Who feels like thinking negatively? I do!
The Colts are coming into the 2014 season with the easiest slate of opponents according to their strength of schedule. Strength of schedule rates a team’s schedule according to their opponents’ winning percentage the previous season. The Colts’ opponents this year had a combined winning percentage of .430 last season. To compare, the Oakland Raiders have the toughest strength of schedule with their opponents having a combined winning percentage of .578 the year prior.
Although the Colts may have the easiest strength of schedule, they will start the season with two of their toughest games all year. They open the season in Denver and then return home to play Philadelphia. That’s tough.
Last season’s Broncos vs. Colts lived up to all the hype Peyton Manning’s homecoming gave it, and the Colts were lucky enough to come out on top 39-33. As if redeeming themselves against the Colts wasn’t motivation enough, the Broncos are coming off a drumming in the Super Bowl and will want to start this season off with a bang. And the odds are even more against the Colts when you consider that Robert Mathis will be sitting out his first of four games due to suspension. I’m not saying that the Colts are definitely going to lose this game — or even win the game for that matter — but it is going to be one hell of a battle to start the season.
Now fast forward to Week 2 when the Colts have their home opener against the Eagles. Unlike the Colts who will be coming home from a dogfight, the Eagles should walk into Lucas Oil Stadium feeling fairly fresh after opening their season against the Jaguars. Mathis’ absence will continue to mean a great deal in this game, especially when you consider how the Eagles play and how Mathis could disrupt that. The Eagles took the league by storm last year with the emergence of Nick Foles and look to build on their playoff appearance in 2013. This shouldn’t be as tough as playing Denver, but it’s a game where the Colts will need to be at their best in order to win.
So that’s the not-so-ideal situation the Colts are in to start the season. They could come out and start the year with a bang by winning both games. They could also go into Week 3 with a split and no one would shame them for it. Or they could start the season falling on their faces with a 0-2 record.
The latter is something fans need to prepare themselves for. 0-2 is a strong, strong possibility. Now would a bad start like that mean much? Probably not. As stated, the Colts have the easiest strength of schedule and will have a fairly easy road with their remaining regular season games. When you consider their strength of schedule and how weak the AFC South is — although it improved a lot over the summer — it’s hard to imagine the Colts missing the playoffs, even if the percentage of teams making the playoffs after starting 0-2 is less than 13 percent.
Still, 0-2 would come with a lot of aftermath. People wouldn’t care if it was two tough games against two playoff teams– it looks ugly. So what could that aftermath be? Maybe people will call for Chuck Pagano’s head. Maybe Andrew Luck’s name takes a hit. Maybe their young guys start to lose focus and the team gets shaky.
But there’s still the other side. The Colts might start 0-2, but what if that just brings them together more? What if Luck’s leadership takes new heights and he takes complete control of the team? What if they finish 12-4 with the top seed in the AFC?
Regardless of what happens from it, the Colts starting with back-to-back losses to open the season is not out of the realm of possibility. How they open the season may very well answer a lot of questions people have for them.
This whole time I’ve been focused on the team starting off as bad as they can, but what if they start off as best as they can? Then, maybe, the Colts would be considered as serious Super Bowl contenders.