TERRE HAUTE —
There’s plenty of tragedy in the world to bring us down if we let it, so let’s have a light-hearted column today — my annual Christmas gift requests for Santa Claus.
I already know one of my gift wishes is becoming less likely to happen. That would be for the Indianapolis Colts to face the Denver Broncos in the AFC playoffs.
Here’s how I figure it: Thanks to New England’s loss to San Francisco on Sunday night (great game!), Denver is most likely going to claim the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a 13-3 record as long as it doesn’t lose to Cleveland or Kansas City in the next two weeks.
Twice-beaten Houston, by knocking off Indianapolis last Sunday, probably will remain the 1 seed. Even if the Texans lose one of their final two regular-season games (hopefully at Indy in Week 17), they would still own the tiebreaker over Denver because of their win over the Broncos in September.
With four losses, New England would need Houston and Denver to succumb to shocking upsets in the next two weeks to climb up from the 3 seed. That’s not going to happen, but Patriots supporters probably aren’t worried. As much as we Patriots haters hate to admit it, that’s a team that can win anywhere and under any circumstances in the playoffs. If you’re an Indy fan or a Denver fan, New England should scare you more than Houston.
So if Indy beats Kansas City this weekend, the Colts probably would end up with the AFC’s first wild-card spot (the 5 seed) and either Cincinnati or Pittsburgh would take the 6 seed (or possibly Baltimore if the Ravens manage to lose their lead in the East Division).
Frankly, I’m hoping the Bengals overtake Baltimore because I don’t appreciate how the Ravens fired Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator late in the season, but we’ll see what happens.
Realizing anything is possible and regular-season upsets could shake up the seedings, I’m figuring Houston at No. 1, Denver at 2, New England at 3, Baltimore (reluctantly) at 4, Indy at 5 and Cincinnati at 6. Under that setup, Cincy would go to New England and Indianapolis would travel to Baltimore in the first round.
If that happens, my predictions would be New England disposing of the improving Bengals and Indy beating the Ravens because — face it — the Colts own Baltimore. Always have, always will. Plus, Andrew Luck is better than Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ defense isn’t what it used to be.
If that happens, Indy would visit Houston (again) and New England would trek to the Mile High City (that’s Denver) for what should be an epic showdown.
So, basically, I’m thinking the only way the Colts and Broncos might meet in the playoffs would be in the AFC championship game at Denver.
Is that realistic? Probably not, but I won’t give up hope.
Make it happen, Santa!
Below are other presents I’d like to see Mr. Claus deliver, even if some don’t arrive until months after Christmas:
• For Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, a book (with plenty of photos) instructing him how to make free throws.
n For new Indiana State football coach Mike Sanford, a certificate guaranteeing at least eight victories during the 2013 season.
• For former Terre Haute resident Greg Oden, a two-year contract with any NBA team willing to take a chance on a talented 7-footer trying to recover from an incredible string of injuries.
• For Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning, the co-NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Both probably deserve the honor more than any previous winner of the past 20 years or so.
n For the city of Indianapolis, a contract from the NFL offering another chance to serve as host of the Super Bowl in a few years. It did a great job in 2012.
• For the Chicago Cubs, the 2013 National League pennant and a “World Series Champions” banner to hang in Wrigley Field. (Oops, Santa is a generous guy, a legend throughout the world, but I must remember he’s not a miracle worker.)
n For NFL fans everywhere, a promise to end Thursday Night Football games beginning with the 2013 season. (On a selfish note, I never got to watch because I was always at work.)
• And for myself, I don’t need anything material, as long as I can keep from misplacing my iPhone again.
David Hughes can be reached by phone after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4224 or at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.