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

Author Photo
Gardner Minshew
(Getty Images)

The Colts hired Shane Steichen to take over for Frank Reich during the offseason, then selected Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to kickstart what was supposed to be a rebuild.

It appears that the first-time head coach has the Colts ahead of schedule.

Indianapolis enters the final week of the 2023 NFL season poised to potentially make the postseason. The 9-7 squad has found success as a well-balanced team helmed by backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, who took over for Richardson after the top signal-caller went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5.

The Colts last made the playoffs in 2020, but they haven't won a game since 2018 when Andrew Luck led the team to a 21-7 victory over the Texans. Seeing Steichen reach the playoffs with a win over the Texans in his first season would certainly paint a bright picture of the team's future.

What will it take for the Colts to make the postseason? Here's what to know about the Colts' playoff picture entering Week 18.

LIVE: Updated NFL standings, clinching scenarios for Week 18

Colts playoff picture

The Colts have a simple path to making the 2024 playoffs: Beat the Texans in Week 18 to clinch at least a wild-card berth.

The Colts entered Week 18 as the No. 7 seed in the AFC but fell to the No. 8 seed with the Steelers' win on Saturday. Indianapolis currently owns the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head wins over each team, so a win would guarantee that it would remain in the driver's seat even after Pittsburgh's victory.

That said, the Texans would surpass the Colts in the AFC standings with a win. As such, the Colts will likely focus all of their energy on winning, as they must avoid losing to stay in the postseason race knowing Pittsburgh won earlier Saturday. 

A win also would give the Colts a chance to be the No. 6 seed in the AFC. They would come out ahead of the Bills if tied for that slot, as Indianapolis would have a superior conference record to Buffalo.

How the Colts can win the AFC South

The benefits of a victory don't stop there. A win would also position the Colts to potentially clinch the AFC South if the Jaguars lose against the Titans. They can also get the divisional crown with a tie and a Jacksonville loss.

Winning the division would give the Colts a home game against the Browns and allow them to avoid potential matchups against the Dolphins, Bills, and Chiefs. So, accomplishing this may be the ideal scenario for Indianapolis.

Even so, the Colts' No. 1 focus will simply be on winning to guarantee them a playoff spot. They can then worry about their seeding if they can achieve that goal.

POWER RANKINGS: Cowboys, Browns, Steelers climb as Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks drop for Week 18

Colts clinching scenarios

Below is a clearer look at Indianapolis' clinching scenarios in Week 18 of the 2023 NFL season:

Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

Indianapolis clinches the AFC South division title with:

  • Colts win AND Jaguars loss or tie OR
  • Colts tie AND Jaguars loss

Indianapolis clinches a playoff berth with:

  • Colts win OR

A loss to the Texans would eliminate the Colts from postseason contention.

Jacob Camenker Photo

Jacob Camenker is a senior content producer at The Sporting News.