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NFL playoff picture: Who to root for in Week 17 if you are an Indianapolis Colts fan

Week 17 is here and the Indianapolis Colts hold the final AFC wild card berth, but don’t actually control their fate. Who should Indianapolis fans root for to help their chances?

A fan reacts during the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts have stumbled the past few weeks, losing two of three games to come into Week 17 with an 8-7 record. Losses to the Bengals and Falcons bookended a win over the Steelers and the colts now sit in seventh place in the AFC standings.

The Colts host the Raiders in Week 17 and are a 3.5-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook. While they have key tiebreakers right now to keep them ahead of the Texans, Steelers, and Bengals, that could pivot in a hurry. They’re in a position where if they win out, the Jaguars, Bills, and Bengals win out, and the Steelers lose at least one more game, the Colts would not make the playoffs.

If the Colts beat the Raiders and get some help, they could climb in the playoff standings and even find themselves on top of the AFC South.

Here’s what Colts fans should be rooting for in Week 17 to boost their playoff chances. I am not including Jets-Browns because even though Indy could tie Cleveland, they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker and thus can’t climb ahead of them.

Result: The Colts held off the Raiders to win 23-20. Indianapolis remains tied with the Jaguars and Texans heading into Week 18.

Panthers vs. Jaguars

Result: The Jaguars crushed the Panthers 26-0.

The Jaguars, Colts, and Texans are all tied atop the AFC South, with Jacksonville holding the tiebreaker over Indianapolis thanks to sweeping the head-to-head series. If the Colts win out, they only need one Jaguars loss to claim the division title.

Jacksonville is a 6.5-point favorite.

Titans vs. Texans

Result: The Texans thumped the Titans 26-3.

The Colts hold the tiebreaker over the Texans having beaten them in Week 2. They face off again in Week 18. Since the Colts need to keep winning, this game doesn’t really matter all that much. However, since there’s a world in which a 9-8 Colts squad makes the playoffs, rooting for the Titans makes sense.

Houston is a 4.5-point favorite.

Steelers vs. Seahawks
Bengals vs. Chiefs

Result: The Steelers beat the Seahawks and the Chiefs beat the Bengals.

The Steelers have the tiebreaker over the Bengals, which drops Cincinnati back in the standings due to first using the divisional tiebreakers in a 3+ team tie. The Colts in turn have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers, which keeps them ahead. As noted above, they could use a Bengals loss and a Steelers win if they keep winning.

The Steelers are a 3.5-point underdog and the Bengals are a touchdown underdog.

Patriots vs. Bills

Result: The Bills held off the Patriots, winning 27-21.

Buffalo sits a game up on Indianapolis in the wild card race. They did not meet this season, which moves the tiebreaker to conference record. The Colts have a one-game lead there and if they win and the Bills lose, Indy moves into sixth place.