INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts head into their bye week two games behind the Houston Texans in the loss column.
In order for the Colts (4-5) to pass the Texans (5-3), they will need some help, while obviously taking care of their own business.
The Texans have yet to win a road game in 2016 (0-3 on the road this season) and play five of their final eight games away from home.
Projecting here, the Colts will certainly need a 4-3 or 5-2 finish (at least) if they want to be atop the AFC South come New Year's Day night.
Here's a look at what the Colts have remaining when they return from their bye week:
- Week 11 (11/20), vs. Titans (4-5):Andrew Luck has never lost to the Titans and the Colts have won 15 of their last 16 games over their division foes from Nashville. But the Titans are still very much in the AFC South picture and this meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium has some rare playoff implications for both sides.
- Week 12 (11/24), vs. Steelers (4-4):The recent nemesis of the Colts now comes to Lucas Oil Stadium in 2016. Pittsburgh has dominated meetings with Indianapolis each of the past two seasons. The Steelers are in a fight of their own within a very crowded AFC North. Will it be an advantage for the Colts getting them at home on a short week?
- Week 13 (12/5), at Jets (3-6):The Colts' lone road game in the first four out of the bye is a Monday night tilt out east. After just missing the playoffs last season, the Jets are reeling. Quarterback problems for Todd Bowles' team has the Jets four games back of a playoff berth with time seriously ticking.
- Week 14 (12/11), vs. Texans (5-3):No matter how you slice it, this will be the game of the season for the Colts. After that costly loss to the Texans in Week Five, the Colts have to have this game in order to salvage a season split against the division leader. Indianapolis' lone home game in December could very well set up who has the inside track on the division over the season's final three weeks.
- Week 15 (12/18), at Vikings (5-3):A month ago, this one looked like the toughest remaining game the Colts had in 2016. But the Vikings have lost three in a row and are now barely clinging to the top of the NFC North. This one will have obvious playoff repercussions for both teams.
- Week 16 (12/24), at Raiders (6-2):Christmas brings a short week for the Colts traveling to California to take on one of the NFL's hottest teams. The Raiders are currently leading the AFC West, but also have a great shot at a Wild Card spot if that divisional lead is relinquished. With these back-to-back road games (on a short week), a split for the Colts would likely be considered a win.
- Week 17 (1/1), vs. Jaguars (2-6):The Colts will close out the regular season with a home division game, the third one they will have in the final seven weeks. If the Colts need help in the division come Week 17, the Texans will be hitting the road to take on the Titans. The Colts have not lost a home game versus the Jaguars since 2012.