- Mike Wells, ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter
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Locked in at fourth seed: The Colts will finish with the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs barring a collapse from the third-seeded Bengals in their final three games of the season. Cincinnati’s remaining three games are at Pittsburgh and home against Minnesota and Baltimore. The Colts will play the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening weekend of the playoffs if the standings remain the same the rest of the season. The Chiefs (10-3) have a better record than the Colts (8-5), but the game would be played at Lucas Oil Stadium because Indianapolis won the AFC South. A preview of that playoff matchup takes place Dec. 22 in Kansas City.
Shuffling line: The Colts used their fifth different starting offensive line against the Bengals. Mike McGlynn moved back into the starting lineup at guard because Jeff Linkenbach was out and Joe Reitz started for the injured Hugh Thornton at the other guard spot. The negative is that the Colts rushed for only 63 yards -- partially because they fell behind so early -- but the positive is that quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t get sacked and he passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Sunday was the first time that Luck threw four touchdown passes without an interception in a game. McGlynn is the likely candidate to go back to the bench once Thornton returns from his neck injury.
Waiting another week: Linebacker Robert Mathis will have to wait at least another week before passing Dwight Freeney as the team’s all-time sack leader. Mathis was nonexistent against the Bengals. He finished with only one assisted tackle. Sunday was only the fourth game this season that Mathis didn’t record a sack. He has 107 career sacks and trails Freeney by only half a sack for the team record
A factor in the backfield: Running back Trent Richardson gained only 20 yards on six carries, but he did have a part in the passing game. He tied his season high in catches with five for 68 yards. The Colts need to make Richardson a bigger part of their passing game because he excelled in that area last season with the Cleveland Browns. He finished his rookie season with 51 catches for 367 yards and a touchdown.
Struggles on third down: So much has been made about the defense’s inability to stop teams on third down, but the offense has its own problem converting on third down. The Colts were 2-of-10 on third down, which is a major reason why the Bengals had the ball 15 minutes more than them. Sunday marked the seventh time in the past eight games that the Colts finished the game converting fewer than 40 percent of their third-down attempts. They were 0-for-6 on third down in the first half against the Bengals.
CINCINNATI -- An examination of five topics from the Indianapolis Colts' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.Locked in at fourth seed: The Colts will finish with the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs barring a collapse from the third-seeded Bengals in their final three games of the season.