Colts playoff picture: How Indianapolis can clinch AFC wild-card spot in Week 18

The Colts are trying to reach the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under coach Frank Reich. Indianapolis is close to securing another wild-card spot in the AFC, but hasn’t done so before Week 18.

At 9-7, the Colts are the current No. 6 seed, behind the Patriots 10-5 and ahead of the Chargers 9-7. Here’s what they need to do to at least stay there and play in the tournament heading into Super Bowl 56:

NFL Playoffs Image: The Colts’ Playoff Chances

The Colts can reach the playoffs in three ways, with the first being the most favorable.

The Colts are on the road against the Jaguars (2-14). They are more than two touchdown favorites in the game. The Colts held on to beat the Jaguars 23-17 at home in Week 10. However, the Jaguars are coming off a 50-10 loss at New England. That loss in Indianapolis triggered an eight-game losing streak. The Colts shouldn’t worry about anything other than a big surprise.

In case the Jaguars end the season with a big surprise, like beating the Bills at home in Week 9, the Colts won’t like their chances after losing. Then they would need the Raiders, to whom they lost at home in Week 17, to win back over the Chargers on Sunday night.

That’s only half the equation, the most reasonable part for Indianapolis. The other is a highly unlikely event, as Pittsburgh gets its second draw of the season at Baltimore.

Let’s say the Colts lose and the Raiders win. This scenario is far more possible than a necessary Steelers-Ravens tie. The Colts, with a loss to fall to 9-8, should expect the Ravens to win as home favorites against the Steelers and Dolphins as home underdogs against the Patriots.

The Colts would guarantee a 10-7 playoff spot and, with some help, could get ahead of the AFC East winner, the Bills or the Patriots, given they beat both teams.

At 9-8, the Colts would reach the playoffs in a four-way tie with the Ravens, Chargers and Dolphins. They would win the conference-record tiebreaker over all three teams, because none of those teams can go to 7 wins in the AFC, which Indianapolis already has.

Although there is an alternate plan in play, the Colts don’t want to leave their playoff chances to other teams.