 on their bye
*Bills stay at 7 thanks to Bengals, Steelers losses pic.twitter.com/CYGsqT3HWJ
As it stands, the Colts are currently in the playoffs—as the AFC’s #6 seed and control their own destiny with four weeks left to go in the 2021 campaign. The only problem is, the Colts still have to play a pair of division leaders: the New England Patriots (9-4) and Arizona Cardinals (10-2) in consecutive weeks starting next Saturday night respectively:
Patriots/Colts on Saturday night is shaping up to be a massive game in the AFC playoff race. https://t.co/DsHJ847zCk— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 13, 2021
If the Colts can go 3-1 (and simply split the next two weeks), there’s a very, very strong likelihood that they’ll find themselves in the AFC playoffs:
A Colts’ 3-1 finish - regardless of who they lose to - is now a virtual playoff lock (98%) per @FiveThirtyEight. https://t.co/KUf3xxC0WX— Derek Schultz (@Schultz975) December 13, 2021
That being said, beating either the Patriots at home or the Cardinals on the road within the next two weeks is no easy task, and the Colts also can’t drop an upset loss against either the Las Vegas Raiders (Week 17) or Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 18) to finish the season in such a scenario.
The Jaguars (2-11) seem like an organizational mess, but the Colts have often made things interesting on the road in northeast Florida seemingly every year, while the Raiders at 6-7 aren’t exactly a league pushover this season (i.e., that game’s no gimme).
The Colts could still get in at 2-2 to end the season, but it’s reportedly close to a coin flip at that point, instead of safely earning an AFC playoff berth.
Regardless, the BYE week returns from Week 14 were very favorable to the Colts, and the team is now firmly in the driver’s seat for making the AFC playoffs—if the team can actually take advantage of its now fortuitous postseason position.