With Four Games to Go, the Colts’ Playoff Hopes Lie In the Balance (Tossing Horseshoes)

The+Colts+season+comes+down+to+a+week+in+Vegas.+%22Welcome+To+Las+Vegas+Nevada+Sign%22+by+Douglas+Carter+Cole+is+licensed+under+CC+BY-NC-ND+2.0

The Colts season comes down to a week in Vegas. “Welcome To Las Vegas Nevada Sign” by Douglas Carter Cole is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ashwin Prasad

It’s hard to believe, but the Colts season is 3/4 of the way over. It has been topsy-turvy, unpredictable season, but I think it’s fair to say that the Colts have met expectations. Some of my friends thought we’d be a below-average team, others thought we’d be a Super Bowl contender. At 8-4, we’re right in the middle.

The biggest obstacle to the Colts’ playoff hopes is a shockingly competitive American Football Conference (AFC). For the last decade, the Patriots have ruled the roost, with their only true equals being the Peyton Manning Broncos. The Steelers and Ravens occasionally mounted a challenge, and the Andrew Luck Colts had a few chances of their own.

This year, it’s a complete free-for-all. Despite our 8-4 record, we are only seventh in the entire conference. While the Chiefs and Steelers remain dominant at 11-1, historically mediocre franchises like the Bills, Titans, Browns, and Dolphins have taken advantage of the Patriots’ downfall and surged into contention (of course, all of those teams are in divisions with the Jets, Jaguars, or Bengals). At least the Colts stayed in the mix during all of this upheaval.

However, there have been several missed opportunities this season. We are still the only team that lost to the Jaguars (all the way back in Week 1). Home losses to the Browns and Titans directly damaged our tiebreakers in the AFC, including head-to-head, division record, and conference record. In a scenario where we tie with the Titans, Browns, and Dolphins, our conference record will likely relegate us to the seventh seed and a trip to Pittsburgh for the wild card week.

The conference game this week will prove decisive: a road showdown with the Raiders. The squad from Vegas lies one game behind at 7-5, and should we lose to them this week, we’d lose another head-to-head tiebreaker. Philip Rivers dominated the Silver and Black as a Charger, racking up 18 wins against 10 losses. This game might just be the most important of them all.

The Raiders are a notoriously inconsistent team, and this game is pretty much a 50-50. One thing is clear: A win here allows the Colts to control their own destiny and keep the heat on the Titans for the division. After this week, the Colts face the Texans, Steelers and Jaguars. Going 2-1 in this stretch is feasible, but 3-0 is extremely daunting.

This week is the true fork in the road for the Colts season. Everything is on the line.

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