ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s a two-game season.
That’s the mantra adopted by the Indianapolis Colts after their AFC South championship dreams folded Sunday with a 29-17 loss at the Houston Texans.
It’s a brief amount of time, but there are plenty of interesting possibilities.
There are two simple scenarios in which the Colts (9-5) can clinch a playoff berth this weekend. The first, and most straightforward, is a victory at the Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) on Sunday. But Indianapolis can still get in through a side door with a Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) win against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7).
“We need to get in the playoffs,” Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians told the media Monday. “That’s all we’re thinking about is getting there. We’re not there, yet.”
No, but they’re awfully close.
The Tennessee Titans’ ugly 14-10 victory against the New York Jets eliminated one of the major potential obstacles in Indianapolis’ path. The Jets (6-8) could have won a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Colts because of their 35-9 victory in Week 6.
Now, the main thing keeping Indianapolis from claiming its seat at the postseason table is the uncertainty in the AFC North. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Ravens (9-5) still can win the division.
The Bengals and Steelers play each other Sunday, and Cincinnati is scheduled to travel to Baltimore in the regular-season finale. That game could be for the division championship if the Bengals beat Pittsburgh.
It’s possible, though unlikely, all three teams could tie the Colts with 9-7 records when the dust settles Dec. 30. In that scenario, Pittsburgh would win the AFC North and Baltimore would claim one of the two wild-card playoff seeds.
The deadlock between Indianapolis and Cincinnati for the final spot would come down to the league’s fourth tie-breaking criteria: Strength of victory. The Colts currently lead in that category. Their nine victories have come against teams with a combined winning percentage of .397. The Bengals’ eight wins have come against teams with a winning percentage of .339.
Those numbers could change over the final two weeks, but there are complicated scenarios in which Indianapolis can clinch that edge on Sunday.
All of that only comes into play, of course, if the Colts fail to defeat the Chiefs this week or the Texans (12-2) at home in the regular-season finale.
“We just got to take care of our own,” Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea said. “We win, we’re in. And that’s our focus. Simple as that.”
There’s more than a playoff berth at stake this week, as well.
With a win and a Ravens’ loss to the New York Giants, the Colts can clinch the No. 5 seed in the AFC.
Why does that matter?
It’s currently the difference between opening the postseason at the eventual AFC North champion or making a return trip to Foxborough, Mass., to play the New England Patriots (10-4).
There’s also momentum to be taken into consideration. The last two Super Bowl champions — the Giants and Green Bay Packers — entered the postseason with 9-7 and 10-6 records, respectively. They both caught fire late in the season and rode hot quarterbacks to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
That’s an incredibly lofty goal for this year’s Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, but it all starts with beating Kansas City on Sunday.
“We don’t want to limp into the playoffs,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “You want to walk into the playoffs. In order to do that, we have to end on a good note, strong on the offensive side of the ball, strong on special teams and strong defensively. We have to get off to a fast start and finish faster. That’s the whole mindset.”
Indianapolis on cusp of cementing playoff berth
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s a two-game season.
Dan Patch lights up Hoosier Park Saturday night
Hoosier Park will feature the 20th edition of the $200,000 Dan Patch invitational Standardbred race on Saturday.
Tagged as “Thrillyard 200”, the evening full of extreme racing, free fireworks and giveaways has become Indiana’s signature harness racing event.
Win Little 500 tickets
The Herald Bulletin is giving away two tickets to the Little 500, scheduled for Saturday, May 25 at Anderson Speedway. Find out how to be entered in the drawing here.
Cottrell, Buck win regional titles
It didn’t take long for Pendleton Heights junior Kiawna Cottrell to stake her claim to a spot in the girls track state finals at Tuesday night’s North Central Regional.
On her first attempt at the long jump, the Arabians met the state standard of 17 feet, 4 inches.
“That started the night out right,” Pendleton Heights coach Melissa Hagerman said.
It only got better from there.
Eagles soar into sectional final
On a warm and windy Tuesday evening, four teams hit the field at Frankton with a chance to play for the Sectional 40 softball championship. The host Frankton Eagles grabbed the first spot in the final with a dominating 24-0 win over Winchester.
PH’s 3 homers lift softball team
Pendleton Heights hit a trio of home runs and Arabians starting pitcher Bailey Benefiel came within two outs of a no-hitter in a softball sectional semifinal here Tuesday evening.
The PH clouts came from Sarah Dixon, Elizabeth Sigler and Jordan Dean, and they covered everything but a grand slam as the Arabians bounced New Castle 15-2. PH will play in today’s championship game at 7:30 p.m., against Greenfield-Central.
Ken de la Bastide: Stellar field for Little 500
Since returning to Indiana in 1973 there have been very few Pay Less Little 500 races that I’ve missed in 50 years, but the field for the 65th running on Saturday can only be described as stellar.
Harter wins Red Haven Award
Matt Harter’s hours aren’t filled with longing and dreaming. They are filled with action and accomplishment.
The Anderson High School senior’s activities in and out of the competitive arenas, earned him the 2013 Red Haven Award during Tuesday’s Anderson Noon Exchange Club meeting at The Edge.
PH’s run ends at regional
Pendleton Heights faced two powerful opponents Tuesday in the girls tennis regional at Marion — 16th-ranked Delta (21-2) and winds gusting to 30 mph.
The combination was too much to overcome in a 5-0 loss that ended the most successful season in school history.
Cowan bounces Broncos in Class A opener
A pitching change helped propel Cowan past Daleville in the softball sectional at Liberty Christian on Tuesday.
Experienced Heat, upstart Pacers ready to go
Dwyane Wade’s rookie season ended with a playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers. The next year, the Miami Heat were headed to the Eastern Conference finals and certain that an NBA championship was in their sights.
That’s when Wade learned a valuable lesson: Never take playoff chances for granted.
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- Dan Patch lights up Hoosier Park Saturday night