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It’s been a while since the final game of the regular season determined if the Colts would earn a playoff berth.
Eight years to be exact.
For a team that’s made the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons, that’s a mind-boggling statistic.
This time of year the Colts are usually resting starters or jostling for playoff position.
But this Sunday everything will be on the line for the Colts, as it was in 2002.
Eight years ago, the Colts entered Week 17 needing a win over the Jaguars to secure a playoff spot. There were other scenarios that would’ve qualified them, but several fell through prior to their late afternoon kickoff. The Colts took the easy route that day, defeating the Jaguars 20-13 to begin the team’s playoff streak that stands today.
This season, the Colts are in a similar predicament. With a victory over the reeling Titans – who have lost seven of their last eight – they are in.
Even if the Colts lose, there’s still hope. They would get in if the Jaguars lose at Houston, and that’s looking more likely with David Garrard out and Maurice Jones-Drew doubtful.
Having to fight until the end is exactly what this Colts’ team needs. In Sunday’s victory over the Raiders, their defense fielded just five starters from its opening day depth chart. The unit is playing better, but is still a work in process.
The offense can’t afford any time off either. With Dallas Clark and Austin Collie done for the season, Jacob Tamme and Blair White are learning on the fly. The running game has been better, but roles are still being defined with the recent signing of Dominic Rhodes and the return of Joseph Addai. After hitting rock bottom, the offensive line is improving after fielding the same starting five for four consecutive weeks.
Resting starters late in the season has become a staple of the Colts over the last decade. Fans of the team should be happy they don’t have a chance to do it again.