The Colts open the season today with a new head coach. And while no one has more respect for coach Tony Dungy than me, I don’t think his retirement will hurt the Colts success this season. Remember when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl the year after Dungy was fired? Tony was given and deserved much of the credit for what was already in place to take the Bucs to the top. The Colts are in even better shape than the Bucs were a season after Dungy’s departure.
The team is better than a year ago, deeper and more talented. Peyton Manning is healthy. The offensive line is healthy, with excellent depth. The coaching staff stayed largely intact after Tom Moore and Howard Mudd added “senior” to their titles and worked out their pension plans. The defense has a new coordinator and more size up front to stuff the run. Bob Sanders starts the season on the shelf. But the Colts have gotten used to playing without him.
For all those reasons, I’m picking the Colts to win 12 games again and return to their normal spot as AFC South champions with a strong finish. Here’s the breakdown:
Wins – vs. Jacksonville, vs. Seattle, at St. Louis, vs. San Francisco, vs. Houston, vs. New England, at Houston, vs. Tennessee, vs. Denver, at Jacksonville, vs. New York Jets, at Buffalo
Losses – at Miami, at Arizona, at Tennessee, at Baltimore
The Colts open with a win over the Jaguars today to open the season. Then come tough back-to-back close losses in a tough turnaround Monday night in Miami and in Arizona Sunday night. After an easy win at home over Seattle, the Colts lose at Tennessee. The team is only 2-3 heading to the bye week, winless on the road and Jim Caldwell is facing adversity with this team for the first time.
The schedule lightens up and the Colts get rolling with four straight wins capped by a Sunday night win over the Patriots. The Colts are 6-3 at this point.
The last loss of the regular season comes November 22nd at Baltimore. The Colts are 6-4, looking mediocre trailing Tennessee in the division race. After Thanksgiving, the Colts win 6 straight games going into the playoffs. A win December 6th against the Titans puts the Colts back in the division race. But the Colts must win January 3rd in Buffalo to win the AFC South.
Then come the playoffs. I won’t predict the matchups. But Pittsburgh, Tennessee and San Diego will all be in the picture. I’m guessing the Colts will have to get by the Chargers if they want a shot at the Super Bowl. I don’t consider the Colts a favorite to win it all. But they are a contender.
Another great season, 12-4, undefeated at home and the first playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium. There is much to look forward to this year for Colts fans. Let’s kick it off!
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
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