Indianapolis Colts: 6-Pack Of Reasons To Not Count Out a Playoff Run

Alek FrostCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2010

Indianapolis Colts: 6-Pack Of Reasons To Not Count Out a Playoff Run

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 21:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots on November 21, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Colts 31-2
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Colts' season has been filled with ups and downs, evidenced by their 7-6 record and Peyton Manning's considerable amount of interceptions (15) compared to last year's season total (16) at this point in the season.

    Indianapolis has spoiled it's fan base the last seven years, with at least 12 victories in each of them. So with a record that only stands an inch over .500, a boat load of injuries, and a physical upstart in Jacksonville standing in their way of a seventh AFC South crown, it leaves many feeling like George Costanza's old self: totally inadequate, completely insecure, paranoid, narcotic, and unlike George, it hasn't been a pleasure.

    But rest easy Colt nation because it's far from over and this just could be the summer (or winter) of George.

The Colts Are In Second Place

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    PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Jim Caldwell of the Indianapolis Colts against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 7, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    At 7-6, plenty are worried about the state of the Colts. A seven-year streak of 12 wins or more is over and the Colts who are used to injuries, are dealing with more of them than maybe in previous years.

    But before everyone gets carried away, remember this; the Colts are only a game out of first place. That's right, with all the screaming and shouting the idiotic prognosticators are doing (I'm looking at you Keyshawn), we forget the Colts despite being bruised and battered, are still just a victory away from being atop the AFC South.

The Colts Are in Second Place: Continued

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 14:  Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball after catching and is tackled by Pat Angerer #51 of the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Colts play Jacksonville this week and with a victory they can pull back into a tie for first place and if they win out, it could very well spell playoffs for the old blue and white.

    The reason guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are so good for so many years is because they don't let the grind of the season get to them, the ups and downs will come and for the most part (unless you're a Lions fan) they will fade away. The Colts need not worry about righting any ship, this is the same ship that had them a bad throw away from a Super Bowl victory.

    Are they perfect? By no means but this formula has worked before and if Peyton Manning has anything to say about it, it will work again.

The Schedule Does Indeed Lie

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 12:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders runs for yardage during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 12, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Here is a look at the Colts' remaining schedule:

    Week 15 vs Jacksonville (8-5)

    Week 16 at Oakland (6-7)

    Week 17 vs Tennessee (5-8)

    Now you may look at that schedule and think the Colts have a rough road ahead of them but I see something entirely different. I see two of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL lining up to play the Colts, only the Jaguars have me worried.

    Jacksonville is a wild card because of their tough running game but in all honesty, I could see the Colts winning out and  finishing the season with a 10-6 record.

    It wouldn't surprise me and it shouldn't surprise you, if the Colts do this. They have been known to reel off several victories in a row and I don't expect this season to be any different.

Two Words: Jacob Tamme

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 21:   James Sanders #36 of the New England Patriots tackles Jacob Tamme #84 of the Indianapolis Colts on November 21, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Colts fans and fantasy owners alike (including myself) went into a panic when Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark was placed on the IR. But Jacob Tamme, as I half-heartedly predicted, has fit the bill after taking Clark's spot.

    In his five starts and seven games with significant playing time this season Tamme has racked up 46 catches for 452 yards and three touchdowns (and just in case you were wondering, a beautiful 109 fantasy points for yours truly). He's the definition of a Madden tight end, you know when you decide you're going to make an unknown a superstar and you look through a variety of tight ends looking for a guy with decent speed and excellent hands.

    What I'm the only one that does that?

Two Words: Jacob Tamme: Continued

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    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 09:  Jacob Tamme #84 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball after a reception while defended by Stephen Tulloch #55  of the Tennessee Titans during the NFL game at LP Field on December 9, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Phot
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The point is this guy, at least in my opinion, isn't a product of the system because he has talent but his stats obviously have been elevated because of that said system and the man running it. Had this guy started all season long, he would have finished with 104 catches, 1,024 yards and about six touchdowns.

    It's more than likely he couldn't maintain his current average over a 16-game schedule but those numbers show you how great of a second half this guy is having. As long as Peyton has this guy as his safety valve, I think the Colts will be alright.

The Pass Protection

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 26:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts directs the offense as center Jeff Saturday #63 prepares to snap the ball against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    When it comes to statistics along the offensive line, I usually don't concern myself with them for one reason and one reason only: the jersey test. If your quarterback's jersey is clean (for the most part unless we're talking astro turf here) your offensive line did a decent job in pass protection.

    Lately the Colts have had more success keeping Peyton upright, even if it has more to do with Peyton's rate of release, rather then stellar protection. The point is, the Colts' link to victory is directly tied to number 18. If he goes down, so do the Colts. There are probably only two other teams in the league that depend on their quarterback as much as the Colts do.

    So if Manning finds himself with enough time to connect with his (even if banged up) plethora of weapons, the odds of the Colts winning are obviously far greater than if he did his best Matthew Stafford impression (I love you Matt but it's true).

Another Steve Nash Reference

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    PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 05:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center on November 5, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Grizzlies 123-118 in double overtime.  NOTE TO USER: User exp
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    So you got past the introduction and the first four slides and just as you think you have a pretty good feel as to where this column was going, I threw a behind-the-back bounce pass your way, a la Steve Nash.

    Before I confuse you any further, I'll get to the point. If you have read any of my previous columns, from time-to-time I make pop culture references and/or odd comparisons to drive my point home. I have prior to now compared Peyton Manning to Nash and for the purposes of this point, I will again. 

    No one in their respective sports has quite the control over their offense, they are the kings of distribution, the definition of a field and/or floor general. Another aspect of their games they share is the fast break offense, which is another reason there should be no panic in Indy.

Another Steve Nash Reference: Continued

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    PHOENIX - DECEMBER 15:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns lays up a shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the NBA game at US Airways Center on December 15, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 128-122.  NOTE TO USER: Use
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    In the span of three minutes and 11 seconds, the Colts turned what seemed like a blowout into a nail biter against New England a month ago. In that span, Peyton Manning hooked up with receiver Blair White for two touchdowns and pulled the Colts within a field goal.

    Both Manning and Nash have their critics and their place in history is often disputed but both run their offenses to perfection, despite what would seem to be a less than stellar supporting cast at times.  And there are few players that are more trusted and feared with the ball in their hands with the game on the line.

The Jaguar's Schedule and The Tiebreakers

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    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 05:  Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars breaks away from Chris Hope #24 of the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 5, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Jaguars won 17-6.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    On paper the Jaguars don't exactly have a stiff test after they face-off with Indy Sunday but if you dissect their two remaining games, you could convince yourself that they could drop one, even both games.

    Two Club Tie-Breaker for Division Crown

    1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
    2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
    3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
    4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
    5. Strength of victory.
    6. Strength of schedule.
    7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
    8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
    9. Best net points in common games.

    Courtesy of NFL.com

    First off, they play Indy and if they lose, the Colts pull into a tie which basically adds up to a college football, BCS finale in the last two weeks. If both win out, it comes down to these breakers.

The Jaguars Schedule and The Tiebreakers: Continued

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 03:  Running back Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field on October 3, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jaguars won 31-28.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    So if you break this three-game playoff race down, after this week if Jacksonville wins, the race is pretty much over. They would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indy winning both regular season meetings and would have a two-game lead with two games remaining.

    If the Colts win, that makes things a little more interesting. That would mean they would be tied with the Jags with two games remaining, one of which for both teams, is a division game and they would have identical division records going into week 17. This race may just come down to Houston and Tennessee, the Jags will travel to Houston and the Colts will host the Titans.

    Jacksonville will play a reeling Washington Redskins team and the Colts will play the dangerous but inconsistent Oakland Raiders next week. Obviously if one team loses in week 16, they have no control over their destiny in week 17. But if Indy beats Jacksonville, Oakland and Tennessee they win the division and obviously make the playoffs.

    Peyton Manning called this week's game a playoff game and for all intents and purposes, he's right. This year may not have been as pretty as the last seven but if the Colts find a way to win out, the season will finish with same result, an opportunity to win it all.