Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: AFC Playoff Scenarios & Potential Opponents, Parris Campbell's Return, Jonathan Taylor's MVP Odds

Ahead of Sunday's final 2021 regular season home game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Colts fans had questions about a number of topics ranging from potential playoff scenarios to how Frank Reich could work Parris Campbell back into the offense if he's activated off injured reserve. 

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Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Colts.com Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Max Hufferd, Greensburg, Ind.: If Colts win out and Bengals win 1 of 2 remaining games, who do the Colts most likely play?Then, if Colts win their first playoff game, who is their most likely second round opponent?

JJ Stankevitz: A couple things to set this up:

  • The Colts can clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Las Vegas Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
  • The Colts are currently the AFC No. 5 seed, and if they win out, they'll keep that seeding. Unless...
  • ... The Titans lose their last two games (vs. Miami, at Houston). If that happens and the Colts win out, the Colts will be AFC South champions.

In the scenario Max posed, the Colts are either AFC South champions (if the Titans lose their last two games) or the AFC No. 5 seed (if the Titans win one of their last two games). And they would, indeed, face the No. 4 seed Bengals in Cincinnati in the wild card round if Cincinnati splits their final two games the Bills win their final two games.

As you can probably tell, though, there's still a ton to be decided in the season's final two games. Like this: If the Bengals lose to the Chiefs and the Browns beat the Steelers in Week 17, Cleveland would host Cincinnati in Week 18 with the winner making the playoffs as AFC North champions...and hosting the Colts in the first round of the playoffs.

Alan Scheumann, Decatur, Ind.: Do the Indianapolis Colts have a chance to host a playoff game at Lucas Oil stadium and what are the chances?

Let's start with what would happen if the Colts won the AFC South (which has, according to FiveThirtyEight, a 12 percent chance of happening). That'd give the Colts an 11-6 record and the opportunity to host a playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since 2014.

If the Bengals were to split their final two games – say, a loss to the Chiefs and a win over the Browns – the Colts would be the AFC No. 2 seed no matter what happens in the AFC East (the Colts own head-to-head tiebreakers over the Bills and Patriots).

If the Colts win the AFC South and the Bengals and Patriots are also division champions, the Colts would be the AFC No. 3 seed, with the Bengals snagging the No. 2 seed. But! If the Colts, Bengals and Bills are all division champions, the Colts would be the AFC No. 2 seed.

So that's path No. 1 to hosting a playoff game. But there is another way, even if the Colts enter the playoffs as the AFC No. 5 seed. If the Colts win on wild card weekend and both other wild card teams win – so the Nos. 6 and 7 seeds – then the Colts would host the No. 6 seed while the No. 7 seed would play the No. 1 seed.

Now, the chances of this happening? Probably pretty slim right now.

But in this NFL season full of parity and wild results – hey, why not?

Hudson Hovermale, Indianapolis Ind.: Will Jonathan Taylor win MVP?

JJ Stankevitz: There's definitely a chance – something, honestly, I didn't expect to say a month and a half ago. That has nothing to do with what Taylor is doing on the field which, obviously, is incredible. It was more to do with wondering if MVP voters would seriously consider a running back for an award that's gone to a quarterback in 17 of the last 20 years.

While Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers seems to have some MVP momentum right now, Taylor is part of the national discussion for MVP along with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. With two weeks left, there's still time for Taylor to put on a show or two and remind MVP voters not only of his greatness, but his critical importance to the Colts' success in going from 1-4 to standing on the doorstep of the playoffs.

Harvey Feinberg, Indianapolis, Ind.: What is the plan to incorporate Parris Campbell back into the lineup?

JJ Stankevitz: The Colts designated Campbell to return to practice on Thursday, opening a 21-day window in which the third-year wide receiver can be activated from injured reserve.

We'll see if Campbell is activated from injured reserve for Week 17's game against the Raiders or if it's later, like Week 18 or during the playoffs. And if/when Campbell does return, the Colts will find ways to get the ball in his hands – like Carson Wentz did on Campbell's 51-yard touchdown on which, cruelly, he suffered the injury that landed him on injured reserve.

More than anything, though, getting Campbell back would mean adding another dynamic target to an offense that likes to spread the ball around through the air. That'd be an important development as the calendar turns to January.

_Tanner Edge, West Terre Haute, Ind.: Hi JJ! My brother, friend Mitch and I cannot wait to watch the Colts play in person this Sunday in what will be a win and in game for our favorite team!
_

I'm predicting a blowout against the Raiders as long as we stop the run. I think it's possible since we are getting most of our key players back. Do you think the possibility of Wentz being out for the game Sunday would make a blowout too unrealistic?

JJ Stankevitz: Don't rule anything out, starting with Wentz, who could return from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Sunday in time to play, head coach Frank Reich said.

Good point about the rushing yards here – the Raiders are 4-1 when rushing for over 100 yards as a team this season. A big thing the Colts need to do, too, is not turn the ball over. Las Vegas is last in the NFL with five interceptions and has the fourth-fewest total takeaways (13) in the league entering Week 17. The Colts, of course, are second in the NFL in takeaways with 31; the Raiders have only won the turnover battle once in their last eight games (3-5).

I'm not sure about a blowout – it's really hard to to do that to any team – but the Colts believe in Sam Ehlinger if he winds up playing. And they still have a guy named Jonathan Taylor, too.

"There's certainly a lot worse positions to have to step in as the backup quarterback if you didn't have a run game and obviously, what Jonathan's been able to do with the offensive line and also the receivers blocking has been nothing short of spectacular this year," Ehlinger said. "So, that definitely takes a heavy load off the quarterback position if you have to step in because you can rely on a run game and that opens up so much stuff in the pass game off play-action and things like that."

Matthew Stuthers, Terre Haute, Ind.: Thanks for taking my submission! I hope the Holidays have been good to you! I know they have been to me.

My boyfriend and I will be at the Jan. 2nd matchup between the Colts and Raiders. He is a die-hard Raiders fan, and of course, I love my Colts through and through. This will be his first game ever in person, which makes it the most memorable.

No matter the result, I'm going to end up in the doghouse, so I may as well at least get a victory out of it. With that, do you think you could ask the Colts to turn up the heat this week?

JJ Stankevitz: I love it. Here's hoping you stay in the doghouse because the Colts won!

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