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What record would get the Colts into the playoffs?

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

There is no exact science for projecting the playoffs 5 weeks early. The AFC is completely jammed up right now with seven teams sitting at 8 or 7 wins and an additional five with 6 wins. The Colts currently sit at 7-6 and are on the outside looking in. They have remaining games against:

  • New England Patriots at home
  • Arizona Cardinals on the road
  • Las Vegas Raiders at home
  • Jacksonville Jaguars on the road

The Colts are currently favoured against the Patriots, underdogs against the Cardinals, and favoured against the Raiders and Jaguars. If the Colts go 3-1, that would get them to 10-7. Would that be enough to get into the playoffs? Let’s look at the projections.

The Colts are currently fighting against the following teams for playoff spots:

  • New England Patriots (9 wins)
  • Tennessee Titans (8 wins)
  • Baltimore Ravens (8 wins)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (8 wins)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (7 wins)
  • Cincinnati Bengals (7 wins)
  • Buffalo Bills (7 wins)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (6 wins)
  • Miami Dolphins (6 wins)
  • Las Vegas Raiders (6 wins)
  • Denver Broncos (6 wins)
  • Cleveland Browns (6 wins)

6 Win Teams

In order to measure the 6 win teams against a 10-7 Colts team, we would have to measure the likelihood of these teams getting to 10 or 11 wins.

Miami Dolphins

They have 4 games remaining and would need to win out to get to 10 wins. However, the Colts beat Miami in Week 4, so they hold the tiebreaker in that matchup which means if they finish with the same record, the Colts would finish above them. Miami isn’t a threat to the Colts and can be eliminated from this list.

Las Vegas Raiders

If the Raiders are going to go at least 3-2, they’ll have to beat some combination of the Chiefs, Browns, Broncos, Colts and Chargers. All 5 teams are not only playoff contenders but have records at or above .500. If the Colts beat the Raiders and they end up in the same position, the Colts will hold the tiebreaker over them. The Raiders even getting to 3-2 will be tough, so while they should be monitored, if the Colts beat them in Week 17, they are not a threat.

Denver Broncos

Denver has 5 games remaining and they are against the Lions, Bengals, Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs. Their current conference record 3-5, which makes them not viable threats to the Colts, who have a 6-3 conference record. If the Broncos and Colts end up tied at 10 wins, it means the Colts would have had to have won at least 2 AFC games, putting their conference record at at least 8 wins which would be impossible for the Broncos to match. If both get to 9 wins overall, then it means the Colts would still be above the Broncos since they would have at least 7 conference wins and the Broncos couldn’t possibly have more. They are not serious threats unless they win out their remaining games, which is unlikely.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns also have a tough remaining schedule and their conference record also sits at 3-5. With games against the Ravens, Raiders, Packers, Steelers and Bengals, the chances they win out are very slim and when it comes to getting tying the Colts at 9 or 10 wins, the Colts would hold the tiebreaker due to conference record. Their chance at passing Indy comes in the form of winning out their 5 remaining games, which is very unlikely so they are not threats.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers sit at 6 wins but also hold a tie, which puts them above any team they are tied with. So unless the Colts tie a game (which is extremely unlikely), the Steelers would hold the “tiebreaker” over them or anyone with the same record. The Steelers have remaining games against the Vikings, Titans, Chiefs, Browns and Ravens. If they go 5-0, then the Colts can’t pass them. If the Steelers go 4-1, then they would jump Indy unless Indy wins out. If they go 3-2 and the Colts go 3-1, then the Colts would be above them. The Steelers are a weird team to try and analyze, so anything is on the table for them. They are, by far, the most dangerous 6 win team.


7 Win Teams

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are a dangerous team. They have a favourable remaining schedule and a 5-3 conference record. They have remaining games against the Giants, Chiefs, Texans, Broncos and Raiders. They will be favoured to win in 4 of those games, giving them a very good chance at 11 wins and an outside chance at 12 wins, which the Colts can’t match. The Colts aren’t likely to get to 11 wins, so that alone makes the Chargers dangerous but if they tie at 10 wins, the Chargers would have an 8 win conference record which could tie the Colts. 10 wins gives the Colts a chance at being above them, but with 4 favourable games for the Chargers, it might be tough for the Colts to pass them. Put it like this, the Colts have no chance against the Chargers if they finish with 9 wins.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are also pretty dangerous, since they have a 5-3 conference record, but their remaining schedule is difficult. They have to play the 49ers, Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs and Browns. Getting to 12 wins is very unlikely and I would go as far as saying that getting to 11 wins is not likely. Getting to 9 or 10 wins for them would be more realistic. If they were to get to 9 or 10 wins, you would want one of those wins to come against the 49ers so it doesn’t improve their conference record. Nevertheless, if they get the 2 or 3 wins against the AFC opponents, it puts the Colts in a good spot if they tied at 10 wins since the Colts have a 1 win advantage in terms of conference record. 9 wins would hurt the Colts in this scenario.

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo is one of the best teams in football from top to bottom so they’re dangerous regardless of their record. They have a conference record of 5-5, which means they only have two AFC games remaining. They have games against the Bucs, Panthers, Patriots, Falcons and Jets. They will be favoured in 3 of those games, a toss up in one of them and underdogs in one. There is definitely a chance they get to 11 or 12 wins, which makes the Colts irrelevant to them unless the Colts somehow win out, but even if the Colts win out, both teams at 11 wins would certainly be in the playoffs. At 10 wins, however, things get interesting. The Bills are at a disadvantage in terms of conference record since the best conference record they could finish with is 7-5. If the Colts win 10 games, they would have at least 8 conference wins which puts them above the Bills. The only way the Bills can pass the Colts is if they win their division from the Patriots, who they are 2.5 games behind. So if the Bills don’t win their division, the Colts would almost certainly have the tiebreaker over them.


8 Win Teams

Tennessee Titans

The Titans hold the tiebreaker for the division, which makes the Colts passing them that much harder. If the Titans win this week against the Jaguars (they are 10 point favourites), they will be 2.5 games up on the Colts. If the Colts go 3-1 to finish the season, it means the Titans will only need to go 1-3 and they’ll be above the Colts. If the Colts win out, the Titans will need to go 2-2 and they’ll still be above the Colts. It’s safe to say the Titans will probably finish the season above the Colts.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens hold the tiebreaker over the Colts thanks to their massive comeback victory in Week 5, so at the very least, they’ll be up 1.5 games over the Colts after Week 14 (and potentially 2.5 games up).

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have a one game advantage over the Colts, but the Colts hold one very key tiebreaker over them: conference record. If the Colts and Chiefs were to finish with the same record, there is a strong chance the Colts would above the Chiefs because of that tiebreaker. The Colts are currently 6-3 against AFC teams and the Chiefs are 3-4 against AFC teams. Each team plays conference teams 12 times. That means the Colts have 3 AFC games left and the Chiefs have 5. If the Chiefs win 4 or 5 games, then it won’t matter what the Colts do because they’ll have 12 or 13 wins, a number the Colts can’t match. However, if both finish at 9, 10 or 11 wins, the Colts will be above them because the Chiefs will have at most 6 AFC wins and the Colts will have more than 6. The Chiefs are one of the hottest teams in the league and have games against the Raiders, Chargers, Steelers, Bengals, Broncos. They will likely be favoured in all 5 matches (perhaps the Chargers game is a toss up), so the odds they finish 3-2 is not likely, but definitely possible but it would also require the Colts to finish 4-0 to finish the season. The Chiefs are not going 2-3, so while the Colts hold that tiebreaker, you can say with some certainty the Chiefs will finish above the Colts.


New England Patriots

It’s important to note that if the Colts lose to the Patriots in their Week 15 matchup, it becomes impossible for the Colts to pass them in the standings. However, the Patriots would be in play for the Colts to catch if Indy beats them. If the Colts win, that would bring them to 8-6 and New England to 9-5 with Indianapolis holding the tiebreaker. The Patriots would have to play Buffalo, Jacksonville and Miami in the final 3 weeks of the season. Buffalo would be a tough win and while they should beat Jacksonville, Miami and Brian Flores have always given New England fits, especially late in the season. If the Colts beat New England, there is a legitimate chance the Patriots finish the season 1-2 and the Colts would be above them in the rankings if both teams finish with 10 wins.


Recap

  • If the Colts get to 11 wins, they would be very safely in the playoffs.
  • If the Colts get to 9 wins, while they would have a chance, not having tiebreakers against Baltimore, Tennessee, and potentially Las Vegas would significantly hurt their chances of making the playoffs and with 4 teams already at 8 or 9 wins, they’ll be fighting against 8 other teams for the last 3 spots. Those odds aren’t favourable.
  • That means that 10 wins would be the “ probably in the playoffs” number. With the amount of contending teams playing each other, it is very unlikely that a Colts team gets to 10 wins and misses the playoffs. While not impossible to miss out, I do strongly believe that 10 wins would get the Colts into the playoffs.

Who to Root for in Week 14?

  • Vikings over Steelers
  • Ravens over Browns (Justification: Ravens are above Colts right now and hold the tiebreaker so a Browns loss nearly kills their chances of passing Indy)
  • Chiefs over Raiders (Justification: Chiefs are above the Colts and Raiders can knock the Colts out of a playoff spot)
  • Jaguars over Titans
  • Lions over Broncos
  • Giants over Chargers
  • 49ers over Bengals
  • Bucs over Bills