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There were a lot of wild AFC playoff scenarios that could come into play in Week 18, but only if the unthinkable happened. The 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars would have to upset the 9-7 Indianapolis Colts. That’s exactly what happened, though, down in Duval County on Sunday, and no one is more shocked, dismayed, and downright mad than the Colts players, including team captain Darius Leonard.  

The Indianapolis Colts choked in Week 18 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars

The Indianapolis Colts had the easiest and least confusing playoff scenario of any team in Week 18. Beat the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars and make the postseason. Easy as that. 

The problem was, no one told Trevor Lawrence and the Jags that it was supposed to be easy. 

Leaving Indianapolis and traveling to Northern Florida hasn’t been easy for the Colts in a long time. The team hasn’t won a game at the home of their division “rivals” since 2014, aka the Andrew Luck days. 

It’s not like the Jaguars were a formidable team during this winning stretch, either. Since the Colts last won in Jacksonville, the Jags are 29-90 against the entire NFL, outside of Indy at home. 

Despite the crucial playoff implications, the streak continued Sunday. 

Rookie No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence had his best game as a pro. He was 23-of-32 for 223 yards with a touchdown. As good as Lawrence was, Colts QB Carson Wentz was equally as bad. His final line was 17-of-29 for 185 yards with a TD and an INT. 

The Colts (now former) MVP candidate, RB Jonathan Taylor, rushed just 15 times for 77 yards and caught three passes for 18 yards. It was the first time a defense held him under 100 total yards since Week 12 and just the fourth time all season. 

It was a masterpiece by a team and an organization that went through the wringer this season with the Urban Meyer scandal and a complete choke job by the Colts. 

Darius Leonard put his team on blast after the loss

Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts reacts after the Colts recovered a fumble in the third period of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Darius Leonard | Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

After the stunning 26-11 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s not just the team’s fans and the media shaking their head in disbelief. The club’s players are too. And it started after the game from the top with team captain and defensive star Darius Leonard. 

The former South Carolina State Bulldog sounded dejected and down on his team after the game, telling reporters (h/t ESPN): 

You’re tired of looking for help. Always looking for help when we can’t help ourselves. We go into a game, this team [Jacksonville] is 2-14, not taking anything away from them, but how do we expect to win or want to get in if we can’t even beat the team we were supposed to beat?

Colts LB Darius Leonard after Week 18 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard’s comments acknowledged that the team has no one to blame but themselves after the horrifying Week 18 loss. It’s precisely what a team leader should say after an epic collapse like that. 

The interesting part about the comments is that they almost sound like a response to QB Carson Wentz’s remarks. Although, it’s not clear Leonard heard them before saying his piece. 

“Not what we expected,” Wentz said after the game. “We expected to finish stronger than we did.”

The fact that Leonard made a point to differentiate expectations from execution when his quarterback didn’t is fascinating heading into the offseason.  

Where do the Colts go from here? 

Now that the Indianapolis Colts are out of the playoffs, they have to come up with a plan of attack for the 2022 offseason much sooner than expected.  

There are several key offensive free agents to deal with (T.Y. Hilton, Eric Fisher, Mo Alie-Cox), but the franchise has two significant and related issues to deal with above all else. 

What should the Colts do about Carson Wentz, and how can they do anything when the Philadelphia Eagles own their first-round pick from the Wentz trade and Indy only has two picks (second and third-round) in the upcoming 2022 draft? 

The Colts owe Wentz $28.3 million next season. And, the QB has a dead cap number of $15 million if the team cuts or trades him. That’s not massively punitive, but after 2022, he has zero dead cap implications. 

The moral of that story is, Wentz will almost certainly be the Colts starting QB again next season. The team has few options to improve the team around him, though, meaning next season will bring more of the same to Indianapolis. 

Darius Leonard and company will likely be a borderline playoff team again next season. The AFC South should still be relatively weak for another year (assuming the Houston Texans trade Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence doesn’t take too big a leap), so the Colts could easily find themselves in the exact same position again this time next year. 

That’s this team’s ceiling, though, with Wentz, and that’s a problem. 

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac


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