It’s week 17 in the NFL, which means that there are really only three types of teams play: those who are in the playoffs, those who are not in the playoffs, and those who are fighting for their lives and joining prayer circles to have a chance to make the playoffs.
Of course, there are a few levels to each of these groups, too. Teams that are in the playoffs are likely playing for seeding or home field advantage, like the New England Patriots. Teams that have no chance at the playoffs are playing for pride, or to save the job of their coach, or maybe those teams are locked in on their 2016 draft pick.
But those who are fighting to make the playoffs have as many levels as there are teams. Some have better shots than others. Some reeeallly have better shots than others. Some have a better shot at raising the ghost of Johnny Unitas to lead their team than making the playoffs.
Our first team: the Indianapolis Colts.
That’s right. The 7-8 Indianapolis Colts have a shot at the playoffs, just like the 10-5 and 9-6 teams fighting for a wildcard spot in the AFC. According to ESPN.com, it’s a 3,326-1 shot. So there is a chance! The mathematical reasoning behind this possibility is that strength of victory and strength of schedule could put the Colts ahead of the Texans, provided that a ton of things happen in Week 17 as per The Indianapolis Star.
Let’s break down what needs to happen, and how it can happen.
Indianapolis Colts Defeat Tennessee Titans
A win this week starts the math rolling for the Colts. A loss ends the hopes before even looking at the scores of any other games.
The Colts may be rolling out whoever wins a round of “Rock-Paper-Scissors” between Josh Freeman, Ryan Lindley, and Stephen Morris. Yeah, even “Clipboard Jesus” Charlie Whitehurst has been relegated to holing a doctor’s clipboard.
Luckily for the Colts, it may not even matter if one of the above play or Matt Hasselbeck or Andrew Luck are healthy enough to play. The Tennessee Titans have had a carousel at almost every position, and jettisoned their head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, in early November. If there was ever a team that has nothing to play for in Week 17, the Titans are it.
Jacksonville Jaguars Defeat Houston Texans
The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t a great team, but a 5-10 season in place of a hopeful win or two isn’t bad, either. Blake Bortles is developing into the quarterback the Jaguars needed, and developing right in stride with the his just-as-young wide receivers. Add in a healthy Julius Thomas, and the Jaguars have a range of weapons to move the ball down the field efficiently, hopefully before J.J. Watt can get his hands on Bortles more often than not.
The Jaguars defense is the question. They were razed for 31 points the last time they played the Texans, but that was before Arian Foster landed on IR.
Rating: Highly Possible
Baltimore Ravens Defeat Cincinnati Bengals
Considering the Ravens have gone from Matt Schaub to Jimmy Clausen to Ryan Mallet at quarterback since Joe Flacco landed on IR, you’d think that the team is just trying to get through the end of the season without an serious injury that could trickle through to the next season. But the Ravens are coming off a surprising loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Why couldn’t they do the same against a Bengal team who are having quarterback issues of their own and may end up choosing between an injured A.J. McCarron or 6th round rookie pick Keith Wenning under center?
Rating: Highly Possible
Buffalo Bills Defeat New York Jets
It’s Rex Bowl II, as the Jets travel to Buffalo in the hopes of setting their wildcard playoff berth with a win against their former team. The last time these teams played, the Bills broke the Jets with a defensive fumble recovery for a touchdown. Since then, the Jets have gone 5-1, most recently with an overtime victory against the Patriots. The Bills seem to have nothing to play for except their head coach’s pride. It could be enough.
Atlanta Falcons Defeat New Orleans Saints
Neither the Falcons nor the Saints have a shot at making the playoffs no matter what happens in this game or any other game. However, the Falcons are coming off a huge revenge game against the Carolina Panthers, handing the previously unbeaten team their only loss in Atlanta. This rematch against the Saints is also in Atlanta, and could be a statement game for what is to come next year while the Saints are preparing for a possible overhaul at the quarterback and head coach positions.
Denver Broncos Defeat San Diego Chargers
The Broncos are playing for the AFC West crown. The Chargers are just hoping that their L.A. request goes through in the off-season. The only thing that can make this a game is if the Broncos see the Raiders blowing out the Raiders in the 4th quarter and decide to give Peyton Manning a few snaps to warm him up for the playoffs.
Miami Dolphins Defeat New England Patriots
Most sports analysts see this game as the nail in the coffin for the Colts. How can the Miami Dolphins, with a second-string coaching staff and a locker room with more poison than a Black Mamba, possibly beat the great New England Patriots?
Well, like a snake, a football team can be most dangerous to an opposing team when they have nothing to play for. That counts double for Ndamukong Suh, especially when the offensive line of the Patriots sustained more injuries against the New York Jets. Tom Brady is good but, with his only healthy, reliable receiver being tight-end Rob Gronkowski and a lack of mobility while Suh is bearing down on him, he could be in trouble like he was against the Jets. Not every quarterback can be like Cam Newton.
Pittsburgh Steelers Defeat Cleveland Browns
The Steelers are playing for a wildcard spot against the Cleveland Browns. ‘Nuff said. Austin Davis may be under center? The game line can’t be high enough.
Rating: Highly Likely
Oakland Raiders Defeat Kansas City Chiefs
The Oakland Raiders have been one of the most hot-and-cold teams this season, which is a nice break considering how often they find themselves at the bottom of the rankings. This game against the Chiefs in Kansas City is a huge gut check for the entire team, but it’s not an absolute lost cause. The Raiders are playing to end the season on a positive note going into next year. That line is probably even in Jack Del Rio’s pre-game speech.