After the worst season the Colts have seen since Andrew Luck was drafted, the team looks ready to rebound and win the division back. Luck went down in the middle of last season, and the Colts finished 8-8. Luck has lost 5 games in every season he’s played. In his first three years, he won 11 games each to match his 5 losses. But last year, he went 2-5 before his season-ending injury.
Detroit Lions: W
- Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions’ offense is much less formidable. Tate and Jones have been at best #2 receivers in their careers. It’ll be interesting to see which guy steps up to fill in the huge, quite literally huge at 6’5″ 240lbs, void left by the future hall of famer, Johnson. Eric Ebron hasn’t quite lived up to his expectations when he was drafted tenth overall. He’s athletic and drops a lot of passes, but the Colts have seen that type of player with Coby Fleener. The Lions don’t have a lead back right now. They want Ameer Abdullah to be that guy, but coaches have no choice but to bench him with his fumbling issues. The defense hasn’t really recovered since the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. This game should be a pretty easy win if the Colts don’t implode.
@Denver Broncos: W (50/50)
- This is a pretty bold prediction considering that this game is at the defending Super Bowl champions’ stadium. However, the Colts are 3-0 against the Broncos in their last three games. The Colts always seem to have their best games against this very tough matchup. The offensive line somehow neutralizes Von Miller and the formidable pass rush and the defense do enough to stop Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos lost Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler this offseason and brought in Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch to replace them. Sanchez is currently the front-runner to win the job, and if that’s the case, expect the Colts to come out with a win.
San Diego Chargers: W
- The Chargers finished 4-12 last season and landed the 3rd pick overall. That pick, Joey Bosa, is already off to a bad start with rookie contract disputes. There are no really impressive players on this team besides standout corner, Jason Verrett. T.Y. Hilton has shown that he can burn the best of corners like Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, and even teammate Vontae Davis. If Verrett can handle Hilton, the rest of the secondary has to worry about the other burners, Moncrief and Dorsett. Brandon Flowers, the other returning corner, had a terrible season and age has really slowed him. The Colts should win this game, especially since the Chargers need more than a career-best 500 yards from Philip Rivers to win games.
@Jacksonville Jaguars (in London): L (50/50)
- The Jaguars handed the Colts a huge beatdown in Jacksonville at the end of last season. An argument can be made that Luck wasn’t in this game, but the Colts still lost 16-51. The Jaguars have a great young offense with Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Julius Thomas, T.J. Yeldon, and new addition, Chris Ivory. If this team can’t beat the Colts in the air, they have plenty of talent on the ground with the elusive Yeldon and the bruiser Ivory. In addition to their scary offense, the Jaguars built a scary defense this offseason. They added Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Amukamara, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and a few more in the draft. If this group gels together nicely, they will be a problem for the Colts for many years to come.
Chicago Bears: W
- The Bears only have one big name on offense, Alshon Jeffrey, after they lost one of their best players of all time, Matt Forte. On the other hand, the Bears’ defense added a lot more than they lost. The biggest impact signing on this game was Jerrell Freeman. Freeman had the best season of his career where he finished as the second-best ILB in the league. To add on to that, the Bears signed Super Bowl winner, Danny Trevathan. Pernell McPhee had a great year last year and the Bears paired him with Leonard Floyd through the draft. Despite the Bears’ front seven being built very well, the Colts should still pull this one out. The Bears’ offense is pretty weak especially if Vontae Davis shuts down Jeffrey, and the rest of the defense can contain, not necessarily stop Jeremy Langford or Jordan Howard.
@Houston Texans: L (50/50)
- The Texans are no joke this year. They replaced their carousel of quarterbacks with Brock Osweiler, replaced their franchise rushing leader, Arian Foster, with the speedy Lamar Miller, and complemented their possession and star receiver, Deandre Hopkins, with speedsters, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. Their skill players will be set for years to come. The worse news for the Colts is that the Texans already own a top-5 defense. Everyone knows what J.J. Watt can do already. In just five seasons, he might be the greatest defensive end of all time. With him on one side and 12 sacks in Whitney Mercilus on the other, the Texans were half a sack short of 30 from just their ends alone. Most people think Clowney is a bust at this point in his career, but he wasn’t the first overall pick for no reason. He beat a pulling Jack Mewhort to the edge, shielded him with one arm, and tackled Frank Gore with the other arm:
@Tennessee Titans: W
- The Titans wanted to ease the load off of Marcus Mariota, so this offseason, they got 2014 rushing leader, Demarco Murray, and 2015 college rushing leader, Derrick Henry. They will run behind a pretty decent offensive line. Lewan was a great left tackle last year. Jack Conklin was a good left/right tackle at Michigan State. Chance Warmack is a huge, strong guard who specializes in run-blocking. Delanie Walker and Craig Stevens are great run-blockers for tight ends. Dorial Green-Beckham showed that he can be a #1 receiver last year, but no other pass-catcher besides Delanie Walker impressed. The Titans have a decent defense, not elite, but not awful. Somehow Marcus Mariota, the 2nd overall pick in 2015, took this team to the 1st overall pick in 2016. I don’t see the Colts losing to this team unless the overpowering run game destroys the Colts like Jonas Gray and Legarrette Blount from the Patriots once did.
Kansas City Chiefs: L (50/50)
- The Colts beat the Chiefs to overcome a 28-point deficit the last time these two teams faced off. Besides the offensive line and maybe cornerback, the entire team has gotten better since then. Travis Kelce broke out last year. Jeremy Maclin had the surest hands and the lowest drop rate last year. In case Jamaal Charles goes down, the Chiefs have very capable backups filling in. Marcus Peters had a Rookie Defensive Player of the Year campaign with 8 interceptions, but the Chiefs lost a very good cornerback, Sean Smith, to free agency. Eric Berry won Comeback Player of the Year after returning from cancer and was named to the All-Pro First Team. Justin Houston is coming off a torn ACL and might miss part of the season. Even so, this defense is very good, and so is the offense. This very well-rounded team will give the Colts a hard test.
@Green Bay Packers: L
- Aaron Rodgers had a down year, but still had a 31:8 touchdown-interception ratio. Missing Jordy Nelson for the entire season really hurt Rodgers and the Packers. It meant that Cobb was the #1 receiver and he couldn’t handle the task. With Nelson outside and Cobb in the slot, the Packers offense runs much better. Speaking of running better, Eddie Lacy has cut a lot of weight, so he should be able to regain his 2013-14 and 2014-15 form when he averaged 1,150 yards and 10 tds on the ground. Hopefully, former backup QB Scott Tolzien helps the Colts defense learn the Packers offense, but beating Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau is a very, very tall task.
Tennessee Titans: W
- The Titans are now the worst team in the AFC South after what the Texans and Jaguars have done in the offseason. The Colts will most likely win this one at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers: L
- The Steelers have handed the Colt two huge losses in the past two seasons. In 2014, the Steelers won 51-34, and Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards, 6 touchdowns, and no picks. In 2015, the Steelers won 45-10, and Big Ben threw for 364 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the league for at least two years now, maybe more, and he shows up every time he plays the Colts. He beats them through the air and even on punt returns. Leveon Bell will probably play in this game, and he is the best all-around running back in the league. The Colts have no answer to this high-octane offense. With Ben, Bell, and Brown, the Steelers will probably hand the Colts another beatdown.
@New York Jets: W (50/50)
- Andrew Luck threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble against the Jets last year. However, with a much improved offensive line, Luck will be able to make better decisions and not rush into them. If they can somehow figure out how to slow down Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams, the Colts offense will in great shape, although that’s much easier said than done. The Jets just re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he has a great connection with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. They also added the scrimmage yards leader since 2008, Matt Forte. Overall, this team has a lot of star players, but also a lot of holes. This game can go either way, but with good offensive line play, the Colts should win this game.
Houston Texans: W
- The Texans have only beaten the Colts in Indianapolis once in the fourteen times they’ve played there. That was near the end of last year when Hasselbeck and Whitehurst played QB. The Colts only gave 16 to the Texans, and if they can perform like that on defense again, they should have no problem beating the Texans. The Colts have to play well in December to secure a playoff spot and build momentum into the postseason.
@Minnesota Vikings: W (50/50)
- Teddy Bridgewater may be the most overrated quarterback of all-time. How a quarterback that throws for 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions gets a Pro Bowl nod is beyond me. 3,231 yards, 14 tds : 9 ints is sadly an improvement on his rookie numbers: 2,919 yards, 14 tds : 12 ints. If it weren’t for future hall of famer, Adrian Peterson, carrying the team, Bridgewater might average even less than his atrocious 0.875 tds/game. That being said, Stefon Diggs is a good slot receiver and Laquon Treadwell was supposed to be a top 10 pick before the draft process came around and his 40 time played into his draft stock. The Vikings’ defense is very good and well-rounded. Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, and Linval Joseph were some of the best talents at their positions last year. Sharrif Floyd, Everson Griffen, and Xavier Rhodes are always good players. Mackensie Alexander was arguably one of the best corners in this draft and should help out this already great defense. The Colts could lose this one because it is in Minnesota in December. The Colts are used to playing indoors in a dome where weather isn’t a problem. However, the Colts should win because Adrian Peterson is the only real threat. The Colts can stack 8 in the box if it comes down to it because Bridgewater can’t even throw in good conditions, let alone the freezing and potentially snowing conditions.
@Oakland Raiders: W (50/50)
- The Raiders beat out the Jaguars for best offseason and most improved team on paper. Kelechi Osemele helps make the second-best offensive line behind the Cowboys. Derek Carr is improved mightily from year one to year two. Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Clive Walford all had good years and should have even better ones this year. On defense, the Raiders added Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, Jihad Ward, and Shilique Calhoun. They will join an already good defense with Mario Edwards, Justin Ellis, Dan Williams, David Amerson, and arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL, Khalil Mack. The Colts will have a tough time with this team. They have good skill position players, a great offensive line, and a great defense on paper. But sometimes, building a team in free agency does not work. The Colts know all about this (Greg Toler, Arthur Jones, Gosder Cherilus, Laron Landry, Andre Johnson, Trent Cole, etc).
Jacksonville Jaguars: W (50/50)
- Even though the Colts lose to the Jaguars on the road, the Colts can’t lose this game heading into the playoffs. At home last season, Vontae Davis held the Jaguars’ biggest threat, Allen Robinson, to 0 catches, but Robinson recorded a catch for 4 yards and a touchdown when Davis was off of him. The Colts will need to prevent this explosive offense from getting started if they want to win. And the Colts offense will have to find a way to get it going against the tough defense (on paper). But like the Raiders, the Jaguars defense runs a risk of not living up to expectations because it was built through high-priced free agents.
The Colts have 5 “easy” wins (Lions, Chargers, Bears, Titans x2). They have a couple of probable losses (Packers, Steelers). Then there are the 50/50 games that I can see going either way (Broncos, Jaguars x2, Texans x2, Chiefs, Jets, Vikings, Raiders). So best case scenario, the Colts will go 14-2, and worst case scenario, they go 5-11. The average would be 9-7 or 10-6, but my prediction has the Colts going the standard 11-5 we are used to seeing with Luck every year.