The Colts may not be quite ready to take the next step, but with a healthy Andrew Luck back under first-year head coach Frank Reich, these games will go a long way to set the tone for the next phase of the franchise. In 2012 the team was expected to be dead last in the NFL, which many think the 2018 Colts will also do, but the teams seven game-winning drives and four fourth-quarter comebacks built the new look Colts reputation has an exciting and clutch team. What about this year, what games may set the tone again for these young Colts (pun intended)? Let’s take a look.
“The Rivalry is back on,” Chris Ballard’s words will echo as the Colts travel to Foxborough to take on their hated rivals. The Colts-Pats games were always must watch football during the Peyton era, but took a bit of a dip post-2011, as the Colts struggled just to stay competitive in their matchups. Deflate-gate changed things, and the Josh McDaniels fiasco brought the vitriol to a head, and once again, all eyes will be on the Colts-Pats game once again in 2018. The 2012 Colts shocked the Green Bay Packers to prove they were a team to be reckoned with and would make an even bigger statement if they could upset the arch nemesis in their stadium in primetime.
2. Week 15 @ Houston Texans
As important as it is to win most if not all your division games at home, stealing some away division games are crucial if they want to reclaim dominance in the AFC South. What makes this game even more important is this is a December game against a division rival that could be vying with the Colts for the division crown or a wild-card berth. The Colts used to own the division, winning 16 straight from 2012 to 2015, but that’s not the case anymore. If the Colts want to secure their spot in the postseason with a division win, or show that they are not the doormat of the division, they will need to win late-season road games against tough division opponents.
3. Week 1 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
With all the talk about Andrew Luck’s recovery and the new coaching staff, there is some that wonder just how bad the Colts could be next year, but a big win out of the gate could quiet those doubts. The Bengals aren’t a world beater but taking care of things at home is what good teams do, and if the Colts want to be a good team, they’ll have to do the same. If Luck comes out firing and the Colts win, all those doubts from the past year will quickly go away, but if Luck either isn’t present or looks poor in a sad loss, the noise will only get louder.
4. Week 10 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Jaguars are the AFC South’s best. The Jaguars took the league by storm last year with an electric defense with a smashmouth running game to achieve the divisions best record at 10-6, and one play from a super bowl berth at seasons end. The Colts will be coming off a bye week, and a big win at home could help propel a second season push for the boys in blue.
5. Week 3 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Similarly to the Patriots game, this could be a chance for the Colts to have a statement win on the road that puts the league on notice early in the season. This matchup will also be the first chance for the Frank Reich to face off against his former team, which will be a fun storyline heading into the week. As warm and fuzzy as that story as that will be, the opposing fans will be the opposite, Philly fans are notorious for their rambunxious and destructive behavior towards opposing teams. Colts teams have historically been criticized for their performances outside the comfy confines of Lucas Oil and the RCA Dome, so a tough road win in a hostile environment against the reigning Super Bowl champs will help change that narrative.
This team may surprise and make a playoff push, or it may be a repeat of 2017, but no matter what happens this team will be shaped by the experiences they face in 2018, good or bad. Some experts have already doomed Indy to another season of failure and mediocrity, but a young and unproven roster with a motivated Andrew Luck and vastly improved coaching staff could cause many to eat their words by seasons end.