This Sunday the Indianapolis Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars in what has been billed as a must-win game for both teams.
Jacksonville comes into the game as the underdog, although they defeated the Colts at home this season in thrilling 31-28 fashion. Josh Scobee boomed a 59-yard field goal as time expired to send Peyton Manning and the Colts home losers on Oct. 3.
The stakes this Sunday could not be higher for the Colts, whose consecutive playoff appearance streak is in serious jeopardy. If they lose, the season will pretty much be over. Even if they were to make up the final two games to pull into a tie with the Jags, Jacksonville would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. A wild card berth, while not out of the question, would require an intervention by God himself (God not available for comment).
But, should the Colts win on Sunday, it pulls Indianapolis and the Jaguars even at 8-6. So, we look to the NFL tiebreaker rules and apply them to scenarios for Weeks 16 and 17.
The NFL tiebreakers are as follows (with records following a Colts win in parenthesis):
1. Head-to-head record (both 1-1)
2. Divisional record (both 3-2)
3. Best win percentage in common games (Indianapolis 7-5, Jacksonville 6-6: NYG, Den, KC, Was, Phi, SD, Dal, Oak, plus divisional games)
There are several other tiebreakers, but the Jags and Colts would not need to go beyond No. 3 in every scenario and the Colts would actually be sitting in better position at that point with two games remaining. The Colts would have a 62.5 percent chance of winning the AFC South out of the 16 possible win-loss scenarios for each team in the final two games (see the end of the article for breakdowns of each).
To sum up, Jacksonville would then win the division through two ways:
1. Better overall record than the Colts OR
2. Same overall record as the Colts, BUT defeat Houston, while Indy falls to Tennessee in week 17
The Jaguars will finish the season at home versus 5-8 Washington and at 5-8 Houston.
Indianapolis will play at 6-7 Oakland before hosting 5-8 Tennessee in its final game of the regular season.
Of course, this all becomes moot if the Jaguars win this Sunday, propelling them to the AFC South title.
On the flip side, it becomes interesting if both teams end the season at 8-8, leaving open the possibility of a streaking Texans or Titans team tying them atop the division (both currently 5-8).
Scenarios for final two games
W=win, L=loss; Ws and Ls listed in sequential order (Week 16 result first, Week 17 second)
Jags—vs. Washington 5-8 and at Houston 5-8
Indy—at Oakland 6-7 and vs. Tennessee 5-8
Jags: WW Indy: WL—Jaguars by record 10-6 to Indy 9-7
Jags: WW Indy: LW—Jaguars by record 10-6 to Indy 9-7
Jags: WW Indy: LL—Jaguars by record 10-6 to Indy 8-8
Jags: WL Indy: LL—Jaguars by record 9-7 to Indy 8-8
Jags: LW Indy: WL—both 9-7, Jaguars by Div (4-2 to 3-3)
Jags: LW Indy: LL—Jaguars by record 9-7 to Indy 8-8
Jags: WW Indy: WW—both 10-6, Div 4-2, Indy by Common Game win percent (9-5 to 8-6)
Jags: WL Indy: WW—Indy by record 10-6 to Jaguars 9-7
Jags: WL Indy: WL—both 9-7, Div 3-3, Indy by Common Game win percent (8-6 to 7-7)
Jags: WL Indy: LW—both 9-7, Indy by Div (4-2 to 3-3)
Jags: LW Indy: WW—Indy by record 10-6 to Jaguars 9-7
Jags: LW Indy: LW—both 9-7, Div 3-3, Indy by Common Game win percent (8-6 to 7-7)
Jags: LL Indy: WW—Indy by record 10-6 to Jaguars 8-8
Jags: LL Indy: WL—Indy by record 9-7 to Jaguars 8-8
Jags: LL Indy: LW—Indy by record 9-7 to Jaguars 8-8
Jags: LL Indy: LL—both 8-8, Div 3-3, Indy by Common Game win percent (7-7 to 6-8)