The Indianapolis Colts already know their 2016 opponents, but how tough a schedule will it really be?
With the regular season over, the Colts opponents are set in stone for next season. The Colts 2016 opponents are a combined 122-134, which makes this a much tougher schedule than they faced heading into 2015 (which was 106-149-1).
Obviously the Colts will face the Texans, Jaguars and Titans at home and on the road next season.
The Texans finished 9-7 and will be looking to hold onto the Division crown. They have a great defense but will once again be looking for a quarterback in 2016. Brian Hoyer is mediocre at best, and more suited to being a quality backup. But you also can’t argue with winning nine games with four different QBs.
The Jaguars were 5-11 and while it sort of looks like this team is improved, the Jags still have a lot of work to do. Blake Bortles ranks in the bottom third of the QBs in efficiency and had a below average grade for the season. They also need a defense. The Colts will face them on the road in London next season as well.
The Titans have the number one overall pick in the draft and finished 3-13. They might get better, but it remains to be seen. Marcus Mariota showed flashes of being a good player, but they need to find the right coach. They also need help at virtually every position on the field.
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The Chiefs have been on a 10-game win streak to close out the regular season and on the road against the Texans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. And they’ve done it without Jamaal Charles for most of the season. Andy Reid is getting the most out of Alex Smith and the defense still has a great pass rush. The last time these two teams met, the Colts put together one of the best rallies in playoff history.
The Steelers are in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this season, and have a fearsome offense. The Colts have been outscored 96-44 in their last two meetings with the Steelers. Both games were at Pittsburgh, only the 2014 meeting featured Andrew Luck. The Steelers will have Le’Veon Bell back by that point and Antonio Brown will surely be taking defenses apart next season too.
The good news is that Calvin Johnson is considering retirement and the Lions are simply a mess overall. They also don’t have a dominant defensive line without Ndamukong Suh anymore. The front office is still in flux and the fate of coach Jim Caldwell remains to be seen. The last time these teams met was Luck’s rookie year, and it happened to feature a dramatic comeback.
The Bears dominated the Colts in Luck’s rookie debut in 2012, he had over 300 yards passing but also threw three interceptions. That was at Soldier Field and with a much less talented Colts roster. The Bears defense isn’t what it used to be and the offense spent much of this past season injured.
The Chargers are one of those teams the Colts just seem to struggle with every single season. But in 2015, San Diego (will they still be in San Diego this year?) was awful. I’d love to go on a rant about how overrated Philip Rivers is but this offense really wasn’t that talented and dealt with plenty of injuries in 2015. They also featured one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and were the absolute worst against the run.
The Broncos have the top seed in the AFC this year but lost to the Colts in Indianapolis (one of Indy’s more impressive wins of the season). The big question for this team is whether or not Peyton Manning returns for one more year. My money’s on retirement, especially if they do the unthinkable and win the Super Bowl. If Manning retires, there could be a lot of turnover on the roster before next season and even if he doesn’t retire, the Broncos may decide to move in a different direction.
The Vikings won the NFC North and host the Seahawks this week. Teddy Bridgewater is getting better and they’ll still have Adrian Peterson. The defense is getting better as well. The Vikings are also moving into their fancy new arena, US Bank Stadium next season.
The Packers lost the NFC North to the Vikings, but still made the playoffs. The last time these two teams met was the first game after it was announced Chuck Pagano had been diagnosed with leukemia. Down 21-3 at halftime, the Colts mounted an incredible rally in the second half. Reggie Wayne was a beast, with 13 receptions for 212 yards. This will be Luck’s first trip to Lambeau Field, hopefully they get this game early in the year.
The Jets came into Indianapolis in Week 2 this season and beat them up. But even with a strong season, they missed the playoffs by losing to the Bills in Week 17. The Jets offense was much better than expected this year and the defense could be even better in 2016.
The Raiders had an improved season, to the point where it looked like they might make the playoffs. Inconsistency really hurt this team, but they present a tough matchup next year. Khalil Mack is turning into an absolute monsters on defense and Amari Cooper is going to be tough to defend for any team.