Despite facing a number of unexpected obstacles this year, the Indianapolis Colts (8-7) have defied the odds and fought to stay alive in the postseason hunt. There are three games left in the regular season and the Colts are still firmly in the playoff mix. If the season ended today, Indianapolis would sneak into the playoffs with the seventh and final seed in the AFC.
Assuming the Colts can hang on to a Wild Card spot (several teams are right on their tail), they will face a division winner in the first round of the playoffs. While there's still plenty of football left to be played, three AFC teams — the Baltimore Ravens, the Miami Dolphins, and the Kansas City Chiefs— are heavy odds-on favorites to win their respective divisions. The AFC South is much more wide-open. In fact, Indianapolis has a real chance of stealing the division crown but they would need the Jacksonville Jaguars to stumble at least once in the final two weeks, while also staying ahead of the trailing Houston Texans.
Although none of the aforementioned opponents are easy wins, there are certainly those that the Colts would much rather face in their first playoff game in three years. Let's take a look at how Indianapolis stacks up against each prospective division winner and which one would be the most favorable matchup.
Baltimore and Miami are the two most in-form teams in the AFC and are peaking at the perfect time
It might be obvious but there's no doubt Indianapolis wants to avoid the two highest-seeded AFC teams through Week 15. Both the Ravens and the Dolphins have momentum and are playing some of their best football of the season. Baltimore has won four straight games, while Miami has won four of their last five. Beyond their impressive records, both teams match up well against the Colts and can take advantage of some of Indianapolis’ biggest weaknesses.
On offense, the Dolphins boast one of the most explosive units in the league. Led by some game-changing athletes in Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert, and De'Von Achane, Miami has racked up 51 completions and 15 runs of 20 yards or more. The Ravens, on the other hand, have the NFL's premier ground attack, pacing the league in rushing yards and attempts per game with MVP candidate Lamar Jackson leading the way. The Colts have struggled to defend big plays and the run all season which is why Miami and Baltimore can be lethal opponents.
On defense, both the Ravens and the Dolphins excel in generating pass pressure and forcing turnovers. They are first and second in the NFL in sacks per game and have combined for 43 takeaways this year. That combination could spell disaster for Indianapolis QB Gardner Minshew who has been known to struggle under pressure and with turnovers.
Ironically, the Colts outlasted the Ravens in their Week 3 meeting but Baltimore has been on a tear since then, going 9-2 while outscoring their opponents 313-170 (not including their Week 16 match up against the San Francisco 49ers). However, just because Indianapolis eeked out a win in that early-season game doesn't mean the Colts need to seek out the Ravens.