It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a three-game winning streak to close out the regular season is considered a bad thing but here we are, three days away from the finale of the worst Indianapolis Colts season in at least 13 years with the notion of a third straight win looming ominously above the city like the Ghost of Football Future.
Colts fans have been giddy about the prospect of a No. 1 draft pick ever since quarterback Peyton Manning was sidelined back in September and, for 14 consecutive weeks thereafter, all evidence seemed to suggest that dream would be realized with ease.
And then something strange happened.
The barely competitive 0-13 Colts suddenly started winning games—two in a row, in fact—and in doing so very nearly negated all the humiliating leverage they’d accumulated toward receiving that franchise-saving top overall pick all season long.
As the 16th and final game of the 2011 season approaches, Colts fans everywhere are now sweating that very question, knowing full well that what may initially appear as little more than just a meaningless winter matchup between two familiar opponents whose seasons are already over is actually a defining moment for this franchise, its future and many of its best-known personalities.
Here’s a look at how Sunday’s outcome could steer the fate of Indianapolis for years to come and, more importantly, what to expect if it does.