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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time.
After one of the most interesting offseasons this franchise has ever seen, the Indianapolis Colts are about to play football again.
The oddsmakers have the Colts pegged as a team likely watching the postseason for a fourth straight year (over/under of 6.5 wins in 2018).
Quenton Nelson wasn’t even born the last time the Colts missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons (1991-94).
You have to go all the way back to 1983-86 to find the last time the Colts had four straight sub-.500 seasons.
Those are streaks the Colts want no part of in 2018.
So, without further ado, here is my game-by-game prediction for the 2018 Colts:
Week 1: Bengals (Sunday, September 9, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Win (1-0), 24-20: Some might consider this a game you would place in the ‘really need to have’ category, given what’s on the horizon. That’s fair and I think the Colts will get this one. The Bengals had their own issues last season and easily could have lost to a Jacoby Brissett-led Colts. Andrew Luck and this new offense opens up the playbook to give the Colts an early lead. They hold on from there.
Week 2: Washington Football Team (Sunday, September 16, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Loss (1-1), 27-20: Honestly, I think the Bengals are more talented than the Washington Football Team. But after four straight years of the Colts starting 0-2, I’m not ready to totally flip that script just yet. The first road game for the Colts will have some hiccups with Alex Smith methodically making his way down the field against the shaky Indy defense. After Week Two, the Colts won’t play back-to-back games against two non-playoff teams from last year until mid-December.
Week 3: @Eagles (Sunday, September 23, 1:00 PM, FOX)
Prediction: Loss (1-2), 30-21: This isn’t as stone-cold of a lock as a normal ‘Super Bowl Champion versus 4-12 team from the year before’ should be. Will Carson Wentz be healthy and cleared for Week Three? How about wide receiver Alshon Jeffery? Even if these two aren’t out there, this is still one of the tougher games the Colts will have in 2018. I say Wentz plays and the Colts can’t keep up.
Week 4: Texans (Sunday, September 30, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Win (2-2), 31-23: The lone home contest in a 5-game stretch is one the Colts really need to get. Deshaun Watson is healthy and will be facing the Colts for the first time in his NFL career. The Colts swept the banged-up Texans last season and I think they will get this one, in a rare non-December Lucas Oil Stadium meeting for these two teams.
Week 5: @Patriots (Thursday, October 4, 8:10 PM, FOX)
Prediction: Loss (2-3), 34-21: There will be plenty of motivation on both sides of this one. Chris Ballard said the ‘rivalry is back on’ but does he have enough horses for that statement to really be true? The Colts haven’t beaten the Patriots since 2009 and the games haven’t been close. It’s hard to see the Colts stealing this one on a short week.
Week 6: @Jets (Sunday, October 14, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Loss (2-4) 20-13: If the Colts want a blueprint to see how to build a defense, I think the Jets have done a nice job through draft picks and free agency. Back-to-back road games against the AFC East won’t be easy, but the Colts will have their mini-bye leading into this one. I think Sam Darnold does enough, limits his turnovers and the Jets are able to stifle Andrew Luck and the Colts.
Week 7: Bills (Sunday, October 21, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Win (3-4), 27-17: For a playoff team from the previous year, the Bills have plenty of skeptics in 2018. It’s largely because they have arguably the worst group of quarterbacks in the NFL. The Indy defense will have its best game of the season in Week 7 as the stretch of three straight games against the AFC East ends.
Week 8: @Raiders (Sunday, October 28, 4:05 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Loss (3-5), 27-24: I’m fascinated to see how the Jon Gruden era plays out. The lone western trip of the season for the Colts will see a nice back and forth between Derek Carr and Andrew Luck. I see a late fourth quarter play from Oakland’s defense (sans Khalil Mack) keeping the Colts from earning their first road win of the season.
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Jaguars (Sunday, November 11, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Win (4-5), 29-23: Thank you, Jalen Ramsey, for adding some juice to a rather blah Sunday afternoon Colts/Jaguars matchup. Honestly, Luck hasn’t been called out much in his career and certainly nothing to the level of what Ramsey said in the offseason. Luck might not publicly state it, but I think he will be pretty fired up for this one and the Colts earn their finest win of the season.
Week 11: Titans (Sunday, November 18, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Loss (4-6), 31-20: From a Colts’ standpoint, I just don’t love how the Titans are built. They have a powerful run game with a quarterback who can effectively run the read option. Tennessee made some nice improvements to the back end of their defense this offseason. I think the emotional high of beating the Jaguars the previous week will hurt the Colts here.
Week 12: Dolphins (Sunday, November 25, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Win (5-6), 34-20: Frank Gore’s reunion game will not be a pleasant one for the future Hall of Famer. The Dolphins have the look of a team heading towards a top-10 draft pick in 2018. I see this being the most convincing win of the season for the Colts as they end a three-game homestand.
Week 13: @Jaguars (Sunday, December 2, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Loss (5-7), 27-13: It’s time for the Jaguars to get their revenge to kick off December. This will be the fewest points the Colts score in 2018. At this point of the season, the Colts will have to get on a run to sneak into the playoff picture. Two divisional road games to start December is going to be difficult to try and climb above .500.
Week 14: @Texans (Sunday, December 9, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Loss (5-8), 24-17: It’s hard to see the Colts sweeping any divisional opponent in 2018. When Deshaun Watson was healthy last season, the Texans might have been the AFC South favorite. How this team defends mobile quarterbacks is going to be a storyline for years to come with Watson and Mariota. I’m going with the Texans in a game that will guarantee the Colts not having a winning season.
Week 15: Cowboys (Sunday, December 16, 1:00 PM, FOX)
Prediction: Win (6-8), 27-24: The Matt Eberflus’ bowl will end a two-game skid for the Colts. The NFC East teams are hard to predict in 2018, especially the Cowboys. This will be one of the most competitive games of the 2018 season for the Colts.
Week 16: Giants (TBD)
Prediction: Win (7-8), 37-31: I see a shootout between Eli Manning and Andrew Luck. Star receivers in Odell Beckham and T.Y. Hilton will both go over 100 yards and find the end zone in the home finale for the Colts. This will give the Colts a more than respectable 7-1 campaign at home.
Week 17: @Titans (Sunday, December 30, 1:00 PM, CBS)
Prediction: Loss (7-9), 27-23: This game could go a couple of ways depending on what is at stake playoff wise. I see the Titans still in the running for a playoff berth, so I think they’ll play their starters. While the Colts will be out of the playoff picture, do not tell that to Andrew Luck. The Colts are more than competitive, but can’t get that late defensive stop to salvage a .500 season.
Final Analysis of 7-9 season: First, I’m probably an idiot for pretty much splitting up the home (7-1) and road (0-8) games in terms of wins/loss. But I do really think there’s a major difference between the caliber of opponents at home and on the road this season. Throughout the offseason, I hovered around 6-7 wins for the Colts in 2018. I said time and time again that I wanted to see the preseason before giving a definite answer on wins. After watching the preseason, Andrew Luck’s health should give fans plenty of hope. But the 2018 Colts will look like past Luck-teams. Way too much pressure will be on No. 12’s shoulders to lead the Colts to a winning season. This is the hardest division that Luck has ever played against. So many people would probably sign up for a split in the South before the season started. Unless the Colts get out of the ordinary defensive play this season, I can’t see this team getting to the 9-win mark.