The Colts are currently 1-2 in the division and sit in second place. Their remaining games against the Raiders, Steelers, Jaguars, and Texans – two games in three weeks – will be massive in determining their playoff seeding. Barring an unforeseen collapse from the Titans, the Colts will most likely have to settle for second place in the division and have no room for error.
The absence of Deforest Buckner and Denico Autry, among other starters, was a big reason behind the 45-26 loss to Tennessee. Getting key players back healthy will be critical as the team tries to secure a playoff berth.
Let’s take a look at the team’s remaining schedule and discuss the team’s chances.
The Houston Texans are the definition of a one-man show. Deshaun Watson might be the MVP frontrunner if not for the Texans 4-7 record. After Bill O’Brien made one of the worst trades in NFL history, things have spiraled downhill for Houston.
Cardinals get: WR DeAndre Hopkins and a 4th-round pick.
Texans get: RB David Johnson, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2020
O’Brien traded receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson, a second-round pick, and a fourth-round pick. Hopkins, who is arguably the best receiver in football, has gone on to catch 77 passes for 967 yards and four touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Johnson has managed just 408 rushing yards with three touchdowns in eight games. To make matters worse, receiver Will Fuller was recently suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 30, 2020
Fuller was having a career year before his suspension, hauling in 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns. With the hit to their already limited offense, along with their struggling defense, this game should be the perfect opportunity for the Colts to get back on track.
As good as Deshaun Watson is, there is only so much he can do on his own. Buckner and Autry weren’t listed on the unofficial depth chart yesterday, but the hope is that they will return sooner than expected.
Las Vegas Raiders
Like the Colts, the Raiders are in second place in their division and fighting for a wild-card berth. The Raiders are 6-5 and coming off an embarrassing 43-6 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons.
I expect the Colts to win this game leaning on a balanced offensive attack and defense, but they can’t overlook Las Vegas. Similar to Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs is one of the most physical runners in the NFL. Stopping him on the ground will be the key to limiting this Raiders offense.
Josh Jacobs. Wow. pic.twitter.com/K3Kmv5Dtxl
— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) November 29, 2020
Derek Carr is inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so forcing the Raiders to be one-dimensional should put the Colts over the top. If they can’t stop Jacobs, however, it will be a long day for this defense.
There is no doubt that Las Vegas will attempt to establish their run game, especially after seeing what the Titans just did. Expect a physical, grind-it-out kind of game.
Pittsburgh is currently the best team in the NFL. Sporting a perfect 10-0 record, the Steelers have dominated on both sides of the ball and are as formidable as ever. Adding in the fact that Pittsburgh historically has our number, this will easily be the toughest test for the Colts.
The Colts have gone just 1-2 against the AFC North this season, and it doesn’t get any easier here. The return of Buckner and Autry will be pivotal in this matchup.
Pittsburgh has as balanced an offense as you will find, mixing in a tough run game with the pinpoint passing of Ben Rothlisberger. Juju Smith-Schuster has firmly established himself as a #1 receiver. Rookie wideout Chase Claypool is one of the frontrunners for rookie of the year.
On the ground, James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. form a strong running back duo. Former Colt Eric Ebron adds more to the passing game. Then, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro anchor the offensive line.
Pittsburgh Steelers Continued – Defense
It doesn’t stop there. Pittsburgh ranks third in the league in total defense. Even more impressive, they allow a league-low 17.4 points per game.
Their dominance starts upfront with Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and Stephon Tuitt demolishing offensive lineman. On the second level, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree have continued to dominate from their outside linebacker spots, racking up nine sacks and eight sacks, respectively.
Leading the league 💪
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 5, 2020
Ball-hawking free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (4 INTs) leads the secondary. Joe Haden and Steven Nelson have each locked down their side of the field at corner. Nickelback Mike Hilton has made his share of plays as well.
The Steelers also lead the league in sacks (38) and turnover differential (+12). The Colts will have to play a perfect game in all three phases to pull out a win.
Jacksonville managed to pull off a 27-20 upset victory over the Colts in Week 1. While that loss still confuses me, I don’t foresee that happening again. The Jaguars are in rebuild mode, and a team like the Colts have no excuse to lose this game.
The Jacksonville Jaguars fired general manager Dave Caldwell following the team's 10th straight loss on Sunday.
Caldwell is the fourth general manager to be fired this season following Houston Texans' Bill O'Brien, Atlanta Falcons' Thomas Dimitroff and Detroit Lions' Bob Quinn. pic.twitter.com/IVuarSB7G8
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) November 30, 2020
While Jacksonville has some solid personnel, they’re 1-10 and the Colts are clearly the more talented team. If they are serious about a playoff push, this game should be an easy win.
With the season coming to a close, the Colts currently control their own destiny. Win and everything else will take care of itself. But one little slip up could derail the Colts playoff chances, making the offseason acquisitions of Philip Rivers and Deforest Buckner a waste.
Time to put up or shut up.
Before I wrap this up, I wanted to give a quick shoutout to punter Rigoberto Sanchez, who recently shared a cancer diagnosis. Even though you most likely will never see this post, I just wanted to say, stay strong, bro.
We love you, and Colts Nation will be with you all the way. Go win your fight. We’ll be ready for your eventual return.