The playoffs are swiftly coming into view and the favourites to lift the Lombardi Trophy are clear but let’s not be too hasty in crowning Kansas City, Pittsburgh or New Orleans just yet. The postseason’s expansion to 14 teams increases the pack of outsiders and the chance of an outtsider fighting all the way to February. Here are the best of the underdogs (plus a team from the NFC East) who can cap a season defined by Covid-19 with a more uplifting conclusion.

Indianapolis Colts
The Colts sit atop the AFC South alongside Tennessee, with Sunday’s game against the Titans loaded with significance. The loser falls to 7-4 and potentially all the way down to ninth in the playoff race. Bank on Indy getting the job done through their devastating defense though. The NFC North-leading Packers and Aaron Rodgers forced Indy to the wall with a 28-14 lead at half-time last week but only three more points and defeat followed for Green Bay. The previous week the Colts trailed the Titans at half-time but roared back to victory while not conceding a single point more. The ability to stop high-powered offenses in their tracks, when it matters, is a handy trait. If the Colts are already in the postseason by Week 16, Philip Rivers and company have a free run at the Steelers, too. An enticing test and one that could be crucial in delivering a first Super Bowl since 2006.

Key player: DeForest Buckner is second in the NFL with 16 QB hits for an interior lineman, one behind Aaron Donald. His presence will be missed against the Titans after he landed on the Covid-19 list.

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