The Colts Mailbag is back! Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for the next Colts Mailbag by clicking here. I'll also be checking the comments on our Official Colts Podcast YouTube page and will answer some listener questions in here, too.
Let's get after this week's questions:
Joshua Solomon, District Heights, Md.: I wanted to know with the loss to the Bengals and with the remaining 4 games left, worst case we don't make it, but how good of a chance do we have to get in the playoffs?
JJ Stankevitz: So right now the Colts have a 44 percent chance to make the playoffs, per the New York Times' playoff calculator. A win over the Steelers increases those odds to 62 percent, while a loss drops them to 20 percent, making Saturday's game the biggest contest of Week 15 for determining this year's playoff field:
Saturday's game, though, is not a must-win – the Colts are not eliminated from the playoffs with a loss. If the Colts were to lose to the Steelers and then win their final three games, they'd still have an 89 percent chance to make the playoffs, per the New York Times.
But because Pittsburgh is also 7-6 and currently sixth in the AFC, Saturday's game carries outsize weight on the Colts' chances to make the playoffs – even if it's not a true must-win game. It's about as close to a must-win game as there is in Week 15.
Dylan Durnal, Lebanon, Ind.: The defense had a rough game this past week. Will they be able to bounce back quickly on a short week?
JJ Stankevitz: The last time the Colts had a truly rough game on defense was Week 8, when they lost to the New Orleans Saints, 38-27. The Colts rebounded from there, with Kenny Moore II pick-sixing Bryce Young twice in Week 9 and then holding the New England Patriots to six points in Week 10.
You might be saying – well, the Panthers (15.2 points per game, 30th) and Patriots (13.0 points per game, 32nd) are among the least-productive offenses in the NFL. But the Steelers enter Week 15 No. 27 in scoring at 16.2 points per game and will start backup Mitch Trubisky on Saturday.
That doesn't mean the Colts aren't taking Pittsburgh seriously, or they couldn't have a defensive rebound against a more productive offense. But outside of the opponent, the Colts did get a significant development on defense this week with cornerback JuJu Brents cleared to play for the first time since sustaining a quad injury in Week 7.
Over his five starts (Weeks 3-7), Brents allowed a passer rating when targeted under 71 four times and recorded an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery. The competitive, physical rookie's return should give the Colts' secondary a boost for the stretch run.
"I'm just hungry," Brents said. "I never get seduced by success – I know I had a little success early during that time, then hit a little wall dealing with the injuries. But now I'm just hungry to continue to keep going out there."
Thomas Noble, Hamlet, Ind.: With Zack Moss holding the reins on the running game until JT comes back to share the workload, what is the best way to have more success with running the ball on Saturday against the Steelers? Coming from back to back games of almost no rushing success something has to spark that.
JJ Stankevitz:My colleague, Raven Moore, wrote about this on Wednesday – the Colts need to start finding explosive runs like they did earlier in the season. But that'll be a challenge against a Steelers defense that allows explosive runs (10+ yards) at the sixth-lowest rate in the NFL:
|Explosive run percentage
|Colts' explosive run % vs. opponent
|New England Patriots
|3.9% (Week 10)
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|22.2% (Week 12)
|TBD (Week 15)
|8.9% (Weeks 5, 13)
|TBD (Week 16)
|Los Angeles Rams
|10.3% (Week 4)
The Buccaneers game – in which Moss and Taylor combined for six runs of 10+ yards – tells us this offense certainly can generate big plays on the ground, even against a stiff run defense. Getting back to those explosive gains will be key in the overall success of the Colts' offense on Saturday.
William Bolden, Urbana, Ill.: JJ I need to know what does it take for the Colts to get a prime time game? I understand we are not considered a major market to draw viewers in on TV or by streaming like NY, LA or even Chicago. But really the Bears had five prime time games? We are always better than the Bears, so please explain this and help me understand this better please?!?!
JJ Stankevitz: Ironically, only three teams did not have a scheduled primetime game this season – the Colts, Texans and Falcons, all of whom are in the middle of playoff races. Unfortunately, primetime games are usually scheduled based on a previous year's performance, and the Colts went 4-12-1 in 2022 (and the Colts had four primetime games last year: At Denver, vs. Pittsburgh, at Dallas, vs. LA Chargers). Hopefully a more successful 2023, plus the return of Anthony Richardson, will get the Colts in primetime at least a few times in 2024.