By Julie Voigt// @JulieNoted_NFL
With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the New Orleans Saints, and a Houston Texans loss to the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts were the sixth seed. In order to secure a playoff spot, Indianapolis has one more task at hand on Sunday Night Football: beat the Tennessee Titans or simply go home.
This Sunday means everything to this 9-6 team. With a win over the Tennessee Titans, they will earn a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2014. With a Titans loss, Colts will secure the sixth-seed and earn a wildcard spot. Here is where it gets interesting, with a win over Tennessee, and if the Houston Texans lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts will be crowned as the AFC South Champs.
This situation is also mirrored for the Titans, who are also 9-6 and are behind the Colts.
Playoffs? Who would have thought this team, that finished 4-12 last season without quarterback Andrew Luck and then this season came back from a 1-5 record with Luck back in the lineup (and let’s not forget a dynamic defensive line and massive weapons on the offensive line), could even make an appearance in the postseason?
Luck is 5-0 in his career for games played in Nashville and is also 10-0 overall against the Titans.
The Colts are facing some possible key injuries this week, including tight end Eric Ebron (concussion) and center Ryan Kelly (neck). Tennessee may also be dealing with QB Marcus Mariota being out for Week 17 as he deals with a stinger. And although the status of Mariota probably won’t be known until pregame, head coach Frank Reich’s team will be focusing more on the system. Regardless, whether it is Mariota or QB backup Blaine Gabbert, the Colts will play like a playoff team this Sunday.
Looking in from the other half of the AFC South, Jacksonville announced on Wednesday that Jaguars’ QB Blake Bortles will start against the 10-5 Houston Texans. Houston currently leads the series 20-13. In the last meeting between these two teams, Houston defeated Jacksonville 20-7 in week 7 of the season. Houston, with a win, could secure themselves a playoff spot, but they are in danger of losing the first round bye unless the Patriots lose against the NY Jets. A Texans loss could move them down to the wild card spot.
This has been one crazy season. Unfortunately for the AFC, the picture will not be clear until after the Sunday Night game. Nonetheless, this is the game of the season for the Indianapolis Colts.