ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s a two-game season.
That’s the mantra adopted by the Indianapolis Colts after their AFC South championship dreams folded Sunday with a 29-17 loss at the Houston Texans.
It’s a brief amount of time, but there are plenty of interesting possibilities.
There are two simple scenarios in which the Colts (9-5) can clinch a playoff berth this weekend. The first, and most straightforward, is a victory at the Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) on Sunday. But Indianapolis can still get in through a side door with a Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) win against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7).
“We need to get in the playoffs,” Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians told the media Monday. “That’s all we’re thinking about is getting there. We’re not there, yet.”
No, but they’re awfully close.
The Tennessee Titans’ ugly 14-10 victory against the New York Jets eliminated one of the major potential obstacles in Indianapolis’ path. The Jets (6-8) could have won a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Colts because of their 35-9 victory in Week 6.
Now, the main thing keeping Indianapolis from claiming its seat at the postseason table is the uncertainty in the AFC North. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Ravens (9-5) still can win the division.
The Bengals and Steelers play each other Sunday, and Cincinnati is scheduled to travel to Baltimore in the regular-season finale. That game could be for the division championship if the Bengals beat Pittsburgh.
It’s possible, though unlikely, all three teams could tie the Colts with 9-7 records when the dust settles Dec. 30. In that scenario, Pittsburgh would win the AFC North and Baltimore would claim one of the two wild-card playoff seeds.
The deadlock between Indianapolis and Cincinnati for the final spot would come down to the league’s fourth tie-breaking criteria: Strength of victory. The Colts currently lead in that category. Their nine victories have come against teams with a combined winning percentage of .397. The Bengals’ eight wins have come against teams with a winning percentage of .339.
Those numbers could change over the final two weeks, but there are complicated scenarios in which Indianapolis can clinch that edge on Sunday.
All of that only comes into play, of course, if the Colts fail to defeat the Chiefs this week or the Texans (12-2) at home in the regular-season finale.
“We just got to take care of our own,” Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea said. “We win, we’re in. And that’s our focus. Simple as that.”
There’s more than a playoff berth at stake this week, as well.
With a win and a Ravens’ loss to the New York Giants, the Colts can clinch the No. 5 seed in the AFC.
Why does that matter?
It’s currently the difference between opening the postseason at the eventual AFC North champion or making a return trip to Foxborough, Mass., to play the New England Patriots (10-4).
There’s also momentum to be taken into consideration. The last two Super Bowl champions — the Giants and Green Bay Packers — entered the postseason with 9-7 and 10-6 records, respectively. They both caught fire late in the season and rode hot quarterbacks to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
That’s an incredibly lofty goal for this year’s Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, but it all starts with beating Kansas City on Sunday.
“We don’t want to limp into the playoffs,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “You want to walk into the playoffs. In order to do that, we have to end on a good note, strong on the offensive side of the ball, strong on special teams and strong defensively. We have to get off to a fast start and finish faster. That’s the whole mindset.”
Indianapolis on cusp of cementing playoff berth
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s a two-game season.
- Ravens drove Manchester to avoid sweep NORTH MANCHESTER — The Anderson University baseball team defeated Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference leader Manchester University 9-5 on Wednesday at Gratz Field. Andrew Eiler led the Raven offense with three hits, three runs and an RBI, including one of four home runs the visitors hit.
- Elwood, Liberty Christian advance in county softball tournament The 2014 Madison County Softball tournament got off to a wild start at Liberty Christian on Wednesday night as Elwood and the host Liberty Christian Lions advanced with victories.
- Bulldogs, Indians impress in openers Lapel and Anderson have very different histories in the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament.
- Eagles, Arabians move to second round Frankton got off to an uneven start, falling behind 4-3 and 6-4, but rallied for a 14-6 triumph over Alexandria in the first round of the Madison County Softball Tournament here Wednesday. In the second contest, Pendleton Heights topped Madison-Grant 2-1 in a game where both runs and hits were at a premium.
- Rick Bramwell: Improving weather should aid morels When I looked at my wilted daffodils Tuesday morning, I knew this would be a setback for morels. The long-range forecast through April 29 calls for near normal temperatures and above normal precipitation. This is good news for the blacks and grays.
- Ken de la Bastide: Hunter-Reay's blunder proves costly A lack of patience cost Ryan Hunter-Reay and teammate James Hinchcliffe a chance at victory last weekend in the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Long Beach.
- Many girls tennis teams return top talent With spring sports getting off to a good start thanks to some spring-like weather last week, local girls tennis teams are taking to the court.
- Wild week will get later start The busiest week on Madison County's high school sports calendar is going to start a day later than expected.
- Familiar trio leads boys track teams Much like in years past, Anderson, Lapel and Pendleton Heights have assembled the largest number of track athletes of the area’s 11 high schools. And, while the remaining teams may struggle to compete from a team standpoint, they will send capable athletes to the line to challenge in individual events.
New roles, same goals for Arabians
Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the first 13 years of the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament is that no team has repeated as champion.
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