The Colts’ COVID outbreak reached the quarterback position on Tuesday afternoon. Starter Carson Wentz was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list ahead of the team’s Week 17 game against the Raiders and now, the Colts will have to prepare to be without him in a key contest.
Indianapolis has a 9-6 record and is currently the top wild-card seed in the AFC. That said, there are eight teams in the AFC that have either a 9-6 or 8-7 record, so the team’s hold onto one of the three wild-card slots is tenuous at best.
The Colts appear to be in control of their own destiny, and winning out would get them into the postseason. However, with Wentz potentially unavailable, the path to doing that becomes more difficult.
Here’s everything to know about Wentz landing on the COVID list, including his vaccination status and how long he might be on the list.
Is Carson Wentz playing against the Raiders?
Carson Wentz’s status for Sunday’s game is yet to be determined. The NFL on Tuesday reduced its mandated quarantine period from 10 days to five days for players who test positive but are asymptomatic. It’s unclear whether Wentz tested positive or was a close contact, or if he’s developed symptoms.
Per that timeline, Wentz still has a chance to play Week 17 if he is asymptomatic and tests negative twice prior to Sunday. However, it’s not guaranteed, so the Colts may be forced to use a different starting quarterback for the first time this season.
Right now, rookie sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger is the backup to Wentz. He figures to get a crack at starting against the Raiders with practice squad veteran Brett Hundley backing him up. Third-year quarterback James Morgan is also on the practice squad, but he figures to be the team’s third-string option at the position.
Could the Colts add another quarterback though? According to Zak Keefer of The Athletic, the Colts are considering calling Philip Rivers to see if the veteran, who started for the Colts in 2020, would be willing to return to the team to help replace Wentz.
Colts need to call Philip Rivers. Have heard it’s being discussed.
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) December 28, 2021
Is Carson Wentz vaccinated?
Carson Wentz is not vaccinated. As a result, he will have to quarantine for a minimum of five days.
Wentz revealed that he wasn’t vaccinated before the season after a small COVID outbreak hit the Colts. He said that it was a “personal decision” not to get it.
“I’m not going to go in-depth on why, but it’s a personal decision for me and my family,” Wentz told reporters in early September, per The Athletic. “I respect everybody else’s decision and I just ask that everybody does the same for me. I know that’s not the world we live in. Not everyone is going to view things the same. But no one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s household and how things are being handled.”
Wentz admitted that he had gone back and forth about his choice, but he ultimately arrived at the conclusion to remain unvaccinated.
“Trust me, I’ve weighed a lot of things. I know what’s at stake. I know all those things,” Wentz said. “That’s just where I’m at, where I’m at with my family.”
Wentz said that “understanding the protocol” would be critical to him this season. He followed it closely and that’s part of why he is almost always seen wearing a mask on the Colts sideline. But even still, he couldn’t escape the COVID outbreak that has been a major problem across the NFL, and for the Colts, in recent weeks.
When can Carson Wentz return from the COVID list?
Wentz must sit out at least five days before being eligible to return from the COVID list, per the updated NFL rules. Since he was placed on the list on Tuesday, Dec. 28, that would put him in line to be eligible to return on Sunday, Jan. 2.
That said, Wentz must remain asymptomatic. If he develops any symptoms that linger past Week 17, his eligibility could be a question mark for the Colts ahead of their final game of the regular season.
How Carson Wentz’s potential absence could impact Colts playoff chances
The Colts currently have a 9-6 record and are penciled in as the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff race. However, only one game separates them from the No. 10 seed Raiders, who they are playing in Week 17.
If the Colts lose to the Raiders, they would find themselves at 9-7. That would guarantee the Titans the AFC South crown, regardless of their result against the Dolphins, so the Colts would only be able to make the playoffs as a wild card. And if they lose, they would have to rely on tiebreakers to keep them in one of those final three playoff spots.
The good news for the Colts is that they have an advantage in several key tiebreakers. They have a 3-2 divisional record with one game to play and they also have a 7-3 record against AFC opponents, tied with the Patriots for the best among wild card teams.
A loss to the Raiders would drop the Colts to 7-4 against AFC opponents. However, they would still be among the best in that category, pending the results of other games. Then, they would just have to worry about the potential for head-to-head tiebreakers; they would have an advantage over the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills in any head-to-head tiebreaker while they would be at a disadvantage against the Ravens, Titans and the Raiders (if they lose on Sunday).
A win would make the Colts’ path to the postseason a lot simpler, but they certainly wouldn’t be eliminated with a loss. The path to clinching would simply become dicier.
Indianapolis is scheduled to close the season in Jacksonville in Week 18, should their playoff fate come down to it.