The Indianapolis Colts (now 9-7) took care of business against the Las Vegas Raiders at home in Week 17, winning 23-20, and kept their playoff hopes alive entering the New Year.
With the Cincinnati Bengals (8-8) having also fallen to the Kansas City Chiefs this Week (25-17 in KC), it’s now clear for the Colts, ‘win and you’re in’ next weekend at home against their AFC South rival Houston Texans—with the winner making the playoffs (at least as a potential wild card, and if the Jacksonville Jaguars were to lose next weekend [@TEN], as the new AFC South Champion—hosting a home playoff game). The loser heading to Cabo early.
While they didn’t absolutely control their destiny entering the weekend, the Colts were in the driver’s seat with a very favorable position if they were to win out (by virtue of previously having a 6-4 AFC record after Week 16).
As it stands, the Colts know what’s at stake right now. A victory extends their season, and a loss ends it. The stakes are as high as if the playoffs started a week early in Indianapolis.
The Colts previously beat the Texans on the road in Week 2, 31-20, but things look a bit different now—as rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson started that game before Gardner Minshew entered in relief early in the second quarter because of a concussion, and Indianapolis now has star running back Jonathan Taylor back from PUP—who previously didn’t play. Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is also a frontrunner for NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
Either way though, it figures to be a divisional dog fight in a ‘do or die’ game for both teams.