After Nine Consecutive Victories, Colts Will Open Playoffs at San Diego
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts have known for more than a week that they will be playing in the postseason for a seventh consecutive year.
As of Sunday night, they finally know their opponent.
The Colts, who beat the Tennessee Titans, 23-20, in the regular-season finale on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, late that evening learned who they will play in first round of the NFL postseason next weekend.
The opponent? The San Diego Chargers.
The Colts (12-4), who won nine consecutive games at the end of the season to qualify for a seventh consecutive playoff appearance, will visit the Chargers (8-8) in an AFC Wild Card playoff game on Saturday, January 3, at 8 p.m.
The Chargers, winners of their last four games, beat the Denver Broncos (8-8) in San Diego on Sunday night by a score of 52-21 to win the AFC West.
The game will be played in San Diego because under NFL rules, a team winning its division plays host to a first-round playoff game against a wild card team no matter the records of the teams.
The Colts clinched the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs with a victory over Jacksonville on December 18. San Diego is the fourth seed.
Elsewhere in the AFC playoffs, the sixth-seeded Baltimore Ravens (11-5) will visit third seed and AFC East champion Miami (11-5) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The No. 1-seeded Titans (13-3) will play host to the lowest remaining AFC seed in an AFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 10, at 4:30 p.m. The second-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers will play host to the second-lowest remaining AFC seed on Sunday, January 10, at 4:45 p.m.
A look at the rest of the AFC and AFC South:
Tennessee Titans (13-3)
Last week: The Titans lost to the Colts, 23-0, at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday.
Next week: Bye week.
Recent trend: The Titans, after winning their first 10 games of the season to take control of the AFC South, lost three of their last six games, clinching home-field advantage with a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16. It's the first time the Titans have held the No. 1 seed in the AFC since the 2000 season, the year after they won their lone AFC title.
What happened Sunday: With their playoff positioning clinched, the Titans rested several key players and removed many more early in a loss at Indianapolis. The Colts took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and the Titans never reached the red zone. Their lone scoring opunity ended with a 48-yard missed field goal by Rob Bironas.
Statistically speaking: The Colts outgained the Titans, 390-125, and Tennessee managed just eight first downs. The Titans hadn't been shutout since 1999, the only season they reached the Super Bowl.
Coming up: The Titans have a first-round playoff bye and will play host to an AFC Divisional Playoff game January 10.
Quote to note: "They (the Colts) are playing very, very well, but there's a chance we may play them again, so we just lined up and played today."
--- Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher
Houston Texans (8-8)
Last week: The Texans beat the Chicago Bears, 31-24, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday.
Next week: The Texans' season ended Sunday.
Recent trend: The Texans, after three consecutive losses, won four consecutive games before losing to the Oakland Raiders in Week 16. After never finishing .500 or better from 2002-2006, Houston secured a second consecutive .500 season with a victory over the Bears on Sunday.
What happened Sunday: A week after a disappointing loss to the Raiders, the Texans finished the season in impressive fashion, eliminating the Bears from playoff contention with a home victory. Houston outgained Chicago, 490-255, and after trailing 10-0 early, the Texans scored 21 consecutive points and never trailed again.
Statistically speaking: Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson on Sunday completed one of the most dominant statistical seasons by an NFL receiver in recent memory. On Sunday, he caught 10 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns to finish the season with 115 receptions for 1,575 yards. His receptions total was the third-highest of the decade and his yardage total is the most since St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt had 1,696 yards in 2003.
Coming up: The Texans' season ended Sunday.
Quote to note: "Coach (Gary) Kubiak talked to us last night and he told us not take a step back after we finished .500 last year. If we'd lost, we'd have had a losing record. That was a big deal to everybody. We didn't want to lose this game today. We started off slow, but we found a way to get it done.''
--- Texans Wide Receiver Andre Johnson
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
Last week: The Jaguars lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 27-7, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., Sunday.
Next week: The Jaguars' season ended Sunday.
Recent trend: Selected by many to contend for the AFC South title, the Jaguars lost six of seven games finish under .500 for the first time since 2003, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's first season. They lost four of their last five home games and went 2-6 in Jacksonville after going 6-2 at home last season.
What happened Sunday: A difficult season for the Jaguars ended in disappointing fashion. With a chance to eliminate the Baltimore Ravens from the postseason, the Jaguars did not score in the final three quarters, trailing 24-7 at halftime en route to their fifth double-digit loss of the season. Baltimore outgained the Jaguars, 431-235, with Jacksonville committing four turnovers and forcing none.
Statistically speaking: David Garrard became the first quarterback to start all 16 regular-season games for the Jaguars since Mark Brunell did it in 2000. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 78 yards on 23 carries and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.
Coming up: The Jaguars' season ended Sunday.
Quote to note: "It's been a year of missed opportunities. It just seems like it's been all year."
--- Jaguars Quarterback David Garrard
Miami (11-5): A year after finishing 1-15, the Dolphins finished off one of the most remarkable seasons in NFL history Sunday, clinching the AFC East title with a 31-24 victory over the New York Jets. The Dolphins used a familiar formula against the Jets, forcing four turnovers and committing one. Miami finished the season with 13 turnovers, setting the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. The Dolphins also tied an NFL record for the biggest single-season turnaround in NFL history and won the AFC East for the first time since 2000. Indianapolis went 13-3 in 1999 after a 3-13 season in 1998.
New England (11-5): The Patriots won 11 games with quarterback Tom Brady out since Week 1 with a knee injury. But despite beating the Buffalo Bills in a game played in winds of up to 55 mph, they became the first team since 1985 to miss the playoffs with 11 victories. New England was eliminated when Miami beat the Jets to clinch the East and the Baltimore Ravens beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to clinch the final wild-card position. The Patriots won their last four games this season and have won 12 consecutive games in December.
New York Jets (9-7): A month ago and a half ago, the Jets were 8-3 and had beaten the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots and then-unbeaten Tennessee in back-to-back weeks. They lost four of their last five games to miss the playoffs and lose the division by two games. "Obviously, it's disappointing, because we expected to not be done at this point," Jets quarterback Brett Favre said. "It was quite a ride. We'd like for it to continue. The hardest part is the finality of it, especially when you expect to go on."
Buffalo (7-9): They were as hot as any team in the NFL early in the season, but after leading the AFC East with a 4-0 record, the Bills lost nine of their last 12 games. The Bills, who have finished 7-9 in each of Head Coach Dick Jauron's three seasons, had not been shutout since 1983. Buffalo has lost 16 of its last 17 games against New England.
Pittsburgh (12-4): They have secured a first-round postseason bye, but the Steelers got a significant scare on Sunday during a 31-0 victory over Cleveland when starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sustained a concussion late in the second quarter. According to reports, Roethlisberger lay on the turf for 15 minutes, but tests were negative, according to Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. "All tests are negative – which is a positive," Tomlin said after the game. "We are optimistic of where he is going to be (in the playoffs). The bye is going to be helpful in regards to that."
Baltimore (11-5): The Ravens finished a remarkable turnaround season with a 27-7 victory over Jacksonville to clinch their second playoff appearance in three seasons. They will visit the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the playoffs. On Sunday, they forced four turnovers by Jacksonville. After finishing last season 5-11, the Ravens finished 11-5 this season with a rookie coach (John Harbaugh) and a rookie quarterback (Joe Flacco).
Cincinnati (4-11-1): The Bengals struggled much of the season, but never quit. They won their last three games to avoid a last-place finish, moving past the Cleveland Browns into third place with a 16-6 victory over Kansas City Sunday. The Bengals outrushed the Chiefs, 204-31, with Cedric Benson rushing for 111 yards on 25 carries.
Cleveland (4-12): A season that began with high hopes finished with the Browns missing the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. In a 31-0 loss to the Steelers Sunday, the Browns set an NFL record by extending their streak without an offensive touchdown to 24 quarters. They also were shut out in the last two games of the regular season, the first time in franchise history they had been shut out in consecutive games. Against the Steelers, Cleveland – with third-team quarterback Bruce Gradkowski starting for injured Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn – managed just 20 yards passing and 126 yards total offense.
San Diego (8-8): The Chargers trailed the Denver Broncos by three games with four games remaining, but they finished off a remarkable late-season run with a 52-21 victory over Denver Sunday night. That clinched the AFC West title for San Diego, which will play host to the Colts in an AFC Wild Card playoff game Saturday night. The Chargers beat the Colts, 28-24, in an AFC Divisional Playoff game last season.
Denver (8-8): They held sole possession of the AFC West from the first game of the season, but lost it with a 31-point loss to the San Diego Chargers in Sunday's regular-season finale. The Broncos led the West by three games with four remaining, but lost three of their last four games. Denver allowed 30 or more points in each of its last three games.
Oakland (5-11): There weren't a lot of positives for the Raiders this season early, but there were plenty late. A week ago, they beat the Houston Texans with Houston still having a chance at its first winning season in franchise history. On Sunday, the Raiders rallied to win from a 10-point deficit for a second consecutive week to eliminate Tampa Bay from the playoffs with a 31-24 victory in Tampa. Michael Bush, the Raiders' third-team running back, rushed for a career-high 177 yards on Sunday and his 67-yard touchdown run gave the Raiders a 28-24 fourth-quarter lead.
Kansas City (2-14): The Chiefs fought all season, and they did again Sunday, but the result was the same as it often has been lately. Kansas City lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 16-6, managing just 220 yards in total offense. The Chiefs' 2-14 record was the worst in their 49-year history, and running back Larry Johnson – a 1,700-yard rusher in 2005 and 2006 – finished the season with 874 yards rushing.