Don’t look now, but Colts in position for playoff push

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 16: Nyheim Hines #21 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates scoring a first half touchdown with teammate Quenton Nelson #56 against the Washington Redskins for a first half touchdown at FedExField on September 16, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Frank Reich praised his Indianapolis Colts for digging themselves out of hole of their own making.

That was accomplished with Sunday’s 38-10 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans. Suddenly, a team that opened the season 1-5 had won four straight, evened their record at 5-5 and . . . now what?

At the risk of getting too far ahead of ourselves, the Colts’ week-by-week, win-by-win ascension has given them more than a puncher’s shot at achieving what was unthinkable in the aftermath of 42-34 loss to the New York Jets on Oct. 14.

That would be contending for a playoff spot. Yes, a playoff spot.

With six games remaining, the Colts are in a five-way tie at 5-5 for the second and final wild-card spot. Included in the traffic jam are the Miami Dolphins, who visit Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.

Listen to Dolphins coach Adam Gase.

“That’s the NFL,’’ he said at his Monday press conference. “That’s what everybody wants, right? You don’t want to be where you’ve got 10 games down and the last six it was already determined.

“This is what it is. This is what it always is. It’s just who can have the best six-game season.’’

In Reich’s mind, the Colts’ abysmal start to the season has prepared them for what’s to come. They’ve been in a win-or-else mode since seeing their record dip to 1-5 with the loss to the Jets, their fourth straight.

“If there’s any silver lining behind starting out 1-5, it’s that you do get a chance to experience that 1-0 is the only way to go as far as what your mindset should be because you really don’t have any other option at that point,’’ he said. “Then you see how you respond as an individual and how we respond as a team and that’s learning it the hard way.’’

The Colts are attempting to return to the playoffs for the first time since reaching the AFC Championship game after the 2014 season. The last time they failed to reach the postseason in four straight seasons was a nine-year drought (1978-86) that spanned two cities.

Here’s a look at the remaining schedules of the five 5-5 teams in the AFC:

  • Colts: Miami (5-5), at Jacksonville (3-7), at Houston (7-3), Dallas (5-5), New York Giants (3-7), at Tennessee (5-5). Opponents’ record: 28-32.
  • Tennessee: at Houston (7-3), at New York Jets (3-7), Jacksonville (3-7), at New York Giants (3-7), Washington (6-4), Colts (5-5). Opponents’ record: 27-33.
  • Miami: at Colts (5-5), Buffalo (3-7), New England (7-3), at Minnesota (5-4-1) Jacksonville (3-7), at Buffalo (3-7). Opponents’ record: 26-33-1.
  • Baltimore: Oakland (2-8), at Atlanta (4-6), at Kansas City (9-1), Tampa Bay (3-7), at Los Angeles Chargers (7-3), Cleveland (3-6-1). Opponents’ record: 28-31-1.
  • Cincinnati: Cleveland (3-6-1), Denver (4-6), at Los Angeles Chargers (7-3), Oakland (2-8), at Cleveland (3-6-1), at Pittsburgh (7-2-1). Opponents’ record: 26-31-3.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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