INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts dug themselves into a bit of a hole early in the season. Once sitting at 1-5, any talk of the playoffs was an afterthought.
The stars may be aligning since then, however. As long as the Colts take care of their own business, they can still make a run in the second half of the season.
They kick off the back half of their schedule today at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5).
After punishing their way to the AFC Championship last season and being a popular preseason Super Bowl pick this year, the Jaguars have not been able to build on what they accomplished in 2017. Injuries and inconsistent play have leveled them with the Colts at 3-5.
Still, it's no secret the Jaguars have much of the same talent they had last season, so they're still a very dangerous team. Getting a win today would be "big time," Colts defensive tackle Al Woods said.
"You always want to win in your division," Woods said. "It's the next game up, but it's a divisional one so it's like a double-coated if you will. Definitely got to get this win."
Right after the Colts take on the Jaguars is another AFC South home tilt next week with the Tennessee Titans (4-4), who are among the league's most anemic offenses.
The opportunity is there — if the Colts win these next two games — for them to come to a tie for second place in the AFC South, or even take sole possession of second if the Colts win the next two and the Titans lose the next two.
The best-case scenario for the Colts after the two weeks is that they get to 5-5 while the Titans fall to 4-6 and the Jaguars bottom-out at 3-7. Houston has its bye during Week 10, but losing in Week 11 would make it 6-4, the Colts just one game back from them in the lead in this scenario.
The Colts' remaining division games after Week 11 are all away games, so it's important they take advantage of these next two home matchups. They have Week 13 in Jacksonville, Week 14 in Houston and a likely critical matchup to end the regular season in Week 17 in Tennessee.
To break it down, in the Colts' eight remaining games:
» Five of them are against division opponents.
The only automatic way to earn a spot in the playoffs is by winning your division. What's the best way to gain ground on teams ahead of you in the division race? Beat them.
» Five of them are home games.
They don't call it a homefield advantage for nothing. The Colts went 1-2 at home in the first half of the season as they worked out some early kinks, but having the majority of your games remaining being at home should have the Colts being the favorite in most of them.
» Their opponents' combined record is 29-37, with only two opponents having a winning record.
You can only play who's on your schedule, and for the Colts that's a slate of teams with a win percentage of .434.
Looking ahead, the Colts certainly have opportunities to get back into the playoff picture if they take care of business. But the players and coaches know how important it is to remain in a week-to-week, day-to-day mode.
"Yeah, we are playing two divisional games back-to-back, it's always great when it's at home. We know what we need to do, but right now our main focus is on Jacksonville," Colts cornerback Pierre Desir said.
"One day at a time, we know what we need to do to win and we had a week to reflect, so we are ready for this week."