INDIANAPOLIS — By virtue of a late JuJu Smith-Schuster fumble in New Orleans, the stakes for the Colts’ season finale against the Tennessee Titans are cut and dry.
Winner gets in to the playoffs.
The NFL wants that kind of pressure cooker in prime time. The NFL has flexed the Colts-Titans game in Tennessee to an 8:20 p.m. start in Nashville on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
A Sunday night game was not originally placed on the schedule because the NFL wants the stakes to be right. With no obvious winner-take-all game in 2017, the league canceled the Sunday night game, even though there had been a Sunday night game nine years in a row before that.
Indianapolis (9-6) and Tennessee (9-6) gave the NFL what it wanted this time: A clear-cut scenario, and if the Houston Texans lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars during a 1 p.m. kickoff, the Colts and Titans will be playing for an AFC South title and a home playoff game.
If the Colts beat the Titans — and Andrew Luck has never lost to Tennessee — Indianapolis will become just the third team in NFL history and the second in the current playoff format to overcome a 1-5 start and make the postseason.