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Colts Team Report: Playoff future on the line

Indianapolis Colts Week 17 Team Report

(Sports Network) - The Indianapolis Colts have the inside track to an AFC Wild Card slot, but they must win this week against the stingy Jacksonville Jaguars.

Indy is in the playoffs for the third time in four years if it wins this week. The Colts can also qualify for the postseason with a New England loss or tie, a Cleveland loss or tie plus a Kansas City loss or tie, or a Cleveland loss or tie coupled with a Denver win. In general, the AFC playoff picture is very confusing. But the Colts can make things very simple with a win over a Jacksonville team that already has its bags packed for the offseason.

Indy is coming off a humbling 44-27 loss at the hands of the New York Giants. Peyton Manning threw a pair of interceptions and was under pressure all afternoon. The Colts managed just 50 rushing yards and scored a pair of window-dressing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the game appear closer than it actually was.

"We had a lot riding on the game, but we played a team that had a lot riding on it too," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "In this kind of game, you have to play with intensity, and we didn't do that."

Indy's offense stalled last week due its inability to run the football. Edgerrin James has not been the same player this season. James Mungro has shown signs, but like many rookie backs he lacks the patience needed to find the hole. Just two seasons ago, Indy had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL - now it scares no one.

The Colts have seen a lot of teams drop seven or eight defenders into coverage. Manning's use of audibles at the line of scrimmage has confused a lot of teams, but the Giants just sat back and picked him apart last week.

The Colts have won the only three meetings in the brief history of the series. Back on September 8, Manning threw three touchdown passes in a 28-25 Indy win.


Indy has some athleticism in its linebacker corps and along its defensive line. If Jacksonville can't establish the run, the Colts' front seven should be able to provide a consistent pass rush and shut down a one-dimensional attack.

The Colts biggest threat to rush the passer is DE Dwight Freeney, who will be the responsibility of Jacksonville LT Mike Pearson. Pearson has had an inconsistent rookie season, but he has a tremendous upside. Freeney has tremendous speed off the end and gets a quick first step to the passer. Pearson is not a power player, and will try to use Freeney's own momentum to push him beyond the pocket. Freeney has great anticipation and is nearly impossible to block because of his quickness off the ball.

COMING UP: This is the regular season finale.

12/27 13:20:35 ET

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