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NFL playoffs: 5 things Buffalo Bills fans should know about the Indianapolis Colts

Marquel Slaughter
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

The Buffalo Bills were able to hold on to the AFC's No. 2 seed, setting up a wild-card playoff game against the seventh-seeded Indianapolis Colts Saturday at 1:05 p.m. in Orchard Park.

The Colts franchise is no stranger to the postseason, but Indianapolis is long gone from its Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck days, entering these playoffs with a roster revamped since its last postseason appearance three seasons ago.

Here's what you need to know about the Colts:

1. Big improvement this season

The Colts went 11-5 to return to the postseason after a 7-9 campaign following Andrew Luck's sudden retirement in 2019. Luck last led Indy to the postseason in 2018, the final trip of four playoff appearances. This is the first season of the NFL's expanded postseason, which now includes seven teams instead of six, so the timing couldn't be any better for Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich works the sideline during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

2. Family affair

Bills fans know Colts' third-year head coach Frank Reich very well. Reich was a longtime backup quarterback in Buffalo, famously engineering the largest comeback in NFL history when the Bills overcame a 35-3 deficit to defeat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in a 1993 wild-card game. Reich won Super Bowl LII as the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator for the 2017 season, and has a 29-21 record — including playoffs — during his Indy tenure.

Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) fends off Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks (27) during the first half.

3. Rookie runner steps up

It took some time, but running back Jonathan Taylor had a strong rookie season for the Colts. Taylor, who was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, rushed for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, 741 of those yards came in the last six games, including a franchise rookie record 253-yard rushing performance in the regular season finale Sunday, thanks to Pro Bowl offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass over Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones (95) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla.

4. Rivers not washed up

It appears that the one-year, $25 million contract Philip Rivers reportedly signed to quarterback the Colts was worth it. After 16 seasons with the Chargers, Rivers arrived in Indianapolis and passed for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdowns this year. He even won four of the final five regular season games to clinch a postseason berth. His favorite target was running back Nyheim Hines (63 receptions), while receivers T.Y. Hilton (56) and Zach Pascal (44) got their fair share of targets.

Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Darius Leonard (53) celebrates a defensive stop against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020.

5. Leonard-led defense

Linebacker Darius Leonard is the only Pro Bowl selection on the Colts' defense, and rightfully so. The third-year middle linebacker led the club with 132 tackles. Leonard also registered three sacks and three forced fumbles. The defensive unit also includes linebacker Anthony Walker (92 tackles) and Khari Willis (85), sack machines DeForest Buckner (9.5 sacks), Justin Houston (8.0) and Denico Autry (7.5), along with cornerback Kenny Moore (four interceptions), who've all helped Indy rank eighth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average by footballoutsiders.com entering Week 17.

They'll need all hands on deck to over a Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs-led Buffalo Bills offense, which finished the regular season with a franchise record 501 points (31.3 per game) en route to a 13-3 AFC East championship campaign.

Marquel Slaughter is a sports reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle. For unlimited access to his stories, please subscribe at the top of the democratandchronicle.com homepage or activate your digital account today. Email mslaughter@gannett.com.

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