The Indianapolis Colts finished the 2018 season on a 9-1 tear to end up with a 10-6 record and wild-card berth. This is a team with high expectations heading into the 2019 season. The Colts are a well-rounded group with Super Bowl aspirations, led by a high-octane offense and an improving defense. They return all five starters to their dominant offensive line, led by notable blockers like offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, offensive guard Quenton Nelson, and center Ryan Kelly. The team signed veteran wide receiver Devin Funchess and drafted Parris Campbell to add to their pass-catching corps. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is currently nursing an ankle injury, but reports state that he will be ready for Week One. The defense added veteran pass-rusher Justin Houston to an impressive defense led by defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard, linebacker Darius Leonard, and defensive back Malik Hooker. This is a defense that has a chance to be among the best in the National Football League. The Colts have the 24th-most difficult schedule, according to Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule Model. Let’s take a look at the Colts’ most difficult games of the upcoming season.
Indianapolis Colts: Difficult Games of 2019
1. Week 15: @ New Orleans Saints
A trip to the Louisiana Superdome is always a daunting task, but particularly tough on prime-time. The Colts travel to New Orleans late in the season to take on the Saints on Monday Night Football. The Saints remain one of the most balanced teams in football. They have added veteran tight end Jared Cook, who helps fill one of the few holes on this roster. This is the most challenging game of the season for the Colts. It could potentially be a preview of the Super Bowl. Expect a shootout between two of the best offenses in the NFL – this should be one of the most anticipated games of the season.
2. Week 5: @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Colts have another road game against a Super Bowl contender in one of the toughest places to play. The Chiefs will continue to have the most explosive offenses in the NFL. They added even more speed to an already electric receiving corps with the drafting of wide receiver Mecole Hardman. The defense lost pass-rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford, but replaced them with Frank Clark. The Chiefs hired Steve Spagnuolo to be their new defensive coordinator. “Spags” has had success in the past, most notably during his tenure with the New York Giants. We can expect their defense to be improved with this coaching change. This should be another exciting game between two elite teams.
3. Week 9: @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers remain one of the best teams in the AFC. The loss of wide receiver Antonio Brown will end up being addition-by-subtraction because his diva-like attitude was a major distraction for the team in 2018. The offense will continue to be pass-heavy and effective, led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. James Conner showed the league that he can carry the load for the running game. On defense, they drafted play-making linebacker Devin Bush in the first round, filling the void left by the injury to Ryan Shazier. This is going to be a very good defense. The Colts will have a tough time winning this game against another Super Bowl contender.
4. Week 1: @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have a balanced team that could conceivably be one of the league’s best. Their defense is among the best in the NFL, led by pass-rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, as well as defensive backs Casey Hayward and Derwin James. The offense is loaded with weapons, even if running back Melvin Gordon continues to hold out. Quarterback Philip Rivers can throw to stud wide receiver Keenan Allen and red-zone threats Mike Williams and Hunter Henry. The Colts’ offensive line will have their hands full trying to slow down this pass-rush. Hopefully, for their sake, Andrew Luck is ready to go in Week 1.
5. Week 12: @ Houston Texans
The Texans look like the main competition for the Colts in the AFC South. Quarterback Deshaun Watson remains one of the most exciting players at the position. The team has a nice set of weapons with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee to go along with Lamar Miller and Duke Johnson. While the defense could be without Jadeveon Clowney (currently holding out), but as long as they have J.J. Watt, they will remain a force to be reckoned with. A road game against a division rival is always difficult, so even if the Colts remain the favorite to finish first, this is still a tough game for them. They need a big game from Luck to win this one.
6. Week 17: @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags are an improved team with a significant quarterback upgrade from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles. Foles brings calm and poise to this offense – his addition bodes well for young receivers like Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark. The team needs running back Leonard Fournette to stay healthy and help carry the load on offense. The improvement on offense should help make the defense more effective. The defense added pass-rusher Josh Allen to an already loaded unit that includes pass-rushers Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, as well as defensive back Jalen Ramsey. The Jags will be tough to beat, especially at home. However, since this game is in Week 17, there’s a chance that they could be eliminated from contention.
7. Week 13: vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons continue to have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley present a major challenge for this Colts’ defense. The Falcons’ defense also gets linebacker Deion Jones and defensive back Keanu Neal for a full season, so they should be improved there too. The Falcons are definitely a contender in the NFC, but since this game is in Indianapolis, where the Colts are tough to beat, this game is one of the less challenging on this list. Expect a shootout between two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
8. Week 8: vs. Denver Broncos
The Broncos are going to be tough to beat because of their strong defense and running game. Pass-rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are now coached by defensive mastermind Vic Fangio. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are a terrific thunder-and-lightning combination at running back. Quarterback Joe Flacco is a proven winner who can manage the game effectively. The Broncos will be a scrappy team that contends for a wild-card. The Colts should be able to win this game, but Denver is going to limit big plays in the passing game. This has the look of a low-scoring, close game.
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