I’ve posted several times on this topic, but with the amount of confusion (mine included) on the topic of NFL playoff tiebreaking scenarios, I thought it would be a good time for a refresher.
Essentially, from the Colts perspective, the AFC Wild Card race is down two three teams for two spots: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati. The Jets (5-7) are still technically alive because they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts, and have a manageable final four games. But, given their QB situation, and trailing the Colts by three games with four to play, I decided not to include them.
Steelers: SAN DIEGO, at Dallas, CINCINNATI, CLEVELAND
Bengals: DALLAS, at Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh, BALTIMORE
Colts: TENNESSEE, at Houston, at Kansas City, HOUSTON
Overall record (obviously) and AFC record, which is the first playoff tiebreaker, are the two records to focus on. The Colts are 5-3 against AFC teams this season, with all four of their remaining games against AFC opponents. The Bengals (5-5 vs. AFC) and the Steelers (4-5 vs. AFC) have two and three games left against conference foes, including one game against each other.
So, let’s make this easy: with the Bengals and Steelers playing each other in Week 16, one of them will end up with six AFC losses. With one head-to-head game remaining, it is impossible that both teams can A) get to 11 wins, and B) tie the Colts with a 7-5 conference record. The Colts are currently 5-3 vs. AFC competition. Therefore, if Indy splits their final four games and finishes with ten wins (7-5 in AFC), they’ll clinch one of the Wild Card spots.
The Colts are still mathematically alive for the AFC South crown, but that would require them winning out and the Texans dropping three (including both to Indy) of four. I’m trying to deal with probable outcomes, and like the Jets rallying to contend for a Wild Card spot, sweeping the 11-1 Texans just doesn’t seem likely.
The Colts are in the driver's seat for a playoff spot, and who would've ever though that four months ago? Remarkable.