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Breaking down the Colts’ 2017 schedule game-by-game

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Seattle Seahawks v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

The Colts’ 2017 schedule was announced tonight!

Going by last year’s records, the Colts will have the easiest schedule in the NFL, as their opponents in 2017 had a .424 win percentage a year ago. Granted, a lot can change from year to year, but on paper it looks quite favorable for the Colts. Let’s break the schedule down game-by-game:

Week 1: at Los Angeles Rams - Sunday, September 10, 4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Rams 2016 record: 4-12

Last meeting: 38-8 Rams win in St. Louis in 2013

The Colts will open the season in Los Angeles, where they haven’t played since 1991. It will be a long trip out west for the Colts, but it’s not a terribly tough opponent to open the season against. The Rams were just 4-12 last year and haven’t had a winning record since 2003. But LA has a good defense, one that ranked ninth in yards per game allowed, has one of the game’s best players in Aaron Donald, and hired Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator this year. The problem for the Rams has been their offense, but they hope that new head coach Sean McVay will be able to work with Jared Goff, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, to spark that unit. Along those lines, it’s worth pointing out that this will be a matchup of former first overall quarterbacks, between the Rams’ Jared Goff (2016) and the Colts’ Andrew Luck (2012). While the west coast trip against a good defense might not make for as easy of a game as some expect, this is a very favorable week one matchup for the Colts. One more interesting note, as pointed out by our friends at Turf Show Times, is that this will actually be the second day in a row that the LA Coliseum hosts a game (and the second of four games in a nine day span), as the day before will feature a game between USC and Stanford.

Week 2: vs. Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, September 17, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)

Cardinals 2016 record: 7-8-1

Last meeting: 40-11 Cardinals win in Arizona

This will be one of the more highly-anticipated games for the Colts this year, and that’s largely because of the return of Bruce Arians (and Tom Moore, too!). Arians spent two stints with the Colts, the second of which was in 2012 when he won the coach of the year award as he stepped in as the team’s interim head coach. Moore, of course, is a legend in his own right in Indianapolis as he was the architect behind the record-setting offenses with Peyton Manning. The Cardinals will come to Indy after a disapointing 2016 campaign in which they began with Super Bowl expectations and ended with a 7-8-1 record, missing the playoffs. In that regard, the Cardinals are a better team than they showed last year, and there’s reason to think they’ll be improved next season - a lot of their success will likely depend on the play of Carson Palmer. The Cardinals might be a better team than their 2016 record showed, but a home week two game against the Cardinals isn’t something to complain about for Indy, though it’s easily the toughest game for them in September.

Week 3: vs. Cleveland Browns - Sunday, September 24, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

Browns 2016 record: 1-15

Last meeting: 25-24 Colts win in Cleveland in 2014

Let’s put it this way: if you had given each team in the NFL the option of facing the Rams and the Browns within the first three weeks of the season, I’m sure every one of them would have taken it. It really doesn’t get much more favorable than that, if we’re being honest. Sure, nothing is easy in the NFL and any team can beat any other team on any given week... but this is as winnable of a game as there is on Indy’s schedule next year. One intriguing aspect of this game is that the Colts will get to see this year’s first overall pick (presumably Myles Garrett), meaning that in the first three games they’ll have faced the first overall pick from each of the past two years. Cleveland is a team that is trying desperately to rebuild their roster, but while they’ve added a few pieces here and there, their biggest problem remains their inability to find a quarterback. Will it be Brock Osweiler in 2017? Cody Kessler? A rookie? No matter what, the Browns aren’t likely to be very good again next year. So if the Colts lose this home game with Andrew Luck healthy, there really won’t be any excuses.

Week 4: at Seattle Seahawks - Sunday, October 1, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)

Seahawks 2016 record: 10-5-1

Last meeting: 34-28 Colts win in Indianapolis in 2013

This might be the marquee matchup on the Colts’ schedule in 2017, and this was the easiest call of all of them for being a primetime game. Even if it was uncertain how many primetime games Indy would have, this one against Seattle seemed like a given. Why? It’s quite simple: Andrew Luck versus Russell Wilson figures to equal big ratings for the NFL. They’re two of the best young quarterbacks in the league and two of the most prominent figures in the NFL, and they’ll have the opportunity to face off for the second time in their NFL careers. The first meeting was in Indianapolis, but this one will come in Seattle. That’s another trip west for the Colts in the first four weeks, and Seattle is one of the toughest places to play. So unlike the first month of the season, this game will be a very tough one for the Colts. The Seahawks have made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons and have made two Super Bowls in that span, winning one. They’re one of just three playoff teams from 2015 on the Colts’ schedule, and having to face them in a primetime road game on a west coast trip won’t be easy at all.

Week 5: vs. San Francisco 49ers - Sunday, October 8, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)

49ers 2016 record: 2-14

Last meeting: 27-7 Colts win in San Francisco in 2013

After a tough road matchup in Seattle and in-between two primetime road games, this is a favorable home game for the Colts against the 49ers, who hold the second overall pick in this year’s draft after going 2-14 a year ago. The 49ers did bring in Kyle Shanahan as their head coach, but it’s almost certainly going to take them multiple years to rebuild a bad roster. This game is noteworthy because it will be the first time that Frank Gore will face his former team, as he spent the first ten seasons of his career with the 49ers before signing with the Colts in 2015. The ‘Gore versus his former team’ storyline will be cool, but on-the-field this is a matchup the Colts absolutely should win. And considering the fact that it’s sandwiched between two primetime road games, it’s a game they probably need to win too.

Week 6: at Tennessee Titans - Monday, October 16, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Titans 2016 record: 9-7

Last meeting: 24-17 Colts win in Indianapolis in 2016

The first of the Colts’ 2017 divisional games will come in week six with a significant one: a Monday Night Football matchup against the Titans on the road. The Titans will likely be a popular pick to win the division next year, especially since Houston still has a mess at the quarterback position. The Titans have Marcus Mariota, an up-and-coming roster, and a top-ten pick in this year’s draft (thanks to their trade with the Rams last year). But if the Titans hope to win the AFC South, they’re likely going to have to be able to beat the Colts - something they haven’t done since 2011. The Colts have won eleven in a row against Tennessee, but if ever there was a time for the Titans to snap that streak it’d be in this matchup. The Colts will need to be ready to play.

Week 7: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars - Sunday, October 22, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

Jaguars 2016 record: 3-13

Last meeting: 24-20 Colts win in Indianapolis in 2016

The Colts will play their second straight division matchup in week seven, and it will come on a short week too after a Monday night game in week six. This week seven game will come at home, however, and against the Jaguars, who went just 3-13 a year ago. The Jaguars are a very interesting team because on paper at least they look to have a very talented defense. But their offense has questions, specifically about the quarterback position with Blake Bortles. No game, especially no division game, is easy, and the Jaguars do have talent. But if the Colts want to compete in the AFC South in 2017, they’re going to have to take care of business in their meetings with the Jaguars.

Week 8: at Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday, October 29, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

Bengals 2016 record: 6-9-1

Last meeting: 26-10 Colts win in Indianapolis in Wild Card round of 2014 playoffs

The Bengals had a bad season last year, winning just six games and finishing with a top ten pick in this year’s draft. Before that, however, they had made the playoffs in five straight seasons and in six of the previous seven, so they’ve been used to getting to the postseason. The Bengals will likely be an average season once again in 2017, so while this won’t be as easy of a game as some of the others on the Colts’ schedule, it’s still a winnable one for Indianapolis. Additionally, it should be pointed out that this will be a rematch of the fourth preseason game this year, but in that exhibition game the starters most likely won’t play.

Week 9: at Houston Texans - Sunday, November 5, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

Texans 2016 record: 9-7

Last meeting: 22-17 Texans win in Indianapolis in 2016

It seems like, at least for the last several years, Colts versus Texans matchups have proven to be crucial in the AFC South race, and that likely will be the same once again this year. Their first matchup doesn’t come until November this season, but it will be in Houston - the same place the Colts blew a huge lead in last year’s disastrous loss. The Texans figure to be competitive once again in the division, so long as they can figure out their quarterback position. The positive news for them is that they no longer have Brock Osweiler. The negative news for them is that they currently have Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Houston draft a quarterback, and until we know who will be playing at that most important position it will be hard to say for sure how good Houston will be. But they’ve had success recently with bad quarterback play (like last year with Brock Osweiler), so it’s certainly reasonable to think they’ll be a big contender in the division next year - making the Colts’ games against them very important, like normal.

Week 10: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday, November 12, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

Steelers 2016 record: 11-5

Last meeting: 28-7 Steelers win in Indianapolis in 2016

The Colts play three playoff teams total in 2017 - and two of them come back-to-back. So you could probably make a case for weeks nine and ten being the toughest two-game stretch of the season for the Colts, but the nice thing is that it will be followed by their bye week and only one of the two games will be on the road - so still not bad. The Colts will host the Steelers for an early afternoon November matchup, and already Antonio Brown scored a touchdown on them. Colts fans don’t need to be reminded of the Steelers’ recent success against Indianapolis, having won four in a row by an average margin of victory of 19 points (to put things into context, the closest game the Colts have had against the Steelers in the last four meetings was a game in which they were quarterbacked by Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter... so, yeah). The Colts will face the Steelers in week three of the preseason in what will be a good test for their defense, but this time it will be for real. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and the rest of the Steelers offense has given the Colts considerable trouble in the past, so Indy will need the very best out of Andrew Luck in this one if they hope to win.

Week 11: BYE WEEK

The Colts have their bye week at a very optimal time. It’s later in the year, which hopefully should help ensure that they’re fresh going into the final six games. It also comes after back-to-back games against the Texans and Steelers, two playoff teams from a year ago. This is a really nice time for the bye week.

Week 12: vs. Tennessee Titans - Sunday, November 26, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

This will be the second meeting of the year between the Colts and the Titans, with this game coming in Indianapolis. Much of what we said about the first matchup holds true for this one: the Titans will likely be looking to compete in the AFC South, and if so they’ll need to get past the Colts. The Colts will be coming off of their bye week and hosting this game, however, which should give them the advantage.

Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars - Sunday, December 3, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

In an interesting scheduling tidbit, the Colts’ second game against the Jaguars comes after their second game against the Titans... just like the Colts’ first game against the Jaguars comes after their first game against the Titans. The locations, however, are reversed, and the Colts will head to Jacksonville for a road divisional game this time. They’ve lost their last two “road” games against the Jaguars (last year that road game was in London).

Week 14: at Buffalo Bills - Sunday, December 10, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

Bills 2016 record: 7-9

Last meeting: 27-14 Bills win in Buffalo in 2015

The Bills fired Rex Ryan and replaced him with Sean McDermott, keeping with the focus on the defensive side of the football. Buffalo has some of the pieces necessary to be competitive on that side of the ball, and they also have a talented quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. Though I’m not sure they’ll take a ton of steps forward in 2017, they should still be at least an average team, and a road game in Buffalo in December won’t ever be easy.

Week 15: vs. Denver Broncos - Thursday, December 14, 8:25 p.m. (NBC)

Broncos 2016 record: 9-7

Last meeting: 34-20 Broncos win in Denver in 2016

The Colts will yet again face a team with a new head coach when they host the Broncos in week 15, as they hired Vance Joseph as their head coach this year. The Broncos will be an interesting team to watch next year, because while their defense still figures to be very good (though the loss of Wade Phillips will hurt), their offense doesn’t really figure to be much better. Neither Trevor Siemian nor Paxton Lynch really make you lose sleep, and that’s why it’s hard to get excited about Denver next year. But with their defense they’ll still be a tough team to face, and the fact that it’ll be on a short week won’t help things.

Week 16: at Baltimore Ravens - Saturday, December 23, 4:30 p.m. (NFL Network)

Ravens 2016 schedule: 8-8

Last meeting: 20-13 Colts win in Indianapolis in 2014

The Ravens have had some tough injury luck in recent years, but they haven’t made the playoffs in either of the last two years and have missed the postseason in three of the last four years overall (though the year before that, 2012, they won the Super Bowl). Baltimore stayed competitive last year, but they didn’t wind up good enough to win their division or make the playoffs. They’ll be looking to change that in 2017, and in that regard this week 16 matchup could be important for both teams - especially if the two of them are competing for potential wild card spots. This game will be the rare Saturday regular season game, something the NFL has done late in the season. It does mean, however, that the Colts won’t be playing on Christmas Eve (a Sunday) or on Christmas Day (a Monday) this year.

Week 17: vs. Houston Texans - Sunday, December 31, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

The Colts’ second game against the Texans comes in Indianapolis in week 17. The final week of the season always features divisional matchups in the NFL, but the Colts and Texans haven’t met in that final game since 2012. And this game could wind up being very significant in the AFC South race. I don’t expect any of the four teams to run away with the division title this year, meaning that it could come down to some key matchups in December. And if it’s the Colts and Texans competing for the division, this week 17 matchup could be huge. That’s probably what the NFL was hoping for when they made this schedule, too.

Overall:

Based on last year’s results the Colts have the easiest schedule in the NFL this year. Out of 13 opponents, they’ll face five teams with a new head coach, six teams with a top ten pick in this year’s draft, and seven teams who had a losing season a year ago - with only three playoff teams on the schedule, too. That’s very favorable, and the schedule lines up nicely too. The Colts only have one instance this year where they’ll be on the road in back-to-back weeks, they get their two west coast trips out of the way within the first four weeks, and they have a perfectly-timed bye week that’s later in the year and after two tough games. The Colts may not be a great team overall in 2017, but with a favorable schedule in a favorable division with a great quarterback in Andrew Luck, they should certainly expect to be serious contenders in the AFC South.