With the Texans win Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts' playoff chances are on life support.
Houston has already clinched at least a tie in each of the first five tiebreakers. So Indianapolis would need to forge a tie in the fifth tiebreaker (strength of victory) and win the sixth tiebreaker (strength of schedule) to win the AFC South.
It’s still mathematically possible, but the Colts would need 10 different games to break right (including the Monday Night Football game) to win the division. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, there’s a 0.03 percent chance of that happening. The odds against it are 3,326-to-1!
So how would it happen? Buckle up ...
First the obvious results –- the Colts would need to win and the Texans lose to force a tie for the division title with an 8-8 record.
Each of the first four tiebreakers – head-to-head record, record in division games, record against common opponents, and record in conference games – would be tied in that scenario.
So we head to the strength of victory tiebreaker. Four of the wins would be identical, as both teams beat the Buccaneers, Jaguars and Titans (twice). Plus they’d have one win against their 8-8 co-champion. So strength of victory would rest on the Texans wins against the Bengals, Jets and Saints compared to the Colts wins against the Broncos, Falcons and Dolphins
Heading into Monday Night Football, those three Texans opponents have combined for 27 wins. The Colts three victims have 23 wins.
The only way for the Colts to catch the Texans is if its opponents win their final four games while the Texans foes lose their last four.
That means the following six results: the Broncos beat Bengals in Week 16, and in Week 17 the Bengals, Jets and Saints (against the Falcons) all lose while the Broncos and Dolphins win.
So we would head to the sixth tiebreaker –- strength of schedule.
Twelve of the 16 opponents are identical, plus the two games against their 8-8 co-champion. So the only difference in the schedule is Houston’s games against the Bengals and Chiefs and Indianapolis’s games against the Broncos and Steelers.
With the Broncos and Bengals results already factored into the tie in strength of victory, the only way for the Colts to have a tougher strength of schedule is if the Chiefs lose and the Steelers win.
So there you go –- if the Colts can pull off a 10-game parlay, they can represent the AFC South in the playoffs.