The NFL unveiled its 2022 regular season schedule, and the Indianapolis Colts now know how their games will exactly line up within the AFC South, as well as against the AFC West and NFC East this year (with games against the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Minnesota Vikings also sprinkled in):
My initial thoughts are that the Colts must get off to a hot start, which has historically been problematic for a franchise that has gone 0-8 in consecutive regular season openers.
The Colts visit the permanently ‘Deshaun Watson-less’ rebuilding Houston Texans in Week 1, which should certainly help their winning cause, and then the league’s worst team last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars (although Indianapolis hasn’t won in Jacksonville since 2014). That being said, new veteran starter Matt Ryan is 4-0 against the Jaguars in his career and could be the good luck charm the Colts need to finally end the shocking drought in the franchise’s personal house of horrors, TIAA Bank Field.
There’s still some challenging games early: the always dangerous Kansas City Chiefs under Patrick Mahomes (although no Tyreek Hill anymore, who was traded to South Beach) in Week 3; the Tennessee Titans (twice, in Weeks 4 and 7), where the Colts realistically need to at least split the season series to reclaim the AFC South; the now Russell Wilson-led Denver Broncos on the road in Week 5 for Thursday Night Football, but still some winnable matchups to help offset them (as Carson Wentz’s Washington Commanders are sprinkled in there as he returns to Indianapolis for a potential, yet unlikely ‘revenge game’ during Week 8).
That being said, to me, Weeks 9-13 are really ‘sink or swim’ time for the Colts with consecutive matchups against: at New England (Week 9), at Las Vegas Raiders (Week 10), Philadelphia Eagles (Week 11), Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 12) on Monday Night Football, and at Dallas Cowboys (Week 13) in ‘Jerry’s World’ on Sunday Night Football before heading into a much needed bye week after that gauntlet of a stretch of games.
All five of those aforementioned teams were playoff squads last year with winning records, meaning the Colts must remain around at least .500 during that challenging 5 game span near midseason to stay afloat in the AFC playoff hunt.
Then things get a little easier to close out the season, as the biggest threat appears to be a Monday Night home showing against Justin Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16 right after Christmas, but otherwise, the Colts face a decent but not great Minnesota Vikings team (8-9 last year) in Week 15 on the road, and two very winnable games against both the New York Giants (4-13 last year) on the road in Week 17 and the Houston Texans (4-13 last year) at home in the season finale.
Bottomline, the Colts need to take care of business against their weaker rivals in the AFC South—as there’s four very winnable games against both the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, and then some other favorable matchups against the Washington Commanders (7-10 last year) and New York Giants (4-13 last year), which is six wins already.
If they can hold their own against their other tougher opponents, there’s a clear path to getting at least 10 regular season wins, securing an AFC playoff spot, and potentially becoming kings of the AFC South again—which the Colts have not surprisingly won since 2014.