Colts’ chase for AFC wild-card spot headed for Titans’ showdown?

Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass in the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After 14 games, a 1-5 start, a five-game winning streak, a major stumble in Jacksonville and a monster beatdown of America’s Team, the Indianapolis Colts’ playoff push is getting rather simple.

In fact, it very easily could boil down to the rematch with the Tennessee Titans in the Dec. 30 finale in Nashville regardless the outcome of the Colts’ Sunday meeting with the New York Giants in Lucas Oil Stadium. If Pittsburgh or Baltimore loses once – that’s a prerequisite for Indy to have a shot – the Colts-Titans winner earns the second and final AFC wild-card spot. The loser heads into the offseason; the Titans would win a 9-7 tiebreak with Indy based on a better division record.

If that scenario plays out – the ultimate win-or-else game – no one should be surprised if the NFL flexes Colts vs. Titans from a 1 p.m. kickoff to NBC’s prime-time stage. The 256th game of the season would be must-see TV.

According to FiveThirtyEight.com, the Colts have a 34-percent chance of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Someone needs to tap Andrew Luck on the shoulder and let him know.

“We don’t live in holes, but I haven’t heard talk about it at all and that’s not a lie,” he said after the Colts overwhelmed Dallas 23-0 Sunday. “Frank (Reich) sets the tone and it’s about getting better and getting the most out of every day.

“That’s what guys believe in. That’s what we’ve done when we were 1-5, when we were 2-5, 3-5. Every week is just about getting better, improving as a team, getting better and focusing on the process. It’ll stay that way. We believe in that, we truly do.”

The possibility of a successful December closing kick was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind when the Colts opened the season 1-5. They are trying to join the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs as the only teams since the 2002 realignment to open a season 1-5 and reach the postseason.

“We’ve been playing some great football and this time of the year, that’s when you need to play your best,” wideout T.Y. Hilton said. “We’re playing great football.

“Right now, you’re either the train or you’re the tracks. Right now, we’re rolling, so you better get on the train.”

A look at the remaining schedules for the teams in the mix for the second AFC wild-card spot.

  • 8-5-1 Pittsburgh: at New Orleans (11-2; will play Monday night), Cincinnati (6-8). Opponents’ record: 17-10.
  • 8-6 Baltimore: at Los Angeles Chargers (11-3), Cleveland (6-7-1). Opponents’ record: 17-10-1.
  • 8-6 Colts: New York Giants (5-9), at Tennessee (8-6). Opponents’ record: 13-15.
  • 8-6 Tennessee: Washington (7-7), Colts (8-6). Opponents’ record: 15-13.
  • 7-7 Miami: Jacksonville (4-10), at Buffalo (5-9). Opponents’ record: 9-19.
  • 6-7-1 Cleveland: Cincinnati (6-8), at Baltimore (8-6). Opponents’ record: 14-14.
  • 6-8 Denver: at Oakland (3-11), L.A. Chargers (11-3). Opponents’ record: 14-14.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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