The Indianapolis Colts had a very good week, defeating the Tennessee Titans and then watching the division leading Houston Texans fall in Mexico. The Colts now have a path to win the AFC South.
The week couldn’t have been going better for the Colts. A tough fought win, but still a win. The division leader fell, putting them just a game up on the Colts. And the Jaguars, well, they Jaguar’d.
But then there was bad news. Andrew Luck is in the concussion protocol. On a short week, with a team that has absolutely dominated the Colts the past two years coming to Indianapolis on Thursday.
The Colts weren’t likely to be favorites against the Steelers this week to begin with. That doesn’t happen when you’ve lost by a combined 96-44 in the past two meetings.
Looking at the final six games, it is easy to pick out at least three the Colts will likely lose. Here’s how the final stretch of the schedule looks:
Week 12: Steelers at Colts – Uphill battle in the best of circumstances, but without Luck it will be impossible. They could also be without safety Clayton Geathers (concussion), who has been a talented and versatile player for the defense this year. Also the Steelers offense is pretty much healthy.
Week 13: Colts at Jets – The Jets are bad. And with a longer week to prepare the Colts (assuming Luck is a go) would be favored on Monday Night Football.
Week 14: Texans at Colts – The importance of this game can’t be understated but if both teams go 1-1 (Texans host the Chargers and are at the Packers) this will likely determine the division. Or at least put one team in the driver’s seat for the end of the season.
Week 15: Colts at Vikings – The Vikings have come back to Earth after a quick start, losing four of their last five games. Offensively this team is inconsistent at best but their defense is among the best in the league. On the road, this won’t be an easy out for the Colts.
Week 16: Colts at Raiders – Another rough outing for the Colts. The Raiders are playing very well and have a firm hold over the AFC West at 8-2. Pulling off a win here would be a pretty big upset for Indy.
Week 17: Jaguars at Colts – The Jaguars are really bad. In their past 16 games, the Jags are 3-13 but two of those wins are over the Colts. This game could mean everything for Indianapolis or nothing at all.
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That final schedule looks an awful lot like 3-3 for the Colts, and that is being optimistic. Four of the games are against teams with a winning record and while the Colts have hung in for most games, they’ve ultimately lost to every quality opponent. The Colts will need to win the division to make the postseason as they’re two games out of a Wild Card and lack the tie breakers to sneak in.
The Colts have to defeat their AFC South opponents (a third of the way there after Week 11) AND find a way to steal a game against the Steelers, Vikings, or Raiders. Being at home, the easiest would be the Steelers (theoretically) but the lack of Luck all but takes victory away.
The path to the playoffs is an uphill battle in a blizzard for Indianapolis. The Colts have slim odds, but there is still a chance in 2016.