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The three toughest opponents the Colts will face in 2017

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These three opponents will pose the biggest challenges for the Colts this season.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Following two straight 8-8 seasons the Chuck Pagano led Colts find themselves at a crossroads. While the team has a favorable schedule overall, they must find a way to not get swept in three marque games this season. If they do lose all three games, it will be very difficult for the Colts to make the playoffs as it appears that the days of plowing through the AFC South are over.

An underprepared team, leading to multiple embarrassing defeats against quality teams could play an important role in evaluating whether to make a change at head coach. They must stay competitive in these games if Pagano wants keep his job moving forward.

Week 15: Denver Broncos

Last matchup: 2016, Broncos defeat Colts 34-20 in Denver

This game will be played late in the season. Both teams could be desperate fighting for a playoff position. Denver’s defense looks to be amongst the league’s best as usual. The offensive line will have their work cut out for them trying to defend Von Miller. I do believe this is the most winnable game of the three on this list, as it will be played in Indianapolis, and Denver doesn’t have a clear cut quarterback.

If the Colts want to reverse the result of their last matchup they must find a way to get the ball out of Luck’s hands quickly. Denver’s defense is not a defense you want to hold on the ball and take chances down the field against, keeping the ball moving down the field in a balanced offense and converting on third downs will be the key to victory.

Week 10: Pittsburgh Steelers

Last matchup: 2016, Steelers defeat Colts 28-7 in Indianapolis

The Colts will play their annual “get dismantled by Pittsburgh game” on November 12th. Despite retirement talk from Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are aiming to make the playoffs again this season. Their offense has been the mismatch in recent memory, with Antonio Brown seeming impossible to cover, and Le’veon Bell running wild. With these players making it look easy, it has put extra pressure on the offense, which has led to turnovers - and the game getting ugly fast.

Although I don’t believe the Colts will win the game, it is going to be played at home. During the two previous meetings, Andrew Luck has been injured. If he is able to play this year, the Colts will always have a chance.

The key to victory however, will not be on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Ballard’s retooled defense will have their biggest challenge of the season. Pressuring Roethlisberger and knocking him off his usual rhythm will be most important. It’s not likely that the Colts will stop the Steelers offense, but if they can limit it then they will have a shot at a victory.

Week 4: @ Seattle Seahawks

Last matchup: 2013, Colts defeat Seahawks 34-28 in Indianapolis

This is the toughest matchup on the Colts schedule in 2017. Outside of the Seahawks being a perennial Super Bowl contender, Andrew Lucks health will be a major factor in this game. If Luck does miss a game or two to start the season then he may have some serious rust heading into the game. On the other hand, if Luck starts the season opening day against the Rams then he could be just finding his groove.

Outside of Luck’s health, the key to victory will be on the front seven of the Colts. Seattle does not have a great offensive line or receiving core. Limiting the running game and keeping Russell Wilson inside the pocket could help Indianapolis find success. Offensively speaking, Andrew must take what the defense gives him. The Seahawks have a very opportunistic defense, multiple turnovers in a hostile environment do not mix well.

I see the Colts finishing 1-2 in these three games, with a win against Denver. The schedule makers were generous to Indianapolis this season as their tough games are spread out through the season. Finding a way to win these games could go a long way in the development of the young team, and could catapult them to a playoff run.