The Colts' late comeback at Pittsburgh did more than just ratchet up the concerns about Ben Roethlisberger to a fever pitch. It will take at least nine wins to make the postseason in the AFC - and it's starting to look increasingly possible that 10 wins may be the magic number.
So had the Colts not turned a Roethlisberger interception into a game-winning touchdown on Sunday, Indianapolis would have found itself with a huge uphill climb.
But instead of falling to 4-5 - and looking up at the majority of the conference - Indianapolis now finds itself right in the middle of the pack, with a favorable schedule upcoming. The Colts still have home games with Houston, Cincinnati and Detroit, plus an away game at Cleveland. Even if Indianapolis loses its other three games, the Colts are looking at 9-7 and even that may sneak them in.
Peyton Manning was far from perfect, but he did hit for three touchdowns and no interceptions. More than that, the much-maligned Colts' offensive line gave Manning time to throw against a tenacious Pittsburgh front.
On the other side of the ball, in addition to picking off three Roethlisberger passes, Indianapolis stuffed Pittsburgh's running game. With Bob Sanders apparently healthy now, the Colts may make a habit of that the rest of the season.
And now a glance at how the playoff picture looks after Week 10:
- Tennessee (9-0)
- Baltimore (6-3)
- New England (6-3)
- New York Jets (6-3)
- Pittsburgh (6-3)
- Buffalo (5-4)
- Denver (5-4)
- Indianapolis (5-4)
- Miami (5-4)
- San Diego (4-5)
On the Brink
- Jacksonville (4-5)
When's the Draft?
- Cleveland (3-6)
- Houston (3-6)
- Oakland (2-7)
- Kansas City (1-8)
- Cincinnati (1-8)
- New York Giants (8-1)
- Carolina (7-2)
- Arizona (6-3)
- Atlanta (6-3)
- Tampa Bay (6-3)
- Washington (6-3)
- Chicago (5-4)
- Dallas (5-4)
- Minnesota (5-4)
- Philadelphia (5-4)
- Green Bay (4-5)
On the Brink
- New Orleans (4-5)
When's the Draft?
- San Francisco (2-7)
- Seattle (2-7)
- St. Louis (2-7)
- Detroit (0-9)
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Explaining the position: Dallas.
The Cowboys are in this spot for the second straight week. This time, it's because - despite a bye - Dallas jumped from "On the Brink" to the "Bubble." How? Well, things fell pretty perfectly for Dallas in its week off. Not only did the Bears loss to Tennessee make it look increasingly likely that the NFC North has just one playoff representative, but the Giants victory over Philadelphia brought the Eagles back down to Dallas's level. Oh, and there's this guy named Tony Romo coming back soon.
Show us what you're made of: Anyone in the AFC West.
Yes, Denver rallied late to beat Brady Quinn and Cleveland. And yes, San Diego held off Kansas City. But did either team look like a playoff team, much less a division champ?
At this point, Denver still gets the nod - the Broncos are ahead by a game in the standings, and a road rally in Cleveland trumps a home nail-biter versus the Chiefs any day. Still, I can't imagine either team feels sensational about where it's at.
Denver - and it's nonexistent running back depth chart - heads to Atlanta this week, while San Diego plays an angry Pittsburgh squad.
One foot in the ground: New Orleans Saints.
This was the big chance for Drew Brees and company to prove they're for real - in Atlanta against the surprising Falcons. But instead of smacking down a divisional foe, the Saints came out flat.
Matt Ryan and Atlanta torched the Saints' defense, and Brees threw three costly interceptions. Now, New Orleans finds itself in last in the division and will have to scramble to threaten nine wins.
Time to wake up: Pittsburgh Steelers.
For as big as Sunday's game between Pittsburgh and San Diego is for the Chargers, it's looking equally as critical for the struggling Steelers.
Ben's problems and Willie Parker's injury were irritants before - now that Baltimore has tied the Steelers for first in the AFC North, though, they're huge issues. Saddled with the NFL's toughest schedule, Pittsburgh still faces games at New England, Baltimore and Tennessee, plus a visit from Dallas.
And Finally ... Five Games on the Playoff Radar :
1. New York Jets (6-3) at New England (6-3): Thursday night's AFC East showdown could eventually decide the division champ - especially if the Patriots beat the Jets for the second time this season.
2. Denver (5-4) at Atlanta (6-3): The Falcons still have a tough slate, so a loss here could set them up for a collapse. Denver simply needs to get hot.
3. Chicago (5-4) at Green Bay (4-5): You wouldn't be able to declare Green Bay dead in the playoff race should the Pack lose. But you might want to clear some time at the funeral home.
4. Minnesota (5-4) at Tampa Bay (6-3): Just like the AFC West, the NFC North awaits a team to grab hold. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay needs to keep pace in the NFC South - and the wild card race.
5. Dallas (5-4) at Washington (6-3): With the NFC South's emergence, it's hard to see more than two playoff teams coming from the NFC East. And if Washington wins - moving to 2-0 against Dallas - it's difficult to see the Cowboys recovering and making the postseason.