INDIANAPOLIS – Being “Exhibit A” on something that is positive is one place the Colts find themselves through 12 games.
The NFL has experienced a spate of close games in 2012, one that has been record-setting for the past few weeks and one that holds true as teams prepare for another weekend of action.
Through week 13, there have been 107 games decided by eight points or fewer. It is the highest number through this particular week of any previous season. The second-highest total was 105 such games in 2002, followed by 102 in 2003 and 101 in 2011.
There have been 97 games decided by seven points or fewer this season, again the highest number at this juncture of any past season. There were 96 such games last year and in 2003, while in 2002 there were 95 and in 2006 there were 93.
The league also has seen 19 overtime games this year, one fewer than the week 13 record pace set in 1995 and 2002 (20).
This past weekend of action held form. Eleven-of-16 games were decided by seven points or less, while another had an eight-point margin. Five of the games won by seven or fewer points were done by the team with an inferior record.
There were two overtime games, including a 16-13 St. Louis win over San Francisco. The deciding play was a 54-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal with 26 seconds remaining in the extra session. Without that kick the teams could have incurred a second tied game this year. The teams battled to a 24-24 standoff in San Francisco on November 11.
Indianapolis is “Exhibit A” of the 97 games decided by seven points. The Colts are 7-1 in such games, including last week’s 35-33 win at Detroit. The Colts have won five games in the fourth quarter or overtime in 2012.
The 8-4 Colts hope to move a step closer to playoff inclusion when they host Tennessee on Sunday. Indianapolis defeated Tennessee, 19-13, in overtime in October. The Colts are one game ahead of Pittsburgh (7-5) and Cincinnati (7-5) in the Wild Card race. A trio of AFC teams is at 5-7.
At 9-3, Denver and New England have clinched their division titles. Baltimore can clinch its division with a win and losses by Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
At 11-1, Houston can clinch its second AFC South title with a win, plus a Colts loss or tie. The Texans also can win the crown with a tie if the Colts lose.
The Colts and Houston play twice in the next four games – December 16 at Reliant Stadium and December 30 in Indianapolis.
Houston can clinch a first-round bye this week with a win, plus a tie or loss by the Colts and Baltimore. The Texans also can do it with a win, plus a tie or loss by the Colts and Denver.
Houston can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win, plus a loss or tie by the Colts and if Baltimore and Denver both lose.
As for possibly looking ahead at scenarios involving the Colts, Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians will pass.
“There’s way too much (time),” said Arians. “There are some really good football teams behind us, and we just have to take care of our own business.”