Only three franchises in NFL history since the league went to a 16-game schedule have finished 8-8 for three consecutive seasons. Wil Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts avoid that same fate in 2017? Here are my projections for the Colts’ likely results.
The Indianapolis Colts have been nothing if not consistent. In quarterback Andrew Luck’s first three seasons in the NFL, from 2012-14, he stayed healthy and the Colts finished 11-5 each year and made the playoffs. In the past two seasons, Luck has not been able to stay healthy and the Colts finished 8-8 in each, missing the playoffs.
Since the advent of the 16-game regular-season schedule in 1978, the only other teams with three straight 8-8 seasons are the Green Bay Packers (1983-85), Houston/Tennessee Oilers (1996-98) and Dallas Cowboys (2011-13). If Indy goes 8-8 again in 2017, Coach Chuck Pagano will not be around in 2018.
Pagano enters on the hot seat because he wasn’t hired by new GM Chris Ballard. The Colts’ best offseason move was dumping former GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons – five wasted seasons because Luck was on his cheap rookie contract in those and yet Grigson couldn’t build a competent defense or offensive line around one of the NFL’s most talented QBs. Ballard was formerly the director of player personnel for the Chiefs. Pagano and Grigson had a long-running feud that played a role in Grigson's firing. I’m sure Ballard will give Pagano every chance to succeed, but GMs generally like to hire their own head coaches.
The Colts have one nice advantage entering 2017: the easiest schedule in the NFL. Their opponents had a combined winning percentage of just .424 last year. Indy is a +225 favorite to win the AFC South, which is most likely going to be the league’s weakest overall division again.
Colts 2017 Win Total At SBR’s Top Sportsbooks: 8.5
Capper’s Projected Record: 8-8
Colts Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.
The Colts have started the past two seasons at 0-2, but that shouldn’t happen again. That lousy Indy defense catches a break in opening vs. one of the league’s most anemic offenses. The Colts are -3.5 in NFL betting. WIN
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, Arizona, 1 p.m.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is a former Colts offensive coordinator; Arians led the Colts to a 9-3 record as interim head coach when Pagano was battling cancer in 2012. WIN
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Andrew Luck vs. Brock Osweiler? Cody Kessler? Kevin Hogan? A loss here would be unacceptable for Indy. WIN
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, at Seattle, 8:30 p.m.
Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Seattle’s Russell Wilson was selected No. 75 overall. Which would you rather have? This looks to be the first game where Indy might have to deal with some weather. LOSS
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, San Francisco, 1 p.m.
Now you see why Indy’s 2017 schedule is rated as the easiest. Rams, Browns and now 49ers within the first five weeks. Colts need to start 4-1 before things get tougher. WIN
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 16, at Tennessee, 8:30 p.m.
Four of the last five meetings between the Colts and Titans in Nashville have come down to one possession. It was a 34-26 Indianapolis win in 2016. LOSS
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
The Colts have won four straight home games in this series. Indy closed last season with a 24-20 home victory over the Jags. WIN
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Last meeting between teams was a 27-0 Colts home win in 2014. Indy has taken nine of the past 11 vs. Cincinnati overall. LOSS
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 5, at Houston, 1 p.m.
The Colts had no right losing in Houston last year, blowing a 23-9 lead with three minutes left but falling 26-23 in OT. LOSS
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Ben Roethlisberger tends to torch the Colts, and the Steelers have won the past three in the series by a combined score of 124-51. LOSS
Week 11: BYE
Probably a later bye than the team would prefer.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
The Colts have won 11 in a row against the Titans, which is a rising franchise. Indy won 24-17 last year at home, jumping out to an early 21-0 lead. WIN
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Last year in Week 4, the Jags hosted the Colts in London and won 30-27. That was Jacksonville’s second straight “home” win in series. LOSS
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Not likely to be too warm out in Buffalo this time of year. Two years ago, the Colts opened up the season there and lost 27-14 on a nice day. LOSS
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 14, Denver, 8:25 p.m.
Short week for Indy off back-to-back road games. The Colts and Broncos meet for the fifth year in a row. Indy won 27-24 last year. WIN
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 23, at Baltimore, 4:30 p.m.
Pagano was an assistant under Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh from 2008-11. Indy won last meeting with Ravens 20-13 in 2014. LOSS
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, Houston, 1 p.m.
These teams have combined to win the AFC South the past eight years. The Colts have lost their past two at home in the series (22-17 in 2016) but end that skid here. WINBet On 2017 NFL Futures At SBR’s Top Sportsbooks