Indianapolis Colts Schedule 2014: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game
After losing 14 games in 2011 and earning the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Colts made the playoffs as a Wild Card, following that up with an AFC South title and postseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs a year ago.
Now, the Colts enter 2014 as a prohibitive favorite in their division, and a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the eyes of many.
As John Breech of CBS Sports reports, the Colts have also been graced with the NFL's easiest schedule, with their opponents posting a combined winning percentage of .430 in 2013.
Here's a look at those opponents, as well as a game-by-game breakdown of how the 2014 campaign could shake out.
Week 1: At Denver Broncos
The Storyline: What a Way to Start
The high point of the Indianapolis Colts' 2013 season came in Week 7.
The problem is that there's a pretty good chance Manning remembers the game as well.
After all, it was supposed to be his triumphant return to where his NFL career began. Instead, fans in Indy cheered Robert Mathis as he chased Manning around in a game that wasn't as close as the final score.
The Score: Broncos 45, Colts 30
What a way to kick off the NFL's Sunday night slate in 2014.
Manning threw for 386 yards in that meeting in Indianapolis, including a fourth-quarter comeback that almost got the Broncos back in the game.
Granted, it's reasonable to expect some regression offensively in Denver this year. Record-setting numbers like the ones Manning and the Broncos put up last year just aren't sustainable.
Still, this is a team that shouldn't have any trouble scoring points, especially after addressing Eric Decker's departure quickly by signing wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
The Broncos also got better on defense, adding defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib.
A win in Denver would be even bigger than last year's victory, but odds are Manning gets a measure of revenge against his old team.
Week 2: Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Storyline: Shootout City
Week 2's Monday night matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Indianapolis Colts has the makings of a very entertaining affair.
Two division winners from a year ago. Two of the NFL's top young quarterbacks in Luck and Nick Foles. Two offenses who aren't at all shy about challenging teams vertically.
The Score: Colts 34, Eagles 31
The Colts' keys to victory in this game are twofold.
First, while the Eagles may have lost Jackson, the team also signed running back Darren Sproles to bolster the NFL's best rushing attack last year. The Colts have to keep Sproles and LeSean McCoy honest on the ground.
Second, Andrew Luck needs to attack a Philadelphia secondary that was horrible last year. As in no team in the NFL allowed more yardage through the air in 2013 horrible.
That first goal may be easier said than done, but Luck's receivers shouldn't have much trouble getting open against the Eagles, which will be enough for Indy to earn the victory in a shootout.
Week 3: At Jacksonville Jaguars
The Storyline: Cruise Control
There's a lot we just don't know about the 2014 Jacksonville Jaguars.
For instance, will head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell use the third overall pick in the 2014 on a young-signal caller or a defensive star such as South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney?
Can wide receiver Cecil Shorts and offensive tackle Luke Joeckel return to form after their 2013 seasons were cut short by injury? Can Justin Blackmon stay out of trouble with the league?
One thing is for sure. After three straight seasons of double-digit losses, the Jaguars have a lot of work to do.
The Score: Colts 30, Jaguars 17
As ESPN's Field Yates (subscription required) reports, the Jaguars don't appear locked into the idea of taking a quarterback at No. 3, which more likely than not would mean at least part of a season of Chad Henne at quarterback for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars' patience may one day pay big dividends, but they aren't coming against a Colts team that hammered the Jaguars twice a season ago.
Week 4: Vs. Tennessee Titans
The Storyline: Win the Games You Should
It's a recurring theme in the AFC South, but the times, they are-a-changin' in Nashville.
In fact, there may not be a team in the division undergoing a bigger makeover in 2014 than the Tennessee Titans. In addition to a new head coach and the departure of running back Chris Johnson, the Titans are making the switch to a 3-4 defense this year under coordinator Ray Horton.
It will be interesting to see if that rebuilt defense has the same success against the Colts they did last year in Indy. Yes, the Colts won both meetings between the two teams last year, but Andrew Luck's 59.4 passer rating in Week 13 last year was a season low.
The Score: Colts 27, Titans 13
The Titans actually played the Colts tight in both meetings last year, falling by eight points in Indy and by three in Tennessee in Week 11.
Unfortunately for the Titans, the team also lost top cornerback Alterraun Verner in free agency, and Verner will likely be sorely missed against the Colts' trio of Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and T.Y. Hilton.
If the Colts want to send the message that they're serious about a trip to Glendale next February, then it's important they take care of business in games they're expected to win.
Week 5: Vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Storyline: Harder Than It Looks
On some level, the Colts' Week 5 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens would appear just the sort of game Indy should be able to win at home.
After all, the Ravens missed the playoffs last year, due in large part to an offense that was wildly inconsistent.
Still, it wasn't that long ago that the Ravens were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, and after adding veterans Steve Smith and Owen Daniels, the passing game should be improved in 2014.
The Score: Ravens 20, Colts 19
This may well be the hardest game on the Colts' entire schedule to predict. If the Joe Flacco and Ray Rice of 2013 show up for the Ravens this year, the team is going to be in trouble.
Still, we are talking about the champions of Super Bowl XLVII, and the Ravens did well in free agency.
The Ravens also possess arguably the NFL's best kicker in Justin Tucker, and it's Tucker's big leg that will be the difference in a closely-contested affair.
Week 6: At Houston Texans
The Storyline: It Happens to the Best of Us
The Houston Texans haven't had a lot of success against the Indianapolis Colts, having won only four times in the 24 meetings between the two teams.
Given that and the fact that the Texans won only two games last year, this may seem like something of a "gimme" game for Indy.
However, prior to last season's free-fall the Texans had reeled off two wins in a row against the Colts, and this year's Texans team isn't vastly different from the 2012 incarnation that went 12-4 and won the division.
The Score: Texans 24, Colts 23
This game has "trap" written all over it, especially coming on the heels of a tough loss against the Ravens on a short week.
Make no mistake, the Texans are no more a two-win team than the Chiefs were two years ago, and it wouldn't be a huge stretch to see the Texans stage a rebound similar to what the Chiefs experienced in 2013.
Throw in the familiarity that comes with playing the Colts twice a year, and the recipe is there for an upset.
Week 7: Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Storyline: Payback!
The Colts may have had a relatively successful season last year, but last December's trip to Cincinnati was one of the low points.
Not only did the Colts waste a great performance from Luck, who topped 300 passing yards and threw four touchdown passes, but the team fell behind 21-0 before allowing a season-high 42 points in a 42-28 loss.
The Bengals will be breaking in a pair of new coordinators this year, but personnel-wise it's essentially the same team that won the AFC North in 2013, making this contest a big litmus test for the Colts.
The Score: Colts 30, Bengals 24
They don't get as much run as some of the AFC's other contenders, but the Bengals were quietly a top-10 offense in 2013.
However, in a number of other statistical categories (sacks, total defense, rushing offense) the two teams are nearly identical, which indicates just how closely matched they truly are.
Still, while the Bengals more or less stood pat in the offseason, the Colts were once again very active, adding the likes of linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and wideout Hakeem Nicks.
The Colts, as the more improved team playing at home, get the edge here and end their two-game skid with a big win.
Week 8: At Pittsburgh Steelers
The Storyline: Steel City Showdown
In many respects, the Colts schedule isn't quite as easy as it looks.
Take the Pittsburgh Steelers, for instance. Yes, like the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers finished 2013 at 8-8 and out of the playoffs, but just like the Ravens, the Steelers are never an easy out.
Despite a season most would consider a huge disappointment, the Steelers still finished last year ranked 13th in total defense, and the team was a blown call in San Diego away from making the playoffs last year despite starting the year 0-4.
The Score: Steelers 20, Colts 17
Then there's the matter of where the game is being played.
Whether due to the rowdy fans, the often tricky winds or a playing surface that can be iffy at times, Heinz Field is not a fun place to play for opposing teams.
The Steelers own a .721 winning percentage all time at Heinz Field, while Andrew Luck's career record away from home is a much more modest 9-7.
The Colts will keep it close, but this one slips away.
Week 9: At New York Giants
The Storyline: Days of Future Past
In many ways, Eli Manning is where Andrew Luck one day wants to be, even if the pair are very different players.
Yes, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN, the New York Giants may fear that the 33-year-old Manning is in the "decline" phase of his career after back-to-back turnover-filled seasons. But that doesn't change the fact that Manning has also won a pair of Super Bowls.
If nothing else, the Giants don't appear to be going quietly. Unlike in recent seasons, the Giants were very aggressive in free agency, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
There are questions of offense, however. The running back situation is somewhat unsettled, and the effect of Hakeem Nicks' departure (to Indianapolis) remains to be seen.
The Score: Colts 26, Giants 24
Nicks' return to the Big Apple will be the story du jour in the days leading up the game, but this is a contest that will be decided by the quarterbacks.
This isn't to say Andrew Luck will light up the Giants necessarily. A much-improved secondary, led by new arrivals Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, should be able to keep the Giants in most games.
Unfortunately, that just means Manning's interceptions (he has an eye-popping 83 over the past four seasons) will be even more backbreaking than usual.
Week 10: Bye Week
If you took a poll of NFL teams asking when they'd like to have their week off, Week 10 would be at or near the top of the list.
It's about as close to right in the middle as you can get, offering players a valuable week of rest before the push for the playoffs begins.
A 5-4 record certainly isn't where the Colts necessarily want to be at this point in the season, but it's worth noting that outside the annual meeting with Tom Brady, the schedule softens up considerably after the bye.
Record at Bye Week: 5-4
Week 11: Vs. New England Patriots
The Storyline: D**n You Tom Brady!
When the Indianapolis Colts saw they were welcoming the New England Patriots to town in Week 11, there's little doubt the Colts' reaction was, um, colorful.
Tom Brady has been a pain in the collective posterior of the Colts for over a decade, and that continued to be the case after Peyton Manning left for Denver.
In each of the past two seasons, the Colts have been blown out in New England, including a loss in the divisional round last year.
Over those two games, the Patriots have scored a staggering 102 points.
The Score: Patriots 40, Colts 27
A win over the Patriots would be a huge boost for the Colts, but the chips are stacked against them. Simply put, it's just not a good matchup.
Not only were the Colts gashed to the tune of 234 yards on the ground in last year's playoff drubbing, but with Darrelle Revis replacing Aqib Talib in the New England secondary, the Patriots have the depth in the defensive backfield to match up well with the Colts.
Throw in Luck's nightmarish numbers against the Pats (including seven interceptions in two games), and it doesn't look good for the home team in this one.
Week 12: Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Storyline: Domination
Like every other team in the AFC South (except Indianapolis), the Jacksonville Jaguars are undergoing big changes in 2014. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is gone. So is quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Still, at least the Jaguars were able to build a little positive momentum last year. After starting the season 0-8, the Jaguars finished the year 4-4, giving second-year head coach Gus Bradley some hope that the team is headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, that positive momentum did not extend to their matchups with the Colts. In two games against Indianapolis last year (Week 4 and Week 17), the Colts outscored the Jaguars 67-13.
The Score: Colts 31, Jaguars 13
Will it be veteran Chad Henne or a rookie starter at quarterback for the Jaguars? Can Toby Gerhart handle the duties of a featured back role? What about the Jaguars' 27th-ranked defense?
In short, while the Jaguars showed some promise down the stretch in 2013, it's still a team with more than a few holes to fill.
The Colts will handle them easily at home.
Week 13: Vs. Washington Redskins
The Storyline: The Class of 2012
Like it or not, Andrew Luck and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin will be forever linked. In the leadup to their Week 13 meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium, the predominant storyline will no doubt be the first career meeting between the top two picks of the 2012 NFL draft.
Of course, while Luck continued to grow and mature in his second NFL season, Griffin's 2013 campaign was a massive disappointment. After winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, RG3 responded with a turnover-filled mess of a sophomore season that ended with Griffin watching from the bench.
The Score: Colts 26, Redskins 16
All the talk may be about the quarterbacks in this game, but it's the defenses who will determine the victor.
And in that regard, the Colts have a clear edge.
The Redskins defense was all over the place a year ago, with the secondary a particularly sore spot. The addition of veterans Tracy Porter and Ryan Clark isn't going to magically fix that defensive backfield, and it's a bad matchup given the depth the Colts possess in the passing game.
Week 14: At Cleveland Browns
The Storyline: The Cellar Tour Continues
The Indianapolis Colts must be living right.
Six of the Colts' 16 games in 2014 come against teams that won four or fewer games in 2013, including a Week 14 trip to Cleveland to face a Browns team that hasn't won a game since the beginning of November.
Of course, this Browns team will look markedly different than last year's squad. There's a whole new front office in Cleveland, and they've made big changes on both sides of the ball.
Among them is a familiar face to the Colts, as the Browns brought in former Houston Texans tailback Ben Tate to carry the ground game.
The Score: Colts 26, Browns 3
Yes, the Browns are making a lot of changes, and those changes may well include investing a top-five pick in a quarterback. There's some talent in the passing game with wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron.
Still, whether it's a rookie under center or Brian Hoyer, we're talking about a green quarterback leading a team that's posted two winning seasons in the past 15 years.
This one should be all Colts.
Week 15: Vs. Houston Texans
The Storyline: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
There's a great deal of change underway for the Houston Texans.
After winning the AFC South in both 2011 and 2012, the bottom fell out for the Texans last year. The team won their first two games only to then lose 14 in a row, and when Roger Goodell steps to the podium for the first time on May 8, it will be the Texans who are on the clock with the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
There's a new coaching staff and new quarterback in Houston, but it's still not known which position the Texans will address with that first pick, leaving a lot of big questions swirling around the team.
The Score: Colts 30, Texans 10
One thing isn't at all in question. The Colts have absolutely owned the Texans in Indianapolis.
Since the Texans joined the NFL, they've faced the Colts 12 times in Indy. The Colts have yet to lose one of those matchups.
The last time these teams met at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 15 last year, the Colts cruised to a 25-3 win, and with the Texans facing more than a little uncertainty right now it's not hard to imagine a similar outcome this season.
Week 16: At Dallas Cowboys
The Storyline: Defense? What Defense?
The Dallas Cowboys were not very good defensively in 2013.
Actually, that's putting it mildly.
The Cowboys fielded the worst defense in the NFL last year by a significant margin, allowing over 415 yards a game.
Things haven't gotten any better in the offseason. Star defensive end DeMarcus Ware and tackle Jason Hatcher (who led the team in sacks in last year) are gone, leaving huge holes in the Dallas pass rush.
The Score: Colts 38, Cowboys 33
Make no mistake, the Cowboys are more than capable of scoring points with the best of them, ranking fifth in the NFL last year at 27.4 points per game.
The problem is that the Dallas defense also allowed 27 points per game, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Cowboys lost as many games as they won last season.
That defense isn't any better this year, and while if the Colts get sloppy with the ball this game could get away from them, Indianapolis is the far superior team defensively.
Colts win another shootout.
Week 17: At Tennessee Titans
The Storyline: Ground and Pound
The Tennessee Titans have been stuck in limbo the past several seasons. Since winning their last division title in 2008, the Titans have won between six and nine games each of the past five years.
Now the team has turned to new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who is making big changes on both sides of the ball.
Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt are gone. So is Ryan Fitzpatrick, leaving Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst to compete at quarterback.
Throw in a scheme switch on defense, and it's tectonic shift time in Tennessee.
The Score: Colts 28, Titans 19
It's that scheme switch that may give the Titans the most trouble this year.
In Zach Brown and Wesley Woodyard the Titans have a pair of undersized inside linebackers, and it's still unclear exactly who will fit where as the Titans move from a four to three-man front.
Put it all together, and the middle of the defense could be a weakness for the Titans in 2014.
If ever there was a game for tailback Trent Richardson to start looking like a first-round pick for the Colts, this is it.
Final Record: 11-5
Some fans may view a prediction of 11 wins for the Indianapolis Colts (the same record as last year) as a pessimistic prognostication.
On some level, they may have a point. In a best-case scenario, where the Colts dodge any major injuries and catch a break or three, a 12 or even 13-win season isn't out of the question given the talent on the team and a favorable schedule.
With that said, injuries happen, and even the best of teams occasionally come out flat.
When all is said and done though, even with a bump in the road or two, a third consecutive 11-win campaign appears well within reach.
And that would mean a second straight AFC South title, and in this scenario, a six-game winning streak heading to the playoffs.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.