It might only be April, but it is never too early to start looking towards next season.
After going to the playoffs for back-to-back seasons and benefiting from fairly easy schedules, the Colts face tough opponents in 2014 and will be tested nearly every week.
In the upcoming season, the Colts find themselves playing each AFC division winner, the AFC North and the NFC East. Don’t forget two teams in their division – Houston and Jacksonville – have top-three picks in the draft and could be dramatically improved.
The Colts are in many marquee games next season, but here are five of them we’re looking forward to.
Denver Broncos (13-3 last season):
This may have been the biggest regular-season game in the entire league last season.
Peyton Manning’s first return to Indianapolis since being released, Andrew Luck facing “The Sheriff” for the first time – the headlines could go on for days.
The game lived up to expectations, and the Colts gave the Broncos their first loss of the season in a 39-33 week-seven victory.
This game won’t come with as much hype considering it will be played in Denver, however- it will still be a highly anticipated game between two of the best teams in the AFC.
New England Patriots (12-4 last season):
This matchup has been one of the premier rivals of this decade, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.
The rivalry continued in the second-round of the playoffs when the Patriots blew out the Colts in Gillette Stadium by the score of 43-22.
It’s safe to assume these teams will stay on top of the AFC for years to come, and anytime they meet up will be a big deal. The Colts will be looking for revenge at home against the team that ended their season and the Patriots will look to continue their overall success against the Colts since Peyton Manning’s departure.
Washington Redskins (3-13 last season):
This could look like an odd matchup to have among the top for the Colts next year, but there is a special factor about this game that will create huge buzz: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III (RG3). The two quarterbacks were taken first and second – respectively – in the 2012 NFL draft and they have been compared to each other since their college days.
In 2011 RG3 won the Heisman trophy and in 2012 won NFL Rookie of the Year. So although Luck may have been the first one drafted, RG3 has beaten him out in individual awards.
Luck won’t act like this matchup is a big deal, but surly he would enjoy crushing him in their first head-to-head meeting in the NFL.
It should be noted – while meaning nothing – that the two teams met against each other in the third week of the 2012 preseason. The Redskins enjoyed a 30-17 home victory.
The Colts will be home for this game.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5 last season):
The Colts and Bengals are two of the better young teams in the league. Late last season, the Colts went to Cincinnati where they were run off the field in a 42-28 loss.
The Bengals have lost their offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching jobs this offseason, but that shouldn’t stop them from remaining near the top of the AFC. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this meeting in Indianapolis holds playoff-seeding implications.
Philadelphia Eagles (10-6 last season):
It might not be a matchup that naturally pops off the screen for most people, but this should be a big game against two teams that were in the playoffs last season.
There are many other games that could have been mentioned instead of this game – Cowboys, Steelers or Ravens – but the fact that the Eagles went to the playoffs in the first year of a new regime should give them the nod. Luck, RG3 and Russell Wilson get most of the talk from the 2012 quarterbacks, but Nick Foles is right there with them. After relieving Michael Vick of his starting duties during the season, Foles was thrown into the fire and helped carry the Eagles into the postseason.
This will be another game at home for the Colts in which they will want to make a statement.
It has been some time since these teams met each other. The last game happened in Philadelphia during the 2010 season, when the Eagles won 26-24.
List of Colts’ 2014 Opponents:
Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins
Away: Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans.