INDIANAPOLIS – With two weeks to go in the season, Indianapolis is the lone crowned division champion, while only three other teams have qualified for the 12-team playoff field – Denver, Kansas City and Seattle.
Currently slotted fourth in AFC seedings with a 9-5 record, the Colts could climb as high as the second seed, but a victory this Sunday at Kansas City is one determining factor.
A Colts win at the 11-3 Chiefs is essential for any possible movement upward, but outcomes in games involving New England and Cincinnati are components as well. A loss cements the Colts in the fourth seed.
Moving up from a fourth seed is an important thing Indianapolis hopes to accomplish. Getting to the second seed means an automatic ticket past the Wild Card Round.
Even moving to the third seed is important and while it means a Wild Card game is necessary, it is one step closer to possibly hosting an AFC Championship game.
That was the scenario in 2006 when the third-seeded Colts and fourth-seeded Patriots advanced in the Divisional Playoffs and the RCA Dome was the site for the title match leading to Super Bowl XLI.
Chuck Pagano has indicated the Colts will do whatever is necessary in each phase of the game to win on Sunday.
Kansas City will do the same since finishing with a better record than Denver (11-3) means one less playoff game. The Chiefs have lost twice to Denver, and the Broncos finish on the road against Houston and Oakland, teams with combined records of 6-22.
Listed below are the current AFC standings, the remaining schedule for teams competing for the playoffs and Colts scenarios:
|Team||Record||Div. Record||Conf. Record|
[y] Clinched Division Title [x] Clinched Playoff Berth
|Team||Week 16||Week 17|
|Denver||@ Houston (2-12)||@ Oakland (4-10)|
|New England||@ Baltimore (8-6)||vs. Buffalo (5-9)|
|Cincinnati||vs. Minnesota (4-9-1)||vs. Baltimore (8-6)|
|Indianapolis||@ Kansas City (11-3)||vs. Jacksonville (4-10)|
|Kansas City||vs. Indianapolis (9-5)||@ San Diego (7-7)|
|Baltimore||vs. New England (10-4)||@ Cincinnati (9-5)|
|Miami||@ Buffalo (5-9)||vs. N.Y. Jets (6-8)|
|San Diego||vs. Oakland (4-10)||vs. Kansas City (11-3)|
|Pittsburgh||@ Green Bay (7-6-1)||vs. Cleveland (4-10)|
WEEK 16 POSSIBLE COLTS SCENARIOS
Colts Win + New England Loss + Cincinnati Loss = No. 2 Seed
Colts Win + New England Loss + Cincinnati Win = No. 3 Seed
Colts Win + New England Win + Cincinnati Loss = No. 3 Seed
Colts Win + New England Win + Cincinnati Win = No. 4 Seed
Colts Loss = No. 4 Seed
*Note: the Colts playoff seed would not be final based on these scenarios. Week 17 games will have impact on final seeding.
NEW ENGLAND at BALTIMORE: Coming off a last-minute loss at Miami, New England has won 17 of its last 19 December games and has not dropped consecutive contests since weeks two and three in 2012. Baltimore has won four straight games to tie the NFL’s longest current streak. Baltimore hosts on a short week, having gained a last-minute 18-16 win at Detroit on Monday. These teams have met in the last two AFC Championship games, with each team winning once. New England’s loss last week kept the Patriots from passing Denver (11-3) for the top seed, and the Patriots want to stay in front of Cincinnati (9-5) since the Bengals beat New England in October, 13-6. It is the lone time the Patriots have been kept in single digits this year and broke a string of consecutive games with a TD pass by Tom Brady at 52. A Patriots win closes out the AFC East. If New England ends up tied with Denver for the top mark, the Patriots have beaten the Broncos. Baltimore has beaten Cincinnati once and visits the Bengals in week 17. Cincinnati is undefeated at home and hosts Minnesota Sunday. Baltimore must win to remain alive in the division hunt, pending a Cincinnati win. The Ravens own the sixth seed at the moment, but are tied with Miami, who plays at 5-9 Buffalo. At 8-6, the Ravens and Dolphins could be battling for the AFC’s last playoff seed. STAT TO NOTE: Brady is 43-7 for his career in December, the best mark among QBs in the Super Bowl era and 146 regular-season starting wins are 5th-most in history. Ray Rice has three 100-yard rushing games in his last six overall outings against NE. Bill Belichick is 5-3 vs. Baltimore, John Harbaugh is 3-3 vs. NE.
MINNESOTA at CINCINNATI: After a 10-point loss in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati returns home where it is 6-0. The loss last week kept Cincinnati from climbing into the second seed, while they fell to 2-3 in the division. Prior to last week, Cincinnati had not lost by double digits since week four and their four prior losses had come by 19 total points (with two defeats in overtime). The Bengals must avoid going into week 17 tied with Baltimore since they have lost to the Ravens already and want to ice a first division title since 2009. Cincinnati has fallen in the Wild Card Round in four tries since 2005, including the last two seasons. Avoiding the Wild Card round is motivation. Andy Dalton is hot with five TD passes in the past two games (101.5 rating), while the RB combination of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard has been effective. A stingy Cincinnati defense that allowed 30 points in Pittsburgh and 28 to Indianapolis ranks second in the AFC at 19.6 points per game and wants to get back to that average. Minnesota is the lone NFC North team not in the hunt, but they snapped a five-game Philadelphia winning streak by rolling to a 48-30 home win last Sunday. Adrian Peterson can present problems to any defense, and Matt Cassell (382 yards, 116.6 rating) is coming off a hot performance. STAT TO NOTE: Dalton has 27 TD passes to tie a career-best and the Bengals are 14-1 when he has a 100-plus rating. Since entering the league in 2007, Peterson tops all rushers with 10,070 yards and 86 TDs. Marvin Lewis is 1-1 against Minnesota, Leslie Frazier is facing Cincinnati for the first time.
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