SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

NFL Week 17 preview: The NFL has gotten the end games right

Houston plays at Indianapolis and can secure a first-round bye with a win. The stakes are the same for Denver, which plays at Kansas City.

If either Houston or Denver falters, New England can grab a bye with a win at home against Miami.

Pagano returns

The NFL news out of Indianapolis on Monday had nothing to do with playoff seeding. Chuck Pagano returned as Colts coach after missing nearly three months while being treated for leukemia.

In a tearful news conference, Pagano thanked Colts owner Jim Irsay, General Manager Ryan Grigson, interim Coach Bruce Arians, the players and the rest of the organization for what has been a dream season so far. The Colts, who went 2-14 last season, are just the third NFL franchise to qualify for the postseason a year after losing 14 games or more.

Pagano, 52, was most emotional when addressing his wife, Tina, who stayed with him during his 25 days in the hospital, only leaving each day to do laundry.

“The happiest day of my life was July 1, 1989 — that’s when I got married to my wife, Tina,” he said, wiping his eyes. “I want to thank you. She’s a soldier, a warrior, my soul mate. ... You can’t get through this without somebody as strong and as loving, and I thank you, Tina.”

Arians, who was fired after last season as Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator, is a leading candidate for coach-of-the-year honors. The Colts made the playoffs as a wild-card team Sunday with a win over Kansas City.

“I asked him if he would . . . take over the reins and what a masterful, masterful job you did Bruce,” Pagano said. “You carried the torch and all you went out and did was win ballgames, you got our 10th win yesterday and you got us into the playoffs and you did it with dignity and you did it with class. I can’t thank you enough.”

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