Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson offers his official game-by-game prediction of the Colts 2014 season and just how far they can/will go in the playoffs.
One week from today, the Indianapolis Colts will kick off their 2014 regular season. As we begin to ramp up our coverage of week one and a big Colts vs. Broncos matchup, here are our official game-by-game predictions of the Colts season:
WEEK 1: @ DENVER BRONCOS (9/7, 8:30 P.M.)
It's Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning, round two. Luck's Colts won the first game, last year in Indianapolis in a special atmosphere. But this year, the game is in Manning's (temporary) home, Denver. Making matters more complicated, Colts star pass rusher Robert Mathis - who was a major part of the victory over the Broncos last year, sacking Manning 2 times and forcing a fumble - is out for the first four weeks due to a suspension. Manning's AFC Champion Broncos have restocked and are primed once again to contend for a Super Bowl, and in week one at home on Sunday Night Football against his former team that is missing it's star (and only legitimate) pass rusher, I don't see Peyton Manning losing this one. The Colts will put up some points, but they won't put up as many as the Broncos. LOSS (0-1)
WEEK 2: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (MONDAY, 9/15, 8:30 P.M.)
Things don't get a whole lot easier for the Colts in week two. They return home for their second straight primetime game, this one on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. Against the Eagles defense, the Colts should be able to put up some points. But the same can be said about the Eagles offense against the Colts defense. Especially without Robert Mathis, the Colts will likely struggle defensively in this game against an Eagles offense led by Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy. While the week one game against Denver won't be a blowout, the game against the Eagles will be even closer. But in the end, I think that the loss of Robert Mathis will come back to haunt this defense once again. LOSS (0-2)
WEEK 3: @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (9/21, 1:00 P.M.)
Yes, I've just predicted the Colts to start the season 0-2. But it's not reason for panic. The Broncos and the Eagles ranked one and two in touchdowns scored last year, and the Colts will be playing them without Robert Mathis and with offensive line questions. The Colts get to play Jacksonville in week three, which is just what they needed after the rough first two weeks. The Jaguars are heading in the right direction, but they won't get there this year. This game is just what the Colts needed to get into the win column. WIN (1-2)
WEEK 4: TENNESSEE TITANS (9/28, 1:00 P.M.)
Again, it's nice playing in the AFC South. For two of the four games without Robert Mathis, this Colts team will play fellow AFC South teams, and the Colts are clearly the best among them. The Titans were a solid team last year and they should be about the same this year, and as we know games within the division are never easy. But at home against the Titans, with the bitter taste of an 0-2 start still in their mouths? I expect the Colts to even up their record at .500 after week four. WIN (2-2)
WEEK 5: BALTIMORE RAVENS (10/5, 1:00 P.M.)
The Ravens are a good team. They're always tough to play. But while the Ravens will have gotten Ray Rice back two weeks earlier, the Colts will just now be playing their first game with Robert Mathis in the 2014 season. His impact on the defense will surely be felt all around, and I expect him to come out with a chip on his shoulder. The crowd will be pumped up, and between Andrew Luck's great offense and Robert Mathis' return to rejuvenate the defense, I think the Colts win this one. WIN (3-2)
WEEK 6: @ HOUSTON TEXANS (THURSDAY, 10/9, 8:25 P.M.)
Thursday Night Football on the road against the division rival Houston Texans is never an easy game. The Texans should be much improved this year, but regardless, they almost always play the Colts tough. Their team is more than talented enough to go up against the Colts and hold their own, but they also have Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback while the Colts have Andrew Luck. Advantage: Colts, by a landslide. WIN (4-2)
WEEK 7: CINCINATTI BENGALS (10/19, 1:00 P.M.)
When the Colts and the Bengals played last year, the offense put up points. The problem was that the defense gave up even more and the Colts lost in Cincy 42-28. This year, it'll likely be a different story. The defense will be improved from last year, and while they likely will still give up points, the Colts should be able to outscore the Bengals this time around. WIN (5-2)
WEEK 8: @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS (10/26, 4:25 P.M.)
For the third time in four weeks, the Colts will take on an AFC North team in what will be yet another tough and physical ball game. The Ravens and Bengals are both good teams, but the Steelers are actually my pick to win that division. Traveling to Pittsburgh always makes it tougher, and the game will probably look like the last time the Colts traveled there, in 2008. It was a hard-fought game and quarterback Peyton Manning wasn't at his best statistically, but in masterful fashion he led the Colts on a come-from-behind win. It might be a similar story this time, only with Andrew Luck under center (or, hopefully, in the shotgun, but you get the point). WIN (6-2)
WEEK 9: @ NEW YORK GIANTS (MONDAY, 11/3, 8:30 P.M.)
This used to be a big draw because it pitted Peyton Manning versus Eli Manning, but now there's only one Manning playing in the game, and it's the younger brother. Eli had a terrible preseason, but I expect the Giants to get their struggles figured out to some degree and at least be a decent, competitive team. Both teams rely heavily on their quarterbacks, and Andrew Luck is better than Eli Manning. The youngest Manning might be able to make it competitive on Monday Night Football at home, but I think the Colts will enter their bye week with a seventh straight victory. WIN (7-2)
WEEK 10: BYE WEEK
WEEK 11: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11/16, 8:30 P.M.)
In the short two-year run of Andrew Luck so far, no team has given him more troubles than the New England Patriots. Sound familiar? The Colts this year host the Patriots on Sunday Night Football as both teams come off their bye week. The Patriots have a very good team and they're a Super Bowl contender, and Bill Belichick coming off of a bye week? It would seem like the odds are stacked against the Colts. But let's not forget that the Colts will also be competing for a title this year with Andrew Luck at quarterback, and they're at home for this game. We saw last year that the Colts can beat anybody on any given week, their main problem was just inconsistency. By this time of the season, the Colts are hitting their stride. Call it a gut feeling, but I think the Colts notch a win over the Patriots in week eleven. WIN (8-2)
WEEK 12: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (11/23, 1:00 P.M.)
Remember what I just said about how the Colts can beat anyone on any given week yet struggled with inconsistency last year? I don't think we'll see those same struggles this year, but there are always down games, and especially coming off of the high of beating the Patriots the week before, the game against the Jaguars the following year might come as a trap game. The Jaguars play the Colts tough always, and while they're not going to have a great year, I think they might score a win over the eventual division-champion Colts in Indy in a disappointing game for the Colts to snap their eight game winning streak. LOSS (8-3)
WEEK 13:WASHINGTON REDSKINS (11/30, 1:00 P.M.)
The top three picks in the 2012 NFL Draft were Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Trent Richardson. All three of them will (likely) be playing in this game - assuming, of course, that RG3 stays healthy (which isn't a given). The Luck vs. RG3 discussion has ended, as there's no one who would say that RG3 is a better quarterback than Luck, and I think that'll show in the week 13 game in Indianapolis. The Redskins have some talent, but I don't think they're going to go into Indy and beat the Colts. It's the first time since the 2012 preseason that Luck and RG3 will play each other, and I think the number one pick will beat the number two pick once again. WIN (9-3)
WEEK 14: @ CLEVELAND BROWNS (12/7, 1:00 P.M.)
By week 14, are you really expecting to see anyone other than Johnny Manziel quarterbacking the Browns? I'm certainly not. Mobile quarterbacks like Manziel have given the Colts defense trouble in the past, and I think that could happen again (as long as Erik Walden is supposed to be setting the edge). But while Manziel will likely show flashes, he's still a rookie after all, and his team just isn't very good. The Colts go into Cleveland and pull out a win in December. WIN (10-3)
WEEK 15: HOUSTON TEXANS (12/14, 1:00 P.M.)
Again, the Texans should be better this year than they were last year. That much is almost a given. But at the same time, they have Ryan Fitzpatrick, and playing the Colts in Indianapolis isn't easy. I think the Texans will absolutely put up a fight like in the first matchup of the year, but I think the Colts win this one. WIN (11-3)
WEEK 16: @ DALLAS COWBOYS (12/21, 4:25 P.M.)
Call this one a gut feeling too, but I think the Colts might struggle when they go to Dallas in December to take on the Cowboys. By that time they'll have all but locked up the division title, will be on the road, and playing a Cowboys team that has potential but will likely be up and down this year. Tony Romo is an above average quarterback, and I just think this might be one of those games that gives the Colts trouble. I said that of the Cardinals game last year and I'm saying it of the Cowboys game this year. LOSS (11-4)
WEEK 17: @ TENNESSEE TITANS (12/28, 1:00 P.M.)
The Colts close out the 2014 regular season with their third road game in the month of December, this one a trip to the division rival Titans. The Colts will have already won the AFC South by this point, so the Titans will be looking even more to beat the division champ. The Titans will absolutely play the Colts tough, but the Colts should close the regular season out and enter the playoffs with a victory. WIN (12-4)
So according to my season prediction, the Colts will go 12-4 and win the AFC South. But what about after that? Because, while it's important to look at the regular season and to not overlook the division title, this Colts team isn't going to be satisfied with just another division championship. So what about the playoffs (in my best Jim Mora impersonation)?
I went through game-by-game of every single NFL game (for all 32 teams) this season and predicted who would win and lose. By that system, I have the Colts, Broncos, and Patriots all going 12-4, tying for the best record in the AFC. By nature of the head-to-head tiebreakers, since the Broncos beat the Colts but the Colts beat the Patriots, then the Colts would actually get the number two overall seed in the AFC and thus get a first round bye. It's likely, then, that in the divisional round the Patriots would come to Indianapolis for a rematch. While the Patriots are a very scary team to play in the playoffs, the fact that the game is in Indianapolis will make a huge difference (as going to New England in January is a very hard situation). I think the Colts would win a close divisional game against the Patriots. Setting them up for an AFC Championship game in Denver. Against the Broncos. Against Peyton Manning.
In Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning game three, they'll be playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The Colts actually could match up with the Broncos, especially with Robert Mathis back. And I'll be completely honest with you - I'm torn on this game. There have been times where I've thought I'm picking the Colts. And there have been times where I've thought I'm picking the Broncos. And I'm still just not sure. I think for largely the reason that I don't want to appear to be a homer I'm picking the Broncos, but I could easily see the Colts winning this game. Oh, and regardless of who wins, I think the Seattle Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl champions.
So basically, what I'm saying is this: I predict the Colts to get to the AFC Championship game, but I could see them winning that game and getting to the Super Bowl as well. As we've said all along, it all depends on Andrew Luck and how the Colts let him play. Because for as many flaws as this team has (pass rush, offensive line, etc.), they still have Andrew Luck. And that fact is not to be overlooked.