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Colts QB Peyton Manning said this week he long since has stopped trying to predict who will win in such situations. WR Reggie Wayne said he certainly plans to watch the games and certainly has his preference about who he wants to win. He smiled when asked if he wanted to share the preferfence.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
Which leads to the primary question. If you’re a Colts fan, for whom should you be rooting? There’s no easy answer, but here’s a look at the three possibilities.
* Cincinnati (10-6): This is the most likely. If the Patriots beat the Ravens Sunday and the Bengals win, the Bengals as the No. 4 seed will be the lowest seed remaining and will therefore travel to Indianapolis. The Colts lost to the Bengals, 38-7, in the preseason finale, and came away impressed. Colts President Bill Polian said immediately afterward the Bengals likely were a playoff team, and for the first 10 games of the season, they were among the league’s top two or three teams. They were shaken by the death of popular WR Chris Henry, and while there are those postulating that teams such as the Colts and the Saints are entering the postseason without momentum, the Bengals were 3-4 in their final seven games, with victories over Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. This team was a remarkable story this season, sweeping its division, but they don’t have the look that the last AFC North team to beat the Colts in the postseason did. That was the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, who surged into the playoffs and upset the Colts en route to a Super Bowl title. The Bengals are better than they showed in a 37-0 loss to the Jets in the regular-season finale, but are they better enough to win on the road in Indianapolis? That’s probably a stretch.
* New York Jets (9-7): This scenario is the one many fans want. If the Jets beat the Bengals Sunday and the Patriots win, they will be the No. 5 seed and will travel to Indianapolis for a rematch of one of the strangest games in recent Colts memory — or in NFL memory, for that matter. The Colts led the Jets, 15-10, with 5:36 remaining in the third quarter in the 15th game of the season, then removed QB Peyton Manning, TE Dallas Clark and WR Reggie Wayne. The Jets scored the final 19 points, prompting booing from the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd and leading to nationwide criticism of the Colts for not pursuing a 16-0 regular season. The general feeling of observers afterward was the Colts were the superior team and would have won had they not removed Manning and the others. With the Jets playing well that day, that might not necessarily have been true, but the Colts also were playing without several injured starters and it’s hard to imagine a healthy Colts team not being able to have enough offensively to pull away from the Jets, who typically trouble to put up high point totals. The absence of WR Pierre Garcon hurt the Colts against the Jets in late December. With CB Darrelle Revis able to slow Wayne somewhat, Garcon’s absence appeared to keep the Colts from being able to strike deep. If Garcon plays in the Divisional Playoff game, as he is expected to do, he likely would be critical.
* Baltimore Ravens (9-7): This appears least likely because the Ravens would have to upset New England, which they couldn’t do in a 27-21 loss in New England in Week 4. If it’s the least likley, it also might be the least favorable matchup for the Colts. Of the three possibilities, an argument could be made that the Ravens are playing the strongest down the stretch, having won three of their last five games. But that argument is really based on the Jets having played two teams — Indianapolis and Cincinnati that already had clinched postseason seeding. The Ravens, after making the AFC Championship Game a year ago, haven’t beaten a playoff team since a Week 2 victory over San Diego, and before a victory over Oakland in the regular-season finale, they had lost two of four games — to Pittsburgh and Green Bay. The Colts beat the Ravens, 17-15, in Baltimore earlier this season and have won their last seven meetings against the Ravens. Indianapolis beat Baltimore, 15-6, in the Divisional Playoff round en route to a victory in Super Bowl XLI. This might be the toughest of the three matchups, but in the end — like the others — despite its relative difficulty it seems to favor the Colts.
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MORE COLTS NEWS
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POPULAR OR NOT, COLS EARNED RIGHT TO CHOOSE LATE-SEASON APPROACH. HERE.
Reviewing Bill Polian’s weekly radio show . . .
* Part One: “The past is prologue.” Here.
* Part Two: Pursuing milestones “right decision.” Here.
* Part Three: Colts could be fully healthy entering postseason. Here.
* Part Four: Difficulties against New York fatigue, not rust. Here.
COFFEE WITH THE COLTS. NEXT-DAY LOOK AT COLTS-BILLS. HERE.
BILLS 30, COLTS 7. HERE.
MANNING: WE NEED TO PUT LAST WEEKEND BEHIND US. HERE.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS OWNER JIM IRSAY SUPPORTED DECISION AGAINST JETS. HERE.
AN UNBEATEN SEASON THAT WASN’T: A FINAL LOOK AT AN UNRESOLVABLE CONFLICT. HERE
FREENEY: PRO BOWL NEVER GETS OLD. HERE
TE DALLAS CLARK, QB PEYTON MANNING AMONG SIX PRO BOWLERS FOR COLTS. HERE.
* POLIAN: “16-0 WAS NEVER THE FOCUS.” HERE.
FOURTH MVP WOULD CEMENT MANNING’S STATUS AS BEST EVER. HERE
CALDWELL: “THAT’S WHAT WE DO. WE STAND BY IT AND LIVE BY IT” HERE.
DOES PEYTON MANNING GET TOO MUCH RESPECT? HERE
POLIANS’ CONTRACTS EXTENDED. HERE
COLTS FANS OWE RB JOSEPH ADDAI AN APOLOGY. HERE
*** CATCH UP WITH ALL THINGS COLTS ON INDY FOOTBALL REPORT. HERE
*** READ JOHN OEHSER’S INDIANA PACERS COVERAGE. HERE.
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