Wild weekend puts Colts back in seeding mix
Colts coach Chuck Pagano befriended John Harbaugh years ago.
Now Harbaugh’s former defensive coordinator in Baltimore is
about to become a Ravens fan all over again.
After seeing three AFC division leader lose in Week 15, AFC
South champion Indianapolis moved back into contention for a
first-round bye with Sunday’s 25-3 win over Houston. If the Colts
and Ravens each win their final two games, Indy can start prepping
for a divisional round game at home.
”I always root for those guys, so I guess we’ll be rooting for
those guys again,” Pagano said Monday. ”Our focus is on us
because it really won’t matter if we don’t take care of business,
but we’ll root for those guys, too.”
Last Monday, after losing at Cincinnati, the Colts (9-5)
appeared to be locked into the AFC’s No. 4 seed and were trying to
generate some momentum before hosting their first playoff game of
the post-Peyton Manning era. But after losses by Denver (11-3), New
England (10-4) and Cincinnati (9-5) this past week, the Colts find
themselves right back in the seeding chase.
Indy closes out the season with a trip to Kansas City, which
locked up a playoff spot with a win at Oakland, and at home against
a Jacksonville team that has been much better over the second half
of the season. Win both and anything, including a longshot jump to
the No. 1 seed, is still possible.
Cincinnati finishes at home against Minnesota and Baltimore. New
England visits Baltimore and wraps up the regular season at home
against Buffalo. Denver has trips to Houston and at Oakland, and
the Chiefs close things out at San Diego.
So if the Colts and Ravens win their last two, Indy have a
better overall record than either the Bengals or Baltimore and
would win a tiebreaker over New England on better conference
record. They’re just not looking at it quite the same way.
”Regardless of what happens with anyone else, we want to win
the rest of our games and kind of be catching fire here at the
right time going into the playoffs,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo
said. ”We want to be playing our best ball regardless of what
happens with any other teams.”
After six weeks of slow starts and mostly frustrating football,
the Colts looked more like the early-season team that jumped out to
a big division lead.
They led 20-3 at halftime, forced two turnovers, set up another
score with a long punt return and produced their most lopsided
victory since Sept. 29.
It was easily their most complete game since Pro Bowl receiver
Reggie Wayne went down with a season-ending knee injury Oct. 20,
and the difference came down to adjustments Andrew Luck & Co.
made this week.
Indy started the game with a no-huddle offense, got more
receivers involved with a series of screens and was able to run the
football in the second half. Darius Butler picked off two passes,
too, giving him eight over the last two seasons, and Robert Mathis
forced his second safety of the season.
That’s how the Colts want things to look each week, not just
against the scuffling Texans.
”Everybody’s jockeying for playoff position,” Butler said.
”You have the teams that are either fighting in the hunt or trying
to climb another seed or two. So we’re jockeying for playoff
position. We know every win counts, that’s what we can control and
what we do. Hopefully, other teams fall off pace, but we just want
to keep stacking up wins.”
Notes: Pagano said offensive lineman Joe Reitz, who started at
guard Sunday, was diagnosed with a concussion and will go through
the NFL protocol. … Most of the Colts other injured players are
considered day-to-day. Those on the list are: linebacker Daniel
Adongo (hamstring), receiver LaVon Brazill (foot), running back
Donald Brown (stinger), safety Sergio Brown (groin), fullback
Stanley Havili (knee), center Samson Satele (elbow), cornerback
Greg Toler (groin). … Pagano said he is hoping to have defensive
tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot) back for the Jacksonville game
but noted he could return this week.