A Case for Colts Optimism
Last week around this time I asked if there were any masochists among us? New question this week: Are there any optimists in our readership?
For the optimists out there, if you exist, it was a very tough Week 6. As Thomas Butler Guerrero eloquently outlined, over the course of just a few days the Colts extended their losing streak in Jacksonville to nine, lost rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson to a season-ending shoulder surgery and saw stalwart defensive tackle Grover Stewart suspended for six games.
It feels like yet another lost season already. Colts fans were allowed a brief glimmer of hope in the talented Richardson, only to have it snatched away just as quickly.
Now what? The consensus seems to suggest that this team is too good to plummet completely in the standings landing it a prized 2024 draft slot, but not good enough to contend in any serious way in the AFC.
It’s hard to argue with that analysis, but the Colts and the optimists have one key factor on their side - the schedule.
Just at a glance, the schedule looks pretty light. The numbers bear this feeling out. Based on all 32 teams projected Vegas win totals, the Colts boast the third-easiest schedule in the league.
As 107.5 The Fan radio host and writer Kevin Bowen has been saying, most of these matchups look like “coin-toss” games that could go either way. The only insurmountable matchup, on paper, might be at Cincinnati in Week 14, but even the Bengals have had their struggles this year.
Now, a favorable slate can’t transform an average team into a Super Bowl contender, true, but maybe heading into the 2024 offseason after a respectable playoff push with young players accumulating experience in meaningful games along the way wouldn’t constitute a totally wasted season.
Maybe the optimists are delusional. Time will tell.
Either way, let’s take a look at the remaining Colts schedule:
Week 7 vs. Cleveland Brown
I will grant you a matchup with the NFL’s best defense is not a favorable one off the heels of a 3-interception game from Gardner Minshew. On the other hand, former Colt P.J. Walker is no Tom Brady at quarterback, and even if he’s cleared to play, Deshaun Watson doesn’t strike fear into opposing defenses the way he used to.
Week 8 vs. New Orleans Saints
The Saints fought valiantly in the second half against the Jaguars on Thursday night at home, but you are what your record says you are. Week 8 gives the Colts a home contest against a team that is currently 3-4. It would be nice to get some revenge on Derek Carr, the man who initiated the late 2021 Colts collapse.
Week 9 at Carolina Panthers
To put it simply, a road game against the worst team in the NFL.
Week 10 at New England Panthers (Germany)
The Colts get the hated Patriots on the road, but not really. The Week 10 matchup will take place at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany. This one looks very winnable against the worst New England outfit Bill Belichick has ever commanded.
Week 11 - Bye
Week 12 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This one could be tough. Baker Mayfield has exceeded expectations and seems to be leading a fairly competent group in Tampa. With that said, these Bucs are above average, yes, but not Super Bowl contenders.
Week 13 at Tennessee Titans
A divisional matchup is always tough on the road, but the Colts have already defeated this group this year in a game led mostly by Gardner Minshew.
Week 14 at Cincinnati Bengals
It’s hard to say what the Bengals will look like in Week 14. It does seem they’ve righted the ship a bit after a slow start. Even the optimists will admit likely defeat here in the Queen City.
Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Indianapolis hasn’t beat Pittsburgh since 2008, but these aren’t your father’s or even older brother’s Steelers. Kenny Pickett hasn’t yet taken the second-year leap at quarterback. The Colts should have a decent chance to end the Pittsburgh losing streak here at home.
Week 16 at Atlanta Falcons
On paper, the Falcons have a lot of talented offensive weapons at their disposal. Too bad none of those weapons plays quarterback. Atlanta currently sits at 3-3.
Week 17 vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Jimmy Garoppolo might be destined for another injury-riddled campaign. Purdue fans here in Central Indiana love Aidan O’Connell. The Colts would love to see him start in Week 17.
Week 18 vs. Houston Texans
Yes, CJ Stroud looks like the real deal, but the Colts handled this Texans unit in Week 2 on the road with Minshew playing the bulk of the game. Fingers crossed this contest has playoff implications instead of draft-positioning implications this time around.