Hayes: Five (or Six) Keys to Week 17

Writing from the News-Sentinel, Reggie Hayes provides five (actually, six) things we'll be watching for Sunday, in the Colts final regular season game. These include whether Indy's O-line can handle JJ Watt (they can't), whether Freeney will be coming back next season, and how the Colts need to focus on the game rather than the return of Chuck Pagano.

The Colts need to channel the emotions surrounding Pagano's return and not let the moment overwhelm them. Considering how much the team and the coach have been through, they should be able to deal with it. Pagano needs to be able to harness his emotions, too, and concentrate on the task at hand. The best thing Pagano can do is stir his troops to play their best, within the framework of the game plan, and then shoot for business as usual. Let Bruce Arians roll with the play calling.

He does miss a critical point – the Colts are playing for nothing this week, and they've chosen to rest their guys in the past. Remember that game against New York? The game that began a gradual dislike for Jim Caldwell? My hope is that Pagano comes in swinging, but there are some serious ramifications if he does – depending on what you want to see happen this post season.

Let's assume quickly that New England beats Miami at home, and that Denver handles Kansas City.

If the Texans lose, the wildcard round will probably be Cincy at Houston and Indy at Baltimore; Denver would be slotted into the one seed, and New England would get the bye. If the Colts WIN, they'll be going into either Denver or New England in the second round.

If the Colts lose, the wildcard stays the same, except Cincy will be going into New England instead, and the Colts will probably play Houston in the second round, in Houston; having already lost twice to the Texans, the Colts chances of winning are … well, pretty good. Other than Jacksonville in '99, no other team (from what I can find) has lost three times to the same team in a season (Tennessee, by the way).

Also, it'd be great if the Pats got a tougher schedule.