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After back-to-back wins over Houston and Kansas City with strong play from the offense, defense and special teams, the Indianapolis Colts could enter the playoffs on a serious roll.
That roll could include a huge payoff in the form of a No. 2 AFC seed for the playoffs. Or it could be a three-game winning streak as part of their current spot as the No. 4 seed. Or somewhere in the middle at No. 3.
No matter what, it's how the Colts are playing, not their seeding, that means the most entering the playoffs next week.
“It means a lot because the team that's hot normally wins it all,” Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “Right now, we're just trying to get hot and we're playing good football at the right time.”
The Colts (10-5) play the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Players and coaches agree the Colts' primary concern is to continue playing well and beat Jacksonville. While the Jags have only four wins, they have played better over the second half of the season, and they have historically played the Colts down to the wire over their years together in the AFC South.
“I don't think we're caught up in anything but the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “That's our focus this week, and I know I can speak for every player. That's what it is.”
The scenarios for the Colts to move up in seeding are simple but varied, and all hinge on what happens with the current No. 2 seed New England Patriots versus the Buffalo Bills and current No. 3 seed Cincinnati Bengals versus the Baltimore Ravens.
If all three teams win, the seeds remain the same.
If the Colts and Patriots win and Bengals lose, the Colts move into the No. 3 spot and the Bengals drop to No. 4. If the Colts and Bengals win and the Patriots lose, the Colts move to No. 3, the Bengals to No. 2 and the Patriots to No. 4.
If the Colts win and both the Patriots and Bengals lose, they move into the No. 2 seed, the Patriots to No. 3 and the Bengals to No. 4. That second seed would come with a first-round playoff bye.
If the Colts are the third or fourth seed, they could host their first-round playoff game against a number of teams, depending on the final week, including the Chiefs, Ravens, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.
If the Colts beat the Jaguars, they'll have an idea where they stand, but not entirely, after the game. The Bengals-Ravens game also kicks off at 1 p.m. Sunday, but the Bills-Patriots game starts at 4:25 p.m.
In other words, there is so much uncertainty about the Colts' playoff seeding that it could serve to lessen the distraction entering the game. The Colts have a task to win, and then see what shakes out, nothing more.
“In December, so far, we've played four games. We're 3-1,” Colts defensive end Cory Redding said. “We're looking at making this 4-1. That's our mindset. We've got to keep gaining momentum into the playoffs. We know that it's a big statement to make, not limping in, but really standing strong, winning the games, the tough games in December, going into the playoffs. Have some momentum and just try to ride that momentum through to the Super Bowl.”
Redding, who expects to play after suffering an injury last week, said he'll worry about the Colts' seed once the game, and the regular season, ends.
“(Playoff seeding is) for you all to worry about,” Redding said. “That's the media and ESPN and all you writers. You all do the scenarios. We're going to focus on the Jacksonville Jaguars and get ready for this game to win.”