Contending AFC teams not fortunate enough to have their division already wrapped up have to be sweating a little at this point.
Frank Reich seems to be one for the sauna. Reich's Colts are in the thick of the tightest playoff race in recent memory, sandwiched between a tie for the AFC South lead and the best record among wild-card teams, and coming out on the losing end of both -- as of now.
If the season ended today, the Colts would be the No. 6 seed, which is still a good spot thanks to the addition of a third wild-card team in each conference. But one slip-up in the final two weeks could wipe out everything for which the Colts have worked.
"It's shocking," Colts head coach Frank Reich said, via the Indianapolis Star. "In a weird way, I'm saying, 'I'm glad it's like this.' Our goals are high."
They need to be nearly astronomical in this version of the AFC, which would almost certainly be sending home two teams with nine or more wins in a traditional playoff format. The extra spot added for 2020 and beyond seemed to make getting there easier, but not this season.
A few scenarios might make things rather wacky less than two weeks from now. Indianapolis can beat Pittsburgh in Week 16, then finish with a drubbing of Jacksonville in Week 17 to complete the regular-season with a 12-4 record and still end up on the losing end of a division tie with Tennessee, should the Titans win out, and make it as a wild-card team. Indianapolis could split its final two games and miss the playoffs entirely, too, if Baltimore wins out, Cleveland splits its final two games, and Tennessee splits or wins out.
In this, the strangest year of any in recent memory, 11-5 might not get you into the playoffs -- even with the additional playoff spot.
"The way we get to where we want to go to is by worrying about the Pittsburgh Steelers, by worrying about what we're going to do tomorrow when we watch the film, and how we're going to practice on Wednesday, how we're going to learn to play better fundamental football and play as a team, do the little things right," Reich said.
He's right. If the Colts win out, as explained above, they'll get in. The same is true for Cleveland and Tennessee. None face each other, having already clashed earlier in the season. They just have to do their own jobs and let everything else sort itself out.
"If we're good enough, we'll be there," Reich said. "The way to be good enough is to focus on getting better every day."