INDIANAPOLIS — Win and you’re in.
For the Indianapolis Colts, if they can go on the road and earn a Week 17 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville next Sunday, then they’re in the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season.
Whether the Colts would be division champs or a Wild Card team would depend on the rest of the Week 17 results, however.
Indianapolis on Sunday defeated the New York Giants, 28-27, to improve to 9-6 heading into the final week of the season. A New Orleans Saints victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-28, in a late-afternoon contest Sunday, meanwhile, catapulted the Colts into the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC postseason standings.
The Colts would earn that sixth seed and the second Wild Card spot simply by defeating the Titans.
But the AFC South Division title is still in play for Indy. If the Colts defeat the Titans and the Houston Texans fall at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, then Indianapolis would be flying home from Nashville having claimed its 10th AFC South championship.
For Frank Reich, nothing changes, however. The first-year Colts head coach will continue to ensure his team keeps its focus on the Titans and not what could or couldn’t happen with a win.
“We’re absolutely committed to the same mode. There’s no other way to treat it,” Reich said after Sunday’s win over the Giants. “The results in the other games can be whatever they are, but what we’ve learned by being forced into the hole of 1-5, probably the one thing that came out of that is what’s forged in that is there’s a real deep conviction about how we approach our business every day and we just got to keep getting better and that’s all we’re going to try to do.”
Reich also doesn’t want to make it seem like waltzing into Nissan Stadium and winning next Sunday will be a walk in the park — because it won’t.
In fact, the Titans (9-6) face the exact same playoff scenarios as the Colts heading into the game. If they win, they’re in. If they win and Houston loses to the Jaguars, then they’re the AFC South champs.
So while the Colts certainly don’t live in a bubble, their focus, whether it’s Week 1 or Week 17, remains on daily improvement. Then you let the chips fall where they may.
“I think because of how Frank (Reich) operates our building, and the focus on the day-to-day and the focus on improving and understanding that a result – a win or a loss – is a consequence of the process throughout the week, the process of the game, the process of the cycle of each play,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “(It’s) because (Matt) Eberflus, (Nick) Sirianni and Bubba (Ventrone) preach that, because our leadership in the locker room preaches that. I think we understand that in a sense anything is possible if you don’t look ahead, you’re not worried about (it). You are just focused on improving and we have got to continue to do that, we really do.