Analysis

AFC playoff picture: Ripple effects of a potential Jaguars win over Colts in Week 18

UPDATE: The Jaguars upset the Colts, the Steelers beat the Ravens and the Lions defeated the Packers, keeping only scenario No. 2 in play and eliminating the possibility of scenarios Nos. 1, 3-6.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been looking toward the offseason for some time now, but their final game of the 2021 regular season could have a significant impact that stretches well beyond Duval County.

Jacksonville hosts AFC South-rival Indianapolis at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday in a game that carries significant postseason implications. Win and the Colts are in the playoffs. Lose, and things get very interesting.

The Jaguars have won just two games in 2021, but own a six-game home winning streak over the Colts dating back to the 2015 season. Jacksonville lost its first meeting with Indianapolis this season in Week 10, but fell by a mere six points.

As the saying goes, any given Sunday. And this Sunday could send shockwaves throughout the AFC playoff picture, especially as it pertains to the final two playoff spots, if the Jaguars can find a way to push that winning streak to seven games.

If the Jaguars defeat the Colts -- who are coming off a 23-20 loss to Las Vegas -- it could open the door to several enticing scenarios, including:

  1. Clinching the No. 1 pick for Detroit. If the Lions lose to the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, they'll finish the season 2-14-1 -- one .5 win worse than the Jags (3-14).
  2. Clinching a playoff berth for Pittsburgh. The Steelers would also need to beat the Ravens. The second open AFC wild-card spot would go to the winner of Chargers-Raiders, unless the game ended in a tie, at which point the Chargers, Raiders and Steelers would all be 9-7-1. The Chargers and Raiders would both clinch because of head-to-head wins over the Steelers.
  3. Clinching a playoff berth for Las Vegas (after the early games). The Ravens would also need to beat the Steelers. In this case, the Raiders clinch regardless of the outcome of their game vs. the Chargers.
  4. Keeping Baltimore alive (after the early games). Assuming they beat the Steelers, for the Ravens to earn a playoff spot, they would then need the Patriots to beat the Dolphins and the Raiders to beat the Chargers.
  5. Leaving only one path for Indianapolis. The Colts would then need three games to go their way: 1) Ravens beat Steelers; 2) Dolphins beat Patriots; 3) Raiders beat Chargers
  6. Eliminating the Ravens (after the late games). Regardless of the outcome of Steelers-Ravens, a Dolphins win over the Patriots in the late window ends Baltimore's playoff hopes.

The Chargers would secure a playoff berth by simply beating the Raiders on Sunday night. As it pertains to the much-talked about tie scenario between the Chargers and Raiders, such an outcome seems unlikely, unless both teams were willing to subject themselves to intense criticism.

What's more likely, of course, is a Colts win over the Jaguars, sending Indianapolis to the playoffs and leaving the rest of the league to watch the Raiders and Chargers fight for the final wild-card spot.

With so much volatility possible based on how Sunday plays out, there's plenty of reason to tune into the final weekend of the 2021 regular season.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter.

Related Content