Everyone in the media has been focusing on the win/loss records of our opponents, and talking about how easy/tough a schedule is. Based on this, the Steelers have the toughest, with the Colts coming in at #2. This information has been known ever since the Colts/Titans game, so I find it strange that they keep trumpeting this information, and only this information, as to who has the toughest schedule. I'm going to look at the Colt's schedule, and see who we play before each week. We'll see who the Colts play on a short week, how many games our opponents will play on a short week, among other things. Here's a table with the Colts schedule, opponent, who their opponent played the previous week, and what day of the week the game was on:
|Week||Day||Opponent||Previous Week Opponent||Previous Week Day|
|2||Sunday||@ Vikings||@ Packers||Monday|
|5||Sunday||@ Texans||@ Jaguars||Sunday|
|7||Sunday||@ Packers||@ Seahawks||Sunday|
|8||Monday||@ Titans||@ Chiefs||Sunday|
|10||Sunday||@ Steelers||@ Redskins||Monday|
|12||Sunday||@ Chargers||@ Steelers||Sunday|
Here's what I take from our schedule:
- We play two teams this year (Vikings, Steelers) the week after they play a Monday night game. Both teams are on the road, and we play each of them on the road the next week. The Vikings are playing a divisional rival, but it is week 1, so it shouldn't be a big deal. The Steelers play the Redskins, a playoff team from a year ago. We'll get them on a short week, and hopefully exact our revenge from 3 seasons ago.
- The Colts don't play any team on the tail end of a 2 game road swing. This means each team coming into new Lucas Oil Stadium will be coming off of a home game. This isn't that big of a deal, but more on this later. The NFL could have made our schedule a little easier by doing that for the Colts at least once.
- We play the Patriots on a short week, after a Divisional game, on the road. A little slack would have been nice. Although it may be a blessing in disguise, as we'll only have to hear about how the Patriots will destroy us for 6 days instead of 7.
- While we have a short week against the Jaguars, they obviously do as well. There really aren't any secrets between the two teams, so preparation time isn't a necessity, like it would be with other teams. Hopefully after we win, we'll have the division and playoff seed wrapped up, and we can play another snoozefest against the Titans. Maybe the Browns should do the same this year.
- Half of our opponents play a playoff team from last year the week before playing us. Sounds good to me. We only play 4 teams the week after a divisional game. It could be better, but we have the play the cards we're given.
This wouldn't be any fun if we didn't take a look at our two chief rivals' schedules as well, and bitch and moan about how much easier they have it than we do. Here are the Patriots and Jaguars schedules:
|Week||Day||Opponent||Previous Week Opponent||Previous Week Day||Week||Day||Opponent||Previous Week Opponent||Previous Week Day|
|2||Sunday||@ Jets||@ Dolphins||Sunday||2||Sunday||BILLS||SEAHAWKS||Sunday|
|3||Sunday||DOLPHINS||@ Cardinals||Sunday||3||Sunday||@ Colts||@ Vikings||Sunday|
|5||Sunday||@ 49ers||@ Saints||Sunday||5||Sunday||STEELERS||RAVENS||Monday|
|6||Sunday||@ Chargers||@ Dolphins||Sunday||6||Sunday||@ Broncos||BUCCANEERS||Sunday|
|9||Sunday||@ Colts||@ Titans||Monday||9||Sunday||@ Bengals||Bye|
|10||Sunday||BILLS||JETS||Sunday||10||Sunday||@ Lions||@ Bears||Sunday|
|12||Sunday||@ Dolphins||RAIDERS||Sunday||12||Sunday||VIKINGS||@ Buccaneers||Sunday|
|13||Sunday||STEELERS||BENGALS||Thursday||13||Monday||@ Texans||@ Browns||Sunday|
|14||Sunday||@ Seahawks||@ Cowboys||Thursday||14||Sunday||@ Bears||@ Vikings||Sunday|
|15||Sunday||@ Raiders||@ Chargers||Thursday||15||Sunday||PACKERS||TEXANS||Monday|
|17||Sunday||@ Bills||@ Broncos||Sunday||17||Sunday||@ Ravens||@ Cowboys||Saturday|
Some thoughts along the same themes as what I mentioned about the Colts above:
- The Patriots only play one game the week after their opponent played on Monday night, and that's against the Colts. They do have the easiest schedule, based on records, so it would have been nice to not give the Patriots that advantage. They do, however, play 3 games in a row where the opponent plays the Thursday before. Teams will have an extra 3 days to get ready/healthy, towards the end of the year, against the Patriots.
The Jaguars play two games, just like the Colts, against teams coming off of a short week. However, unlike the Colts, both games are against playoff teams, both coming off of division games, both at home. They'll be better than both teams anyway (Packers, Steelers), but they didn't need that advantage too.
- The only game the Patriots will play at home against a team coming off of a road game is against the Dolphins. They will obviously not lose to the Dolphins, no matter the situation, so that doesn't matter. Jacksonville, on the other hand, will play 4 of their home games against a team coming in off of another road game. That's half of their home schedule! They should have spread those out more, like by giving at least 1 to the Colts.
- The only short week for the Patriots is against the Rams, which again, will not matter at all. They play the Jets on a Thursday: a team they are obviously very familiar with. Jacksonville will have a short week, and have to go to Chicago. Even though the Bears aren't as good as the Jaguars, that will be a tough game for the Jags.
- The Patriots have 5 opponents who play a playoff team the week before them, which is lower than the Colts. They also play the Jets after they play the Dolphins and Rams, which is a good sign for the Jets. However, the Jets weren't much better than either of those teams last year, so it may not matter. The Chargers play in Miami the week before the Patriots come to town. It will be a nice warm-up for a game they should be ready to play.
The Jaguars play 6 opponents who play a playoff team the week before them. They also only play 4 opponents after a divisional game, like the Colts. Like I said before, they play a lot of teams coming off of a road game; 11 to be exact. That is a significant advantage.
While there are parts of the Colts schedule that is better than either of their rivals, I still contend I'd take either of their schedules over the Colts schedule, which is easily the toughest of the three teams. Ultimately, we won't know which one is the toughest until the season is over next year. However, I do feel pretty safe saying ours will end up the toughest, and we'll look like world-beaters when we finish 13-3.