It is known that the NFC is the tougher of the two conferences in the NFL. However, atop the AFC are teams on long winning streaks. If these teams continue to win, the first five seeds in the AFC will be the Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers, Texans, and Chargers. Leaving the sixth and final playoff spot up for grabs, for teams still in the playoff hunt.
If the playoffs ended today, the Bengals would claim the final wild-card spot. Cincinnati is not one of those teams you can pencil in to make the playoffs. With that said, the Colts have an opportunity to sneak into the playoffs.
Indianapolis has the benefit of having a weak remaining schedule. Only two teams on the Colts remaining schedule, currently have a record over .500. One of those teams is the Dolphins, who are starting a backup quarterback. The other being the Texans, who Indianapolis gave away a win to back in week four.
Now, five of their remaining eight games are versus divisional opponents. All divisional games are usually hard-fought, physical and close. These divisional games start this week as the Colts host the Jaguars at home. The Jaguars game is the start of a three-game home stretch, where the Colts must win all three if they want a shot at the playoffs.
Colts’ Momentum is Building
The Colts have multiple things going in their favor right now. First, after starting 1-5, they’ve won two games in a row. In those two games, the Colts offense is averaging 40 points per game. The offense has been scoring a lot because they have found balance on offense. Running back Marlon Mack has had over 100 yards in each of the last two weeks. The Colts have had more rushing attempts than passing attempts each of the previous two weeks, something they hadn’t done in their first six games.
Furthermore, Luck’s offensive line is finally providing him with good pass protection. In the last four weeks, Luck has been sacked just once. Since Luck now has time to throw he ranks second in the NFL with 23 passing touchdowns.
Indianapolis is Overachieving
What makes this Colts team dangerous is that they have nothing to lose. Just last season Indianapolis went 4-12 and had the third pick in the draft before trading back. So entering the season, this should have been another rebuilding season for the Colts. However, the fact that this team is still in the playoff hunt after the midway point in the season shows the impact of Luck’s return, and new head coach Frank Reich have on this team.
Also, the Colts are currently getting great production from unexpected places. Darius Leonard, the Colts second-round pick, leads the NFL in tackles. Leonard play has put him at the top of the list of contenders for defensive rookie of the year.
The tight end position has also been a pleasant surprise for the Colts. Free agent signing Eric Ebron leads Indianapolis in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Very impressive considering the Colts have T.Y Hilton who is an elite wide receiver.
Luck’s use of his new tight ends goes beyond just Ebron. The Colts have former VCU basketball star Mo Alie-Cox on their roster. Since signing from the practice squad, Alie-Cox production increases the more he plays.
No more evident than on this touchdown catch versus the Raiders:
Mo Alie-Cox makes an INCREDIBLE grab for the @colts TD!
— NFL (@NFL) October 28, 2018
The Colts set an NFL record versus the Raiders with three different tight ends recording a touchdown catch.
Need some help from others
Consistency will be the most significant factor in whether or not the Colts can make the playoffs. With already five losses on their record, Indianapolis can ill afford to lose many more games. Also, Indianapolis may need help from other teams to make the playoffs.
The Bengals are currently two games ahead of the Colts for the final wild-card spot. Since the Colts loss to the Bengals in week one, they’ll need to finish with a better record than Cincinnati. Looking at the Bengals schedule, there are four games to highlight. Cincinnati plays super bowl contenders in the Chargers, Saints, and Steelers. Additionally, a divisional game against the Ravens and their top-ranked defense.
The Colts are trending in the right direction, just in time to start their playoff push. Indianapolis will need to expand on their current two-game win streak if they want any chance of making the playoffs.