INDIANAPOLIS — Two days before the Colts’ playoff fate will be decided in five games across the country, there is still news coming out that could decide whether or not Indianapolis gets the help it needs to make the postseason.
The Colts, one of five teams at 10-5, need to beat Jacksonville at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium and get a loss from one of four teams — the Dolphins, Browns, Ravens or Titans — to make the playoff picture.
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And just about all of those games have seen a few key developments this week.
Dolphins (10-5) at Bills (12-3), 1 p.m. Sunday
Buffalo has already clinched the AFC East title and currently holds the No. 2 seed in the AFC — Kansas City has already locked up the top seed and the first-round bye — but the Bills could slide to the No. 3 if they lose and Pittsburgh knocks off Cleveland.
Bills coach Sean McDermott has spent the week declining to reveal whether or not he plans to rest his starters.
Miami, on the other hand, got some bad news Thursday.
Dolphins backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the hero of last week’s last-second win over the Raiders, reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be available Sunday to play the closer role. Rookie Tua Tagovailoa will go the entire way, and he’s 7-2 as a starter, although the Dolphins are 1-1 in games that Brian Flores pulled the rookie in favor of Fitzpatrick. Other than that, Miami appears to be full strength as it tries to lock up its first playoff berth since 2016.
Steelers (12-3) at Browns (10-5), 1 p.m. Sunday
Cleveland has now spent the past week dealing with COVID-19 issues. First, the Browns lost to the Jets last week in part because contact tracing cost them left tackle Jedrick Wills and their top four receivers, and then a rash of positive tests this week forced Cleveland to close its facility on Wednesday and Thursday. The Browns practiced on Friday, then were forced to close their facility again on Friday, reportedly because of a positive test for an assistant coach.
All in all, the Browns will be missing five players Sunday due to COVID-19, led by star cornerback Denzel Ward, who reportedly tested positive on Thursday. But Cleveland will be closer to full strength than the Steelers.
Pittsburgh has already announced it will hold out starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and it’s likely outside linebacker T.J. Watt, center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward will join him, in addition to kicker Chris Boswell and safety Terrell Edmunds, who are both out due to injury. The Steelers may also choose to sit other starters as well.
Ravens (10-5) at Bengals (4-10-1), 1 p.m. Sunday
Baltimore lost punter Sam Koch to the reserve/COVID-19 list, and the Ravens also listed 10 separate players as questionable, although several of those Ravens are likely to play after practicing in full on Friday. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, wide receiver Willie Snead and center Patrick Mekari missed all three practices this week, making it unlikely that any of them will play.
Cincinnati has its own COVID-19 situation brewing on Saturday morning. According to the NFL Network, Bengals defensive tackle Mike Daniels has tested positive for COVID-19, another Bengals player has symptoms and the team is going through contact tracing now.
Titans (10-5) at Texans (4-11), 4:25 p.m. Sunday
Tennessee will not have kicker Stephen Gostkowski after the veteran was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list early this week, but the Titans could still get punter Brett Kern back off the list in time for the game. With Gostkowski out, Sam Sloman will kick for the Titans.
Houston, on the other hand, plans to start Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“I expect him to play,” Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said. “If we’re up by 50 at halftime, maybe I take him out.”
Watson, though, will be playing behind an even more porous line than usual. The Texans are not expected to have left tackle Laremy Tunsil or left guard Brent Qvale due to injury, but Watson has been under fire all season long anyway.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: How COVID-19 has affected Browns, Dolphins this week, altering Colts’ playoff chances