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MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami/AP) — With two weeks remaining in the National Football League’s regular season, playoff positioning is priority one for teams trying to reach the postseason.
The Indianapolis Colts’ scenarios for possible playoff elimination this weekend involve eight games around the NFL, two tiebreaker calculations, and perhaps a partridge in a pear tree.
Yes, it’s complicated. But the primary reason for the Colts’ precarious state is simple: Andrew Luck is still out.
Indianapolis’ quarterback hasn’t received medical clearance to return from a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle, and he’ll miss his sixth consecutive game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
Three losses in a row have pushed the two-time defending AFC South champion Colts (6-8) to the brink of elimination, while the Dolphins (5-9) were out of the playoff race a week ago.
Here are things to know about the matchup between two of the league’s most disappointing teams:
PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: The Colts lost control of their destiny and fell a game behind AFC South leader Houston when they lost at home to the Texans last week. The Colts will miss the playoffs for only the second time in 14 years if they lose Sunday and the Texans win at Tennessee.
Indy could beat Miami and still be knocked out of the race, depending on other games.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in any other city in any other stadium,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We just need to win, because I don’t want to sit back and go, ‘Oh damn, I didn’t know this was going to happen or that was going to happen.’ Anything can happen.”
QB CAROUSEL: With Luck out and backup Matt Hasselbeck also hurting, Indy’s depth is being severely tested. The only healthy quarterback on the roster is Charlie Whitehurst, who subbed in each of the past three games because of injuries to Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck is expected to start Sunday, but what happens if he and Whitehurst are both sidelined? Pagano half-jokingly talked about the possibility of punter Pat McAfee lining up as the emergency quarterback.
On Thursday the Colts signed former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris to their roster to likely be the third quarterback on Sunday. Morris had previously been with the Philadelphia Eagles, spending the first two weeks of the season on the active roster before moving to their practice squad.
NEXT YEAR’S COACH: Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell is 4-6 since replacing Joe Philbin and unlikely to return next season. Speculation about the next coach has included Pagano, whose future in Indy is in doubt.
“I don’t even go there,” said Pagano, a leukemia survivor. “Going through my battle with cancer really taught me to be thankful and grateful for today, and that’s what I worry about — today. If I get tomorrow, I’ll worry about tomorrow.”
PARKING CARS: Colts receivers Andre Johnson and T.Y. Hilton are Miami natives who made money growing up by parking cars at Dolphins games.
Hilton helped raise cash for uniforms for his youth basketball team.
“I never was a Dolphin fan,” he said. “I used to go to the games and work on the outside.”
Johnson lived near the stadium.
“I used to park cars at my auntie’s house to make a little money on the weekends,” he said. “We used to park cars in her yard because she was so close to the stadium.”
Johnson has scored five touchdowns in six games against the Dolphins, including three games in Miami. He said he distributed 190 tickets for Sunday’s game to friends and family.
Hilton’s family will also be watching — with divided loyalties.
“This is the one game that I just can’t lose, especially with all uncles and aunties (that are) Miami Dolphin fans,” he said. “Next time we have that family reunion, family picnic, family dinner, I want to be able to talk.”
MILESTONE WATCH: The Colts’ Adam Vinatieri needs one field goal to join Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson as the only players in league history with 500 career field goals. He needs nine points to extend his league record of 100-point seasons to 18.
Hasselbeck needs one TD pass to break a tie with Y.A. Tittle and Terry Bradshaw (212) for No. 30 all-time and two to tie John Brodie (214) for No. 29.
Colts running back Frank Gore needs 93 yards from scrimmage to pass Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis (15,111) for No. 20 in league history. He needs 121 yards rushing to become the 15th player with 15,000 yards on the ground.
Jarvis Landry needs three receptions to become the first Dolphins player with 100 catches in a season.
Be sure to check out our FinsOn4 Live Dolphins Blog where we will be posting season-long coverage, updates, photos, video, commentary and more throughout the entire 2015 season.
Watch Miami take on the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
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