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Indianapolis’ Playoff Streak Could Be In Serious Jeporady

FOXBORO, MA - NOVERMBER 21: Peyton Manning  of the Indianapolis Colts walks to the sideline in first half in a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 31-28. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

More than any other organization in pro sports, the Colts are the model franchise.  They don’t have a lot of resources, but they do have great players.  And unlike some teams with just as many great players (Houston, San Diego, NY Giants, and Chicago, to name a few), the Colts back up the quality of their roster by winning football games year in and year out.  The Colts have made the NFL postseason 10 of the last 11 seasons, and every year since 2001, when they fired Jim Mora, Sr., and made Tony Dungy head coach.

But because of the ridiculous number of wins to qualify for the AFC Wild Card this year (looks like 11, at the very least), and the declining quality of the Colts roster is combining in the perfect storm to make it an uphill battle to win the AFC South and qualify for the postseason through that automatic berth.

The Colts could finish anywhere between first and third in their own division, knowing only that they will finish ahead of the Texans.  This week, they play a home game against the San Diego Chargers that they really, really need to win, however, will be facing a team that is playing at a much higher level at any number of positions, including quarterback, where Phillip Rivers is emerging as a frontrunner for the NFL MVP award, and reigning league MVP Peyton Manning is, well, not really in the discussion for the first time since 2002.  A loss to the Chargers at home makes both teams 6-5.  For the Chargers, they are far from clinching a playoff berth because they may still be behind Oakland and Kansas City in the AFC West at the end of week 12.  That’s not very good position.

But for the Colts, 6-5 may be cause to sound the alarm.  First off, even though no remaining opponent on their schedule is playing as well as the Chargers are right now, the Colts could find themselves in “win out or stay home” territory.  Is this a Colts team capable of winning their remaining games?  They’ve accomplished that feat in the past, but about this group, I’m skeptical.  Their remaining schedule: vs Dallas, at Tennessee, vs Jacksonville, at Oakland, vs Tennessee.

What I want to focus on is the two games against Tennessee.  That Jacksonville match-up is obviously equally important to both Tennessee match-ups because the Colts can’t expect to overtake the Jaguars by losing two games and the tiebreaker to them.  Jacksonville looks like a ten win team if they were to overcome the Colts and beat them in Indianapolis.  However, I’m not writing this article because of the danger the Jags provide to the Colts playoff hopes.  I already suggested the Colts may finish in third.

But this is a team that needs to WIN the AFC South.  And Tennessee is the number one obstacle to accomplishing that.  The Colts may need to clean sweep the division they play in in order to ensure a playoff berth.  Plus, you can take a look at the efficiency numbers for yourself.  Ask yourself: would you be willing to pick the Colts over the Kerry Collins-led Titans both times?  It’s a relevant question because the Colts can’t afford even a single loss to the Titans unless they win this week because the Colts hold no divisional tiebreakers in the AFC South.  The rest of the AFC South might only need to get to 10 wins to catch the Colts, but the Colts might need to get to 11 wins to hold off the rest of the AFC South.  All of this because they lost to the Texans AND the Jaguars in the first four weeks of the season.

When you look at the Colts, they seem to be the Colts.  They are going to comfortably win more than they lose, again, for the ninth season in a row.  But their first trip into the land of .500 football teams in a decade could mean the end of a decade long streak of playoff trips for the Indianapolis Colts, and would be one of the more identifiable aspects of the 2010 NFL season, even if no one around the league is really aware of this event as it happens right now.

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  1. December 3, 2010 at 7:36 pm

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