Heading out of Week 7, we have hit the first lull in the Indianapolis Colts’ season: the bye week.
Luckily, that also gives me a chance to update how I think the Colts are going to finish this season.
In my initial season outlook, I stated multiple times that the Colts had a top-10 roster in football. While they may not be an overall top-10 team right this second, they are certainly not far behind.
Currently at 4-2, the Colts would be the 7th seed if the regular season ended today. (Yeah, the whole 7-seed thing is weird for me, too.) That means the Colts would be heading back to the playoffs for the first time, post-Andrew Luck.
While it has only been one season since Luck’s retirement, it still feels like such a monumental day that it deserves mention, over a year and a few months later.
Now, time for the previews:
Week 8: at Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are a confusing team. Sometimes, they look great; sometimes, they look like a college team. Matthew Stafford is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league and is surrounded by extremely talented players on offense.
Kenny Golladay is a fringe top-10 wide receiver in the league, and after missing Weeks 1 and 2, the Lions are 2-1 since Golladay’s return. If you don’t believe me that the Lions are a completely different team with Golladay on the field, just look at the numbers: in Weeks 1 and 2, the Lions averaged only 22 points per game; but in the three games that have followed, they are averaging 29.7 points per game.
This game will not be easy. But, I think the Colts defense is able to slow down the Lions offense enough and control the time of possession against the Lions’ poor run defense. The Colts take this one and move on to 5-2.
Week 9: vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Colts benefit here from the NFL’s COVID-related schedule changes. Originally, the Colts would have had to play the Ravens coming off of Baltimore’s bye week, giving them an extra week to prepare. Instead, the Colts get the Ravens fresh off of a game against their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Anytime you get a tough opponent coming off a physical game with their division rival is a benefit.
However, let’s not sugarcoat it. The Ravens are still very good, and if the Colts are going to win, they are going to have to turn this into a defensive slugfest.
Baltimore is still averaging nearly 30 points per game this season, but their offense has not looked the same as last year. Both the Ravens and the Colts have top defenses in the league, and that was before the Ravens added Yannick Ngakoue. Through six weeks, the Ravens currently lead the league in scoring defense, only giving up an average of 17.3 points per game. The Colts are not far behind, giving up only 19.2 points per game and ranking third in total defense. The defense will have to win this game, and while shutting Lamar Jackson down may not be possible, they can certainly slow him down enough to pull out a win.
Bold call. The Colts upset the Ravens, as they stifle Lamar Jackson enough and move to 6-2 on the season.
Week 10: at Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans entered Week 7 undefeated before dropping a close game to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Some may think that they’re overrated because of the lack of competition, but their win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 and their near-comeback in Week 7 against Pittsburgh, showed there was some substance behind the flash.
Derrick Henry is a man amongst boys. It is almost unfair that he is capable of outrunning cornerbacks while also being able to run over linebackers. Ryan Tannehill has carried over all of his success from last season and has not slowed down a bit. He tallied an 85.5 QBR through five weeks. For reference, Lamar Jackson led all quarterbacks in QBR last season with an 82.3 overall QBR. Tannehill is good; it is no longer just a phase.
The Titans’ most impressive trait is their ability to score touchdowns in the red zone. Entering Week 7, they converted 78.26% of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns, good enough for third-best in the league.
Playing the Titans on the road, on a short week, after an incredibly difficult match-up vs. the Super Bowl-contending Ravens, is not a good mixture. The Colts drop this one and head to 6-3 on the season.
Week 11: vs. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers looked like an MVP through five weeks of the 2020 NFL season. However, in Week 6, the Buccaneers brought him back down to Earth. Rodgers is still an excellent QB and the Packers are currently 5-1 for a reason.
This game is a tough matchup for the Colts, as Rodgers has made a habit of tearing apart good defenses. However, if the Colts are going to win, they need to attack where the Packers are most vulnerable: their run defense. The Colts want to run the ball and the Packers struggle to defend the run.
Jonathan Taylor will need to have a big game in this one, and I think it can happen. The Colts show they are a team to be reckoned with, as they knock off the Packers and move on to 7-3.
Week 12: vs. Tennessee Titans
Facing a division opponent twice within three weeks is always difficult for both teams. However, it is even more difficult to beat a division rival in that same frequency. The Colts get to play this game at home, coming off a big win over the Packers in Week 11.
I think the Colts get off to a quick start in this game and are able to steal the Titans’ game plan. Run the ball, control the time of possession, play good defense, and win special teams.
Philip Rivers does just enough to get the job done, and the Colts are able to move on to 8-3 on the season.
Week 13: at Houston Texans
Moving on from one division opponent, to another. The Houston Texans may not be what they were last season, but having Deshaun Watson cancels out a lot of the other faults that may be found on this roster.
COVID has made road games in the NFL less of a concern for top-tier teams, but playing a division rival on the road is still never easy. The Texans are one of those teams that, at any moment, can play with the league’s best. In a home game against a difficult Colts team within the division, I see the Texans stepping up and playing for pride.
As long as the Texans don’t trade away their entire roster at the deadline, they will still be competitive late in the season. With that said, I see the Texans pulling off the upset here, dropping the Colts to 8-4.
Week 14: at Las Vegas Raiders
Luckily for the Colts in this simulation, they lost the week prior, so they won’t have the luxury of overlooking the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Raiders, however, can still play with the best of the best on any given night. Las Vegas has a very good offensive line. So, between their running game with Josh Jacobs, and Derek Carr having an excellent season, the Raiders are a legit threat to make the postseason. I think, in this game, they show that, as they take on a Colts team that will be on the road for the second straight week.
The Raiders hand the Colts their second loss in a row, bringing the Colts down to 8-5 on the season.
Week 15: vs. Houston Texans
Finally back home. After a short but difficult road trip, the Colts get a chance to take revenge on the Texans. As mentioned earlier, the Texans have an excellent QB who masks many faults with their roster. However, in Week 15, the Colts play up to their potential and take care of the Texans easily.
It is never easy to beat a divisional opponent twice in a season, especially when you’re playing on the road. The Colts learned this lesson the hard way in Week 13 to the Texans. The Texans find out the same thing when the Colts beat them swiftly at home.
Indianapolis takes care of business and gets back on the winning track at 9-5 on the season.
Week 16: at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Colts will be looking for revenge in this game. The Steelers’ loss last season seemingly turned everything around for the Colts last year, and not in a good way. Heading into the Week 9 matchup in the 2019 season, the Colts were 5-2. Following a close loss to the Steelers, the Colts went on a 2-7 run to end the season.
The worst part is that, even with all that happened in the game last season — between Jacoby Brissett getting injured, and a Brian Hoyer 96-yard pick-six — the Colts were still right there, losing only 26-24.
2020 is a different season, however, and while the Colts are a better team this season, so are the Steelers. Heinz Field has always been a tough place to play, and historically, the Colts have not had major success there. I don’t see that changing in 2020, as the Colts drop this game to fall to 9-6 on the season.
Week 17: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
This game may very well have serious playoff implications. The Colts have a very good chance to make the playoffs at 10-6, but at 9-7, it may be tough. Even with the seven-team conference bracket this year, the Colts will likely need to win this game to secure a playoff spot.
Luckily for the Colts, they get the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, the Jaguars beat the Colts in Week 1, but in five games since then, the Jaguars have shown the league what they really are. And, that is, not a good football team. When you have a division game such as this with playoffs on the line, you have to throw records out the window. But, I don’t think it matters in this scenario, as the Jaguars have not beaten the Colts in Indianapolis in either of the last two seasons.
The Colts get payback for a surprising Week 1 loss and move to 10-6 on the season, likely securing a playoff spot for this Colts team.
(Featured Image Credit: Indianapolis Colts)