Chappell: Pagano Almost Back, Colts can Clinch

It's almost time for us to give a standing ovation to Bruce Arians for his 8-3 record (and perhaps 9-3 after this week), as Chuck Pagano seems ready to return to action, reports Mike Chappell.

If Pagano feels up to returning, he probably would do so Monday when preparations for the final game begin. "The perfect thing would be (for Pagano to) come in Christmas Eve," Arians said. "It would be a great Christmas present for all of us. That's what our goal is. Hopefully he can start Monday."

The other piece of good news is that, as of New York's epic defeat on Monday Night Football, the Colts have nearly clinched a playoff berth. The only scenario that applies:

Indy goes 0-2 and ends with a 9-7 record. Pittsburgh beats Cincy and both North teams win the following week (leaving them at 9-7 each). In that case, the Colts would end up with 7th. Cincy has a bad divisional record and would fall to 2-4 were that to happen; hence, Pittsburgh beats them out (the Bengals would also be 0-2 against Pitt). Conference-wise, Indy would be 6-6, Pitt would be 6-6, and Cincy would be 6-6; according to nfl.com's tiebreaking procedures:

1) Exclude all division leaders (inapplicable).

2) Head to head sweep (inapplicable).

3) Conference games (all would be 6-6).

4) Common games, up to 4 (here's where it gets tricky. Pittsburgh did lose to Tennessee earlier this season, a team the Colts beat twice, but will have already beaten out Cincy given their head-to-head record. Because of that – correct me if I'm wrong – Cincy and Indy's common games will be analyzed, and the Colts are 2-1 against Jacksonville and Cleveland, while Cincy is 2-1 as well … so again, no change).

5) … strength of victory. The Colts are a smashing -49 on the season. Cincy and Pittsburgh are both much higher (+62 and +11 at the moment)

So, in other words, had the Colts pulled off the win at home against the Jaguars (a game they had, until Jacksonville's last play), they would have clinched already, given the fourth step – along with a 10-4 record. In other words, the only thing keeping the Colts from the playoffs, as of right now, is Cecil Shorts.

I mean, they'll probably beat KC anyway, right?

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