In their week 12 matchup, The Colts got embarrassed in the most important game of their season up to this point at home against division rival Tennessee. The loss bumped them out of the AFC South lead and now has Indianapolis clinging to a wild card spot. While injuries and COVID-19 setbacks do take some blame for this loss, something has to change if the Colts are going to hold a playoff spot. So after 12 weeks, the Colts are left with a 7-4 record, second in the AFC South, without the division tiebreaker, and are tied for the last AFC wild card spot. What happened?
Indianapolis won their first matchup against the Titans with a dominant second half performance, but this time around, the Colts were punched in the face early in the game and could never get back up. Tennessee’s offense was roaring early as four touchdowns on the Titans’ first five possessions set the tone for the game. Derrick Henry’s impact was felt early and often as he ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. The Colts defense could not keep up with him and not having DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry, and Bobby Okereke, explained it. Many early mistakes from second year cornerback Rock Ya-Sin only made the deficit worse.
On the other side of the ball, the offense was dull and could not keep up with the Titans to stay in the game. Phillip Rivers could not jumpstart the offense causing many 3 and outs. The Colts were also missing rookie back Jonathan Taylor and center Ryan Kelly before the game, so the running game was going to be a struggle from the start. Anthony Castonzo leaving the game early on with an injury was huge as the offense has struggled without him in past seasons. If the players who have been sidelined due to COVID-19 can return before next week then the Colts will have a chance at finishing the season healthy, since Bobby Okereke and Ryan Kelly could return to practice as early as Wednesday, pending Kelly’s MRI.
The Colts have five remaining games against the Texans, Raiders, Texans, Steelers, and Jaguars. The games against the Texans and Jaguars are very winnable and should get the Colts up to 9 wins, securing a winning season. The Steelers will be tough to conquer as Pittsburgh remains the only unbeaten team in the NFL and being on the road will not help as the Colts likely lose. The game against the Las Vegas Raiders is the most important game for them, considering the Raiders are one game back of the Colts for the AFC’s last wild card spot. Indianapolis will likely need to win 4 of their last 5 to secure a playoff spot at the 6 or 7 seed with an 11-5 record. Although it is unlikely, the Colts still have a chance for the division title and a home playoff game, but they will need some help from the Titans, who still have the Packers and Browns on their schedule.
With one month left in the season, it is up to Phillip Rivers to guide the Colts to the playoffs. The veteran QB is on a one-year deal which is most likely not going to be extended if they miss the playoffs, so he will need to step up and lead the offense into the postseason. If Indianapolis can get healthy and finish the season how they started it, they can earn a return to the playoffs.
Image: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports