INDIANAPOLIS — Everybody take a breath. Relax.
Yes, the Indianapolis Colts fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, snapping their five-game win streak. Yes, the team now finds itself a game back in the wildcard standings as we hit the second week of December.
But, yes, the team still remains very much in the hunt for a spot in the postseason.
Now, to take an often misused (and technically incorrect) phrase: the Colts certainly don’t “control their own destiny” when it comes to the AFC playoff picture. As it currently stands, Indianapolis will almost certainly need to win its remaining four games and/or get some help elsewhere to make its first postseason appearance since 2014, when the Colts advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
But as we all know, in the NFL, anything can happen. And while head coach Frank Reich will keep his team laser focused on that “one game at a time” mindset, we’re here to help provide a little context for the next few weeks if Indy can pull off another nice run to end the regular season.
We’ll get this out of the way first, however: winning the AFC South Division crown is going to be very difficult from this point forward. The Houston Texans remain red-hot, winners of nine straight and, at 9-3, own a three-game lead in the division standings over the Colts entering Sunday’s Week 14 matchup against Indianapolis at NRG Stadium.
Simply put: if the Texans win this game, they're the AFC South champs.
The easiest way the Colts could win the AFC South this year would be if Indianapolis wins their remaining four games, and Houston loses its remaining four games. There are other scenarios in which the Colts could become division champs at either 10-6 or 9-7, which are explained well by the Indy Star’s Nat Newell right here.
For now, however, the best pathway for the Colts to get into the postseason is if they’re able to capture the sixth and final seed as a wildcard team.
Indy didn’t help itself on Sunday by losing to the Jaguars, 6-0, however, and it certainly didn’t get any favors. In fact, the Colts entered Sunday tied with the Baltimore Ravens at 6-5 for that sixth spot (tiebreakers would’ve given the nod to the Ravens if the season had ended that day), but the Ravens were able to take care of the Atlanta Falcons, 26-16.
So now, the Colts are one of four teams — joining the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans — currently sitting a game out of that spot at 6-6 with four games to go.
If it comes down to tiebreakers at season’s end, you look at head-to-head matchups, conference record, common opponents and then strength of victories.
For head-to-head matchups, the Colts defeated the Dolphins in Week 12, so as of now that’s the only relevant factor to keep in mind if you’re Indy.
The Colts currently sport a 5-5 conference record, which is third among the five teams (Ravens, Broncos, Colts, Dolphins and Titans) in the hunt at the moment. Baltimore leads with a 6-3 conference record, while the Dolphins are second at 5-4, the Broncos are 4-5 and the Titans are 4-6. Two of the Colts’ final four games are against NFC East opponents, so that isn’t exactly helpful in their bid to try to improve on this factor.
If it ever were to get down to common opponents or strength of victories, then we’re really getting down to the nitty gritty, and we’d break it down for you at that point.
So, for now, the most important thing to know: there is still plenty of hope that the Colts — by getting back to their winning ways, as well as getting a little help — will be preparing for a playoff game by the start of the new year.