Sorting Out the Seeds

The seeds are set, the matchups are scheduled, and the playoffs are about to start. The Colts have secured the AFC's No. 2 seed, a first-round bye, and a home date in the divisional round, but a lot can change in the next two weeks.

Since the New England Patriots enter the 2007 AFC Playoffs as the No. 1 seed, they will play the highest-seeded team left standing after Wild Card Weekend.

As a result, Indianapolis will not play the Tennessee Titans and will play the lowest seed remaining out of San Diego, Jacksonville, or Pittsburgh.  And that's about all that can be said with certainty at this point. 

While Tony Dungy will probably state several times between now and when the matchups are decided for the divisional round that you play the games that are on the schedule and it doesn't matter who Indianapolis has to play, that didn't stop us from doing an early breakdown and deciding which team would be most desirable.

San Diego:

The Chargers seem to be the most likely opponent for the Colts, especially considering that they are playing the Titans at home and already defeated Tennessee earlier this season.  They also present the toughest overall matchup for Indianapolis, and already defeated the Colts in San Diego this season.

Antonio Cromartie
AP Photo/Chris Park

While it's highly unlikely that Peyton Manning will have another six interception outing against San Diego in the divisional round, that forgettable performance marked the coming-out party for Antonio Cromartie and a Chargers secondary that has seen significant improvement in the second half of the season.

In addition to an improving secondary, the Chargers have one of the most talented front sevens in the NFL and will be a handful for the Colts offensive line in the running and passing games.

On offense, San Diego has a strong running game led by LaDanian Tomlinson and have shown the ability to do just enough in the passing game to win, often winning big.

They seem to be hitting their stride at the right time of the season, having won six straight by an average of 18 points per game, including an overtime victory over the Titans in Week 14.

They also seem to have the Colts' number, with a 3-4 defense that has playmaking pass rushers on both sides of the line in Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips and a rush attack that can control the clock, keeping Manning and company on the sidelines.


Although the Colts have defeated their division rivals twice already this season, the Jaguars appear to have closed the gap on Indianapolis and would not be intimidated by the prospect of traveling to the RCA Dome.

Fred Taylor
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

With David Garrard under center, they have improved in the passing game and proven that they can keep pace with the Colts on the scoreboard, as evidenced by their 28-25 loss in Week 13. Though they did not win that game, a statement was made nonetheless. They are not afraid of Indianapolis and will not back down, no matter what the situation.

They are another physical team that can control the clock with their talented tailback combination of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.

Jacksonville has also shown a great deal of improvement in the secondary and have a very active front seven that can and will cause a number of matchup issues for the offensive line.  However, they lack the playmaking threats at outside linebacker that the Chargers possess on defense.

For that reason, in addition to the fact that the Colts have had the Jaguars' number in recent seasons, San Diego gets the nod over Jacksonville for "team the Colts least want to play." But it is a tight race.


The Steelers limped into the postseason with a victory over St. Louis that was closer than the 41-24 score would indicate.  The other three games in their final four of the season were losses.

Their No. 1-ranked pass defense was shredded by New England, followed by their run defense getting pummeled by Jacksonville, the victory over the Rams, then they allowed 27 points to the third string quarterback and second string tailbacks of a depleted Ravens team with nothing left to play for.

While they do have a physical front seven with talent at the outside linebacker positions and an offense capable of controlling the line of scrimmage and the clock, they have been unable to pressure the quarterback in the second half of the season and lost starting running back Willie Parker to injured reserve.

The Steelers' safeties have also shown a tendency to bite on play-action fakes, which has to sound awfully good to Peyton Manning, one of the best in the NFL in the play-action passing game.

One X-factor would be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a suddenly explosive passing attack.  Roethlisberger actually threw for more touchdowns, had a higher passer rating, and fewer passes intercepted than Manning this season.

Big Ben can be very effective outside the pockets and has a live arm.  But, Indianapolis has proven to be highly effective at keeping quarterbacks contained in the pocket and eliminating the big play.

It's entirely possible that the Jaguars will eliminate the Steelers on Saturday night, but if Pittsburgh does manage to hold on at home, the Colts should hope for an upset in San Diego, setting up a "revenge game" of sorts, since the Steelers eliminated the Colts in Indianapolis in the 2005 divisional round.

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