Colts Have Easiest Schedule in the NFL in 2014

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts are coming off of back-to-back 11 win regular seasons, and in 2013 they won the AFC South division and a playoff game.  In 2014 the Colts will obviously have high expectations, and they will also have the league's weakest schedule, based on 2013 records.

Based off of 2013 winning percentages, the Colts have the easiest schedule in the league with an opponent win percentage of just .430.  The other three AFC South teams - the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans - have the next three easiest schedules, filling out spots 29-31.  In other words, THE reason for the easy schedule for the Colts is because of the division they are in - which, in 2013, was completely terrible.  For those wondering, the toughest schedule in the league in 2014, based on 2013 win percentage, is the Oakland Raiders with an opponent win percentage of .578 (the Denver Broncos are second with an opponent win percentage of .570 - you can view the whole list here).

Looking into it further, the Colts have the league's third-easiest schedule at home (.445) and are tied for the easiest road schedule (.414).  At home, here are the Colts 2014 opponents (2013 schedule in parenthesis): Baltimore Ravens (8-8), Cincinnati Bengals (11-5), Philadelphia Eagles (10-6), Washington Redskins (3-13), New England Patriots (12-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12), Tennessee Titans (7-9), Houston Texans (2-14).  On the road, here are the Colts 2014 opponents (2013 schedule in parenthesis): Cleveland Browns (4-12), Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8), Dallas Cowboys (8-8), New York Giants (7-9), Denver Broncos (13-3), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12), Tennessee Titans (7-9), Houston Texans (2-14).

The Colts schedule in 2014 features four teams that won 10 or more games in 2013 and four playoff teams from 2013 as well as three other teams that finished .500.  That schedule isn't too easy - but when you look at the AFC South division that the Colts are in, it completely drags down the strength of schedule.  Outside of the Colts, the AFC South was a combined 13-35 (a win percentage of .271).  Considering that, and the fact that the four easiest schedules in the NFL in 2014 belong to the four AFC South teams, it is beyond clear that the reason for the Colts having the easiest strength of schedule in 2014 is because of the division they play in.  And I think that's completely fair.

Keep in mind, however, that these are based on the 2013 records.  The Houston Texans have a new head coach (and a good hire at that in former Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien) and the number one overall pick (which right now sounds like Johnny Manziel is the favorite for - but there is a long way to go).  The Jacksonville Jaguars have a good head coach, Gus Bradley, and the third overall pick in this year's draft (which, if Manziel goes number one, could very possibly be Teddy Bridgewater).  The Tennessee Titans have a new head coach, former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt.  Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers last year and did wonders with Phillip Rivers, who was voted the Comeback Player of the Year in 2013.

In other words, the AFC South was terrible in 2013 but it will look very, very different in 2014.  It will be hard to be worse than it was last year, but it's likely that it will be significantly improved.  There are three talented teams (all to varying degrees) that all have quarterback issues.  If they can get a quarterback, they can be pretty competitive.  So, while based on 2013 records the Colts have the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2014, there is no guarantee whatsoever that it will remain that way.  They have the easiest schedule because they play in the AFC South, and how the division does will determine to a large extent how easy the schedule actually ends up being.  One thing is clear, however, and it is this: there will be big expectations for the Colts in 2014, and the strength of schedule will just be another reason why people give to back that up.

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