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.

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