INDIANAPOLIS --- It's a gloomy Monday in the Circle City, and not just because it's been overcast and raining all morning. The Colts fell 51-16 Sunday afternoon at Jacksonville to drop to 6-7, with Houston's Sunday night loss to New England providing little solace for Colts fans, even though Indianapolis still controls whether it wins the AFC South or not.
Four other NFL franchises in recent years were in similar situations late in the season and turned it around:
2008 Arizona Cardinals
From week 12 on, these Cardinals lost 4 of 6 games backing into the playoffs at 9-7. The Colts have lost back-to-back games by 35 points, you might say, but these Cardinals also suffered back-to-back blowout losses week 15 and 16 of the 2008 season by a combined 61 points.
Arizona rallied though to win the division week 17 after not having their starting quarterback the week before, and despite having the worst record of any NFC playoff team that season, the Cardinals beat an 11-win Falcons team and 12-win Panthers team to reach the NFC Championship Game.
There with a healthy Kurt Warner under center, Arizona advanced to Super Bowl XLIII, where if it weren't for one of the greatest last minute drives in Super Bowl history by the Steelers, the Cardinals would have hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
2011 New York Giants
From week 10 to week 15, the Giants lost 5 of 6 games, including 4 in a row which included a 25-point blowout loss on the road. With a 3-way division race and only two weeks to go, New York had to win out to stay alive.
The Giants rallied to beat the Jets "on the road" to set up a winner take all division championship game week 17 against the Cowboys. New York dominated 31-14 to sneak into the playoffs at 9-7.
The Giants may have had the worst record in the NFC Playoffs, but it didn't matter. New York defeated a 10-win Falcons team, a 15-win Packers team, and 13-win 49ers team before stunning a 13-win Patriots team once again to win Super Bowl XLVI.
2012 Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens ended the regular season with no momentum. Baltimore lost three straight games from week 13 to week 15, coughing up a 3-game lead over the Bengals in the AFC North. The Ravens rallied week 16 though to clinch the division.
Despite being the worst of the division champions in the AFC as the 4-seed, Baltimore caught fire in the "tournament", with a 2OT win in Denver over a 13-win top-seeded Broncos team, before going into New England and dominating the Patriots 28-13. Shortly after a Superdome power outage, the Ravens turned out the lights on the 11-win 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII.
2015 Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles and Chip Kelly were left for dead after three straight losses to the Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Lions from week 10 to week 12. The losses to Tampa Bay and Detroit were by a combined 59 points. Those three losses were to opponents with a combined record of 15-23.
Most of you have seen what's followed the past two weeks: a road win over an 11-1 Patriots team and a home win over the 6-6 Bills. Just like that, Philadelphia is tied for first again in the division, with playoff hopes alive.
Now, the conclusion to this season is still to be determined, but at the very least, it shows an NFL team is not out until it's completely eliminated, no matter how badly it lost in weeks prior.
2015 Indianapolis Colts?
That brings us to this team. What will happen? Can the Colts rebound? It's usually folly to make predictions in this league, especially ones about a team that has played the last few weeks without key starters. If Indianapolis can get healthy, could this be a different team?
"We gotta regroup quick," said tackle Joe Reitz after the loss to Jacksonville. "The good thing is we still have everything ahead of us still...We'll stick together, because we have a tough group of men, and men that really care about each other."
Following a 35-point road loss, it's a similar feeling on this gloomy Indianapolis Monday to the one following another 35-point road loss last season in Dallas. That Colts team rallied to make it to the AFC Championship Game.
The final chapters of this Colts team are yet to be written.