Colts’ playoff push gains clarity: win and hope

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PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – DECEMBER 27: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to make a pass play in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 27, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – After four months and 15 games, it’s come down to next Sunday and the 16th game for the Indianapolis Colts.

Unable to maintain control of their own future at Pittsburgh – you know, blowing a 17-point third-quarter lead and losing 28-24 to the Steelers – the Colts’ playoff drive has been reduced to this: rebound with a win in their rematch with the 1-14 Jacksonville Jaguars and get some help.

In the top-heavy AFC, Indy’s options range from winning the AFC South and hosting a first-round game as the No. 4 seed, or missing the postseason altogether, perhaps as just the third 11-5 team in NFL history.

They earn just their second playoff appearance in the last six seasons if:

  • they beat Jacksonville and either 10-5 Baltimore loses at 4-10-1 Cincinnati, 10-5 Miami loses at 11-3 Buffalo or the 10-5 Cleveland Browns lose at home to the 12-3 Steelers.

Only one of those teams has to lose.

  • they beat the Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans lose in Houston to the 4-11 Texans. That would give the Colts the AFC South title.

The Titans left the division door ajar by being overwhelmed 40-14 in Green Bay Sunday night.

Five teams are vying for four spots. The playoff calculations according to FiveThirtyEight.com: the Titans 98%, the Ravens 93%, the Colts 84%, the Dolphins 73% and the Browns 56%.

The NFL has altered the week 17 alignment, so the Colts will know if they’re involved in a win-and-in meeting with the Jaguars. Indy’s game has been moved into the 4:25 p.m. time slot, along with the Titans-Texans game.

Baltimore-Cincy, Miami-Buffalo and Cleveland-Pittsburgh share 1 p.m. kickoffs.

“I don’t think it’ll be hard to bounce back,’’ Philip Rivers said. “At this point in the year, you’re playing for your season.

“Our mantra is going to come back into play again, controlling what we can control and try to be 1-0 this week because whatever happens, they all include us winning. So we’ve gotta make sure we take care of our business.

“I have to believe 11 (wins) is going to be enough. It’s only been one or two times that it’s not.’’

The only 11-5 teams not to make the playoffs are the 2008 New England Patriots and 1985 Denver Broncos.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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