AFC playoff picture: where do Colts stand?

Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws from the pocket during an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich’s approach is unwavering: don’t ride the wave. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of feeling fat ‘n sassy after a victory and don’t wallow in self-pity following a loss.

“It’s a week-to-week league,’’ quarterback Philip Rivers said minutes after his Indianapolis Colts were thrashed 45-26 Sunday by the Tennessee Titans. “I know coach has told you guys you can’t ride that wave. We can’t ride that wave.

“We have to just dig back in, look at our play critically and regroup for another division game on the road next week and there’s five to play. A lot can happen in five weeks as we know. But we’re the same guys that pulled in here five hours ago – exact same guys – and certainly we have to play better.’’

But a major byproduct of the most lopsided loss to the Titans in the AFC South rivals’ series was a major hit to the Colts’ push for their first division title since 2014 and a spot in the playoffs.

With a win over Tennessee, the Colts’ chances of reaching the postseason was 91% and to win the division 83%, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. They wouldn’t have required much, if any, help to earn a playoff berth.

Now, those chances have dipped to 55% for the playoffs and 13% for the AFC South. At 7-4 and with a Sunday road trip to Houston (4-7) looming, the Colts are the No. 7 seed and the third of three wild cards in the AFC playoff picture.

Not surprisingly, FiveThirtyEight.com’s projections indicate those chances greatly increase with wins at Houston and the following week at the Las Vegas Raiders. A win over the Texans would push the playoff chances to 73% while two straight road wins would push them to 91%.

Here’s a look at the remaining schedules of the Colts’ top challengers for an AFC playoff spot, including the strength of each team’s schedule:

  • No. 3 seed Tennessee Titans (8-3): Cleveland (8-3), at Jacksonville (1-10), Detroit (4-7), at Green Bay (8-3), at Houston (4-7). Combined record: 25-30, .455.
  • No. 4 seed Buffalo Bills (8-3): at San Francisco (5-6), Pittsburgh (10-0), at Denver (4-7), at New England (5-6), Miami (7-4). Combined record: 31-23, .574.
  • No. 5 seed Cleveland Browns (8-3): at Tennessee (8-3), Baltimore (6-4), at New York Giants (4-7), at New York Jets (0-11), Pittsburgh (10-0). Combined record: 28-25, .528.
  • No. 6 seed Miami Dolphins (7-4): Cincinnati (2-8-1), Kansas City (10-1), New England (5-6), at Las Vegas (6-5), at Buffalo (8-3). Combined record: 31-23-1, .573.
  • No. 7 seed Colts (7-4): at Houston (4-7), at Las Vegas (6-5), Houston (4-7), at Pittsburgh (10-0), Jacksonville (1-10). Combined record: 25-29, .463.
  • No. 8 seed Baltimore Ravens (6-4): at Pittsburgh (10-0), Dallas (3-8), at Cleveland (8-3), Jacksonville (1-10), New York Giants (4-7), at Cincinnati (2-8-1). Combined record: 28-36-1, .438.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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