With their 27-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts transformed an off-season punchline into a very real possibility. At 6-3, the Colts find themselves holding down the 5th AFC playoff seed (1st wild card spot) with a 2-game lead over the teams in 7th place (San Diego, Cincinnati and Miami are all tied at 4-5, Tennessee is sitting at 4-6). The more remarkable thing is that, not only are the Colts in playoff position now, there are actually multiple factors working in their favor to help turn their playoff dreams into reality. After the jump, we'll take a look at those factors, and break down what has to happen for the Colts to complete their remarkable turnaround.
The first - and most obvious - positive factor is the fact that the AFC is not very good this year. Through 10 weeks (KC and Pittsburgh have yet to play, but the outcome of that game won't affect this stat) the AFC features 6 teams with a record of .500 or better. Those six teams (HOU, BAL, NE, DEN, IND, PIT) hold down the 6 AFC playoff spots (duh). They are currently being chased by a pack of 7 teams (SD, CIN, MIA, TEN, NYJ, OAK, BUF) with 3 or 4 wins.
While it's impossible to predict how the next 7 weeks will play out, it certainly feels as though 9 wins will be enough to secure one of the two wild card spots (and there's an outside chance that 8 might do the trick as well). Consider the following: of the 21 wins racked up by the 7 chasing teams, only 4 have come against teams with a winning record (CIN v NYG, TEN v PIT, NYJ v IND, OAK v PIT). In other words, those 7 teams find themselves in the playoff discussion mainly due to their ability to bottom feed.
The thought that one might bottom feed their way to the playoffs leads us to...
The second factor working in favor of the Colts march to the post-season is the schedule of those chasing them. We'll look at the schedules of the 7 "chasers" to illustrate our point.
|Against Playoff Teams||
@DEN*, v BAL*, v CIN**, @PIT*, v CAR, @NYJ**, v OAK**
@BUF**, v SEA*, v NE*, @SF*, v JAX, v BUF**, @NE*
@KC, v OAK**, @SD**, v DAL, @PHI, @PIT*, v BAL*
@JAX, v HOU*, @IND*, v NYJ**, @GB*, v JAX
@STL, v NE*, v ARI, @JAX, @TEN**, v SD**, @BUF**
vsNO, @CIN**, v CLE, v DEN*, v KC, @CAR, v SD**
vsMIA**, @IND*, v JAX, v STL, v SEA*, @MIA**, v NYJ**
^ - denotes a team the Colts have beat this season, giving them the head-to-head tie breaker
~ - denotes a team that has beaten the Colts this season, giving them the head-to-head tie breaker
* - denotes a playoff team given the current standings
** - denotes a "chasing" AFC playoff team
As you can (hopefully) see, not only do the remaining schedules for most teams feature some tough games (16 of the 48 will be against playoff teams), but 17 of the remaining 48 games come against other chasing teams. In other words, these teams are going to play each other a lot. This could work in one of two ways: 1) certain teams dominate their "chaser" meetings, the field is thinned, and a clear fight for the final 2 playoff spots is created or (the hope of Colts fans everywhere) 2) the teams trade wins, basically eliminating each other from the playoff race.
Based on the remaining schedule, the teams Colts fans should be most concerned with are Cincinnati, New York, and Oakland.
Cincinnati's remaining schedule is fairly easy, featuring 5 teams with a sub-.500 record, compared to only 2 playoff teams (1 game against PIT, 1 game against BAL). They will be on the road for 4 of their last 7, and it's impossible to tell which version of the Dallas Cowboys they'll face (their week 14 opponent), but compared to the rest cof the "chasers", the Bengals have one of the best roads to the playoffs.
The Jets have a couple of things working in their favor. First, they've already beat the Colts, which gives them the head-to-head tie breaker should they be able to catch-up in overall record. Second, they face only 1 team with a winning record (NE) in those final 7 games, while having the opportunity to pick up wins against the Rams, Cardinals, and Jaguars. Keep in mind, we're only looking at the Jets chances based on their schedule. If we're talking about them as a team, I'm just not sure they'll be able to fix their offense enough to win 5 or 6 of their last 7.
The Raiders also have a pretty nice schedule, facing only one (current) playoff team: Denver. Outside of that, they also have games against Cleveland, Carolina, and Kansas City, which means they should have the opportunity to pick up a handful of wins, but like the Jets, I'm just not sure they can fix all of the problems they would need to overcome in order to win 5 or 6 of their last 7 games.
While there are certainly teams who will have the chance to put pressure on the Colts and Steelers, there is still one final factor to consider as we discuss the Colts playoff push...
Their own schedule is pretty favorable. In their final 7 games, the Colts will play 3 playoff teams: this week against the Patriots, and the Texans twice in the final 3 weeks of the season. If you remove those 3 games, the remaining 4 teams have a combined record of 12-24. While no one is saying games against Tennessee, Buffalo, and Detroit are easy, those are the kinds of teams the Colts should be able to beat if they want to consider themselves playoff contenders. Also working in their favor is that, while they will be on the road for 4 of their final 7 games, 2 of those home games are against "lesser" teams in Buffalo and Tennessee, which should help reduce the chance of an upset.
At 6-3 the Colts still have a lot of work to do if they want to secure a spot in the post-season, but if they were to miss the playoffs now, considering their record, their upcoming schedule, and the circumstances surrounding the teams chasing them, it would have to be considered a minor upset. So yes, we're talking about the playoffs!.. PLAYOFFS!?! I'm just hoping the Colts can win 3 more games.
Ok, I am disappoint ;). The thread title isn't complete without an embedded YouTube of the beloved "Mora Rant".
They'll have to keep improving to do it, but the Colts also have a serious shot at winning the division. Just sweep Houston and match the Texans' record in the other five games.
They won't have to improve much to get to the playoffs, but if they do make it, now we're talking about maybe being one and done. Face it, the schedule is favorable for the season, but no one gets a favorable schedule in the playoffs. Also, there was no mention of Houston possibly having clinched everything by week 14, so the Colts might not face the playoff-Houston team, which might net us one more victory (I'd be hard-pressed to say they'd win both). They've exceeded all my expectations, but being the realist, don't think they will do much in the playoffs.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION WARNING. I just want to remind everyone of this little dandy that I wrote over a month ago and was mocked and ridiculed for: http://www.coltsauthority.com/2012-archives/october/5-reasons-why-the-colts-can-make-the-playoffs.html
@Colt_Following DON'T PROMOTE YOUR **** ON MY BLOG, SIR. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONVERSATION, YOU SELFISH ... SELF-RIGHTEOUS, SELF-PROMOTING, SELF-SUSTAINING, SELF.
@Colt_Following by the way, catch Josh and I tonight on Colts Authority Radio's Monday Night Breakdown at 8pm ET!
@GregC Tune in to hear a grown man cry on live radio.
Pythagorean wins is another way to look at it... going there, current division winners stay on top (HOU w/ 13 wins, all other leaders are 11), PIT wins 10 and Colts pick up the final wild card w/ 9. Next is SD w/ 8, MIA and CIN both at 7 all else are <6.
I am really afraid to say anything. All season, I have been enjoying what has been happening, but not really believing it. There is no way this team with this defense and this inexperience can keep winning, let alone make the playoffs.
Now it almost seems like... how can this team not make the playoffs? Uh oh, damn you Doug! Kiss off death.
I'm just going to ride the wave for the rest of the season. I've seen all I need to see regarding Andrew Luck and the Ws are just gravy. If Luck stays healthy for the rest of the season, this is a successful season. That being said, I see PLAYOFFS(!?!?!) and I don't really care how they get there or how weak the AFC is or whatever other excuse is made. Sometimes it just pays to be Lucky.
I don't think the Colts are even going to need all that much help from the chasers. Earlier I was even looking at their chances of winning the division...slim certainly, but...heck, they still control their own fate, which says a lot.
If the Pats defense looks like it did yesterday against Luck, he'll put up 500 yards. A Colts win would be an upset, but at this point, looking at the two teams, it wouldn't be shocking, just unexpected. I've also seen the Texans fall apart, both at the ends of seasons and against the Colts too often to think they can sweep us (though I don't hold much hope we can get a sweep either). To offset the chance of a win next week, they'll almost certainly drop one of their winnable games, and I'd say the Titans are the most obvious one to worry about.
Almost everything I saw of the Colts also suggested they might have 1 win at this point in the year but end up playing spoiler as everyone started to get used to playing together, then end up with a 4 or 5 win season after catching fire at the end. If they just play at their current level, they'll get a playoff spot, so we jsut have to hope there's no letdown from a young team...
@Mattrellen I'd feel a lot better about that New England game if it were at home. Playing in Foxborough is hard enough, but in the middle of November I'm sure it's downright brutal. Keep in mind this is a Texas raised and West Coast college attending QB we have here, I'm not sure if cold is his cup of tea or not and we know Tom Brady loves himself some sub-freezing temps (I think we all remember the 6 TD blizzard game).
I would be a bit shocked if they pull this one out to be honest, but not if we were playing at home. I understand they've won 2 road games in a row, but it was against TENN and JAX, they still have a history of struggling on the road against decent teams this season (if you want to even call NYJ decent). Maybe they've turned a corner (and they should certainly be getting some players back from injury), but beating NE in their own building.
Yeah, I think we should be able to pull at atleast three, I doubt any will be easy, but I feel 5 of the final games should be close and hopefully we are on the winning side of atleast 3 of those. Also the only team I am worried about is Cincy, I was hoping the Giants would help us out in that area this past week, but I guess not... STUPID GIANTS, they only really show up during the playoffs, lol...
I'm with you, 9 wins is an awesome season even if one is a garbage win over Texan subs. Given your analysis (nice job), I know I shouldn't be concerned much about SD. But I will be until they lose two more. It's remarkable that we're even having this discussion. On another note, of the teams listed above, how would you rank their D's compared to ours?
@smonroeWhen I looked at the Texans schedule, I'm not so sure they'll have a week to sit at the end of the year. I can see them dropping one next week to the Jags, Tennessee looks like a potential trap game for them (though I think Foster will, alone, pound the Pats into submission on a snowy December day), and the Vikings aren't a pushover and come at a time when they may be under a lot of pressure to win to clinch the first overall.
Meanwhile the Broncos have a cakewalk schedule to finish, having to play only one good team (the Ravens), and I hear they have a pretty good QB over there that can win the close ones. If the Texans drop 2 games somewhere along the way, don't expect to get the backups.
It's more likely the Colts will have nothing to play for, with wildcard secured and no other team able to take them out of the playoffs, than for the Texans to have nothing to play for in week 17.
@Mattrellen @smonroe That Texans defense is legit, much better than the Colts defense that just allowed 10 points and had 3 takeaways against the Jags. No way do I see them losing that game. I thought they might lose to the Bears, but they just beat a 6-1 team in their own stadium during a rain storm... pretty sure they can handle the Jags.
@Mattrellen Cheap cigars burn very easily. Doesn't mean they are going to pull it out
@Payton Cheap cigars don't burn so well, eh?
The Texans will slip, somewhere, to a team they should beat. Depending on how the tiebreakers look (and assuming the Broncos keep winning), it's possible that only one loss matters.
The Jags have generally kept it decently close with the Texans (and Colts), so I feel it's one possibility of a loss.
The point, regardless, is that the Texans very well may be playing for something come week 17, rather that be a first round bye or just making sure Manning the Texan Slayer has to go to Houston in an eventual matchup...and this is all assuming the Ravens are likely to drop a game or two as well.
They Texans can win by 100 next week, but I'll still say the Colts aren't going to get a gift in week 17.