This NFL season has been unlike any season we’ve seen before. First, the COVID-19 pandemic made us question if we would have a season at all. But, one virtual draft and offseason later, the NFL kicked off their highly anticipated 2020-21 regular season. Since the opening matchup between Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs and Deshaun Watson’s Texans, we have seen the Steelers open up 11-0, the Browns achieve their first winning season since 2007, and the New York Jets sacrifice the coveted number 1 overall pick in order to save a winless season. We saw old names in new places, most recognizably the great Tom Brady made his way out of New England and headed for the sunshine down in Tampa Bay to team up with Bruce Arians and the Bucs.
Another veteran quarterback also cut ties with his old team to play elsewhere. That man was Philip Rivers, who decided to head to Indianapolis on a one year deal worth $25 million, to team up with his former coaches Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni (both currently the Colts head coach and offensive coordinator respectively). Rivers hoped to be the final piece of the puzzle, as Chris Ballard had done an excellent job putting together one of the most balanced rosters in the league. After struggling in a Week 1 loss in Jacksonville, Rivers turned right back around and lead the team to victories over the current number one seed in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers in overtime, Jon Gruden’s Raiders on the road in the new Allegiant Stadium, as well as a division win over Derrick Henry and the Titans in primetime and a season sweep of the Houston Texans. With Rivers at the helm, the Colts quietly had worked their way into a wildcard spot, and are still in race for the AFC South title.
Everything was shaping up for the Colts to make a playoff run, before a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16 knocked Indy out of the playoff picture. Rivers and the Colts currently hold the 8th spot in the AFC, one place out of a playoff berth. While the loss to Pittsburgh brought heartbreak to Colts fans, there is still a chance for Philip Rivers to make a run at the Super Bowl victory that has eluded him for his entire 17 year career.
The end of this season may seem eerily similar to Colts fans. Just two years ago Indy found themselves in a “win and you’re in” situation heading into a Week 17 divisional matchup with the Titans. This year isn’t quite the same. Unlike 2018, Indianapolis does not control their own destiny. While the Colts must win their Week 17 game at home against the tanking Jacksonville Jaguars, they still need some help from other Week 17 matchups in order to sneak into the postseason. A loss from either the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, or the Baltimore Ravens, along with a Colts win over the Jags, and Indy would find themselves just squeaking their way into the playoffs as the 6th or 7th seed. With the Browns facing a Steelers team which has already decided to bench starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and still could bench some more starters, a Steeler win seems unlikely. With Baltimore on the road in Cincinnati to match up with the Joe Burrow-less Bengals, a Ravens loss also seems like it could b e out of the picture. Colts fans would then turn their attention to Buffalo, where the Dolphins travel to chilly upstate New York for a must win for them to keep their playoff chances alive. Buffalo currently has not revealed any plans to rest any starters for this one, as it looks like the most likely way for Indianapolis to clinch a wildcard berth.
But wait, there’s more! The Colts are still alive in the race for their first AFC South title in six years. With a win over Jacksonville, Indy can turn their attention to Texans-Titans. A Tennessee win would mean the AFC South title would head back to Nashville, but a Houston win and Indianapolis would win the division and make the postseason as the 4th seed, while also earning the right to host their wildcard game, an advantage that any fan would love to have. Colts fans will be rooting hard for a Texans victory on Sunday, as well as wins from Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Cincinnati, in addition to a Colts win.
So, to clarify:
- IND win + either a MIA, CLE, or BAL loss
Colts clinch a wildcard berth
- IND win + TEN loss
Colts clinch division, host wildcard game
With Philip Rivers in the drivers seat looking for his first Super Bowl, Colts fans should feel confident that they get what they can control done. Attention then turns to the other four game, hoping for just one to go in favor of Indy. Looks like there will be Week 17 drama in the Circle City like we’ve never seen before.