The 2020 NFL regular season is fast approaching. With that in mind, Last Word on Pro Football is currently analyzing the schedules of all 32 teams. Whether or not the season goes on as scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic remains to be seen. But it definitely brings a sense of normalcy to discuss each team’s slate of games as if it will. Here are the Indianapolis Colts easiest games of the 2020 season.
Indianapolis Colts Easiest Games in 2020
Week 5: at Cleveland Browns
It was tempting to group this Week 5 clash with the Browns into the eight most difficult games. The team appears to have improved in the off-season, giving quarterback Baker Mayfield some added protection by signing tackle Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42 million deal. They further bolstered the offensive line by drafting Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills 10th overall. The secondary also received a boost with Cleveland’s selection in round two of Grant Delpit out of LSU, a school known for producing Pro Bowl-caliber defensive backs. Why this game ends up on the easy side of the schedule is the simple fact that it’s the Browns. Most of us are well-aware of their history since they rejoined the league. Last year, they were supposed to take the league by storm and they ended up finishing 6-10. Until they prove they’re a legit contender in the AFC, it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Week 15: vs Houston Texans
Since the Texans arrived as an expansion team in 2002, the Colts have pretty much owned them. They own a 28-9 all-time record which includes a 15-3 mark at home. With the retirement of Andrew Luck and the stellar play of Deshaun Watson, Houston emerged as the AFC South’s top team during the 2019 regular season. But they suffered a significant loss in the off-season by trading uber-talented wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. As a result of that transaction, they received a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft which they used to draft defensive tackle Ross Blacklock out of TCU. And they also acquired running back David Johnson who appears to be in decline. Even with an aging quarterback in Philip Rivers, this home contest is winnable.
Week 4: at Chicago Bears
These two franchises, separated by a relatively short drive on I-65, have a unique history. They met in Super Bowl XLI with the Colts emerging victorious, giving team legend Peyton Manning his first Vince Lombardi Trophy. Fast forward to 2020 and Indy is commanded behind center by another future Hall of Famer (albeit sans a Super Bowl ring) in Rivers. He’ll obviously be in for a challenge at Soldier Field having to deal with a formidable pass rush led by five-time Pro Bowler Khalil Mack. But the Bears have significant questions at quarterback. Mitch Trubisky is approaching bust territory and new arrival Nick Foles is coming off an essentially lost season after he suffered a broken collarbone in the Jacksonville Jaguars opening game last year. This is a game where defensive players such as Darius Leonard can help lead the Colts to a road victory.
Week 1: at Jacksonville Jaguars
It wasn’t long ago when Jacksonville echoed what their AFC South rival Tennessee Titans did last year. In the 2017 playoffs, they too came within a win of a Super Bowl appearance after winning in the wild card and divisional rounds. Things have certainly changed for the worse since then. The Jags have gone a combined 11-21 over the past two seasons, finishing dead last in the division each year. But club owner Shad Khan retained head coach Doug Marrone and he returns for what’s likely a make or break year for him. Gardner Minshew had his moments as a rookie quarterback in place of the injured Foles. So it looks like the starting job is his to lose. He does have some legit weapons to throw to including Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark, Chris Conley, and even running back Leonard Fournette whose 522 receiving yards were fifth-best among NFL running backs last year. Nevertheless, this season-opening clash is an ideal matchup for the Colts as a means towards opening the 2020 campaign on a good note.
Week 8: at Detroit Lions
Much like the aforementioned Marrone, Lions head coach Matt Patricia is under a lot of pressure in 2020. He’s coming off a highly lackluster 3-12-1 season which ensured that during both of his seasons at the helm, Detroit finished last in the NFC North. Getting out of the cellar won’t be easy in one of the more competitive divisions in pro football. This matchup will pit two veteran signal-callers in Rivers and Matthew Stafford. Stafford was less mistake-prone last year as he threw just five interceptions compared to Rivers 20. But he also managed a meager 19 touchdown passes which were the lowest since his second year in the league back in 2010 when he played in just three games due to injury. Rivers will likely have to contend with third overall pick Jeffrey Okudah who, like many former Ohio State Buckeyes, should make an immediate impact. But like the Bears game, this short road trip has the potential to result in success.
Week 3: vs New York Jets
The second of two straight home games early in the season, this tussle with the Jets is a great opportunity for the Colts to start the season well. Though Gang Green is coming off a respectable 7-9 season, their road struggles are well-documented. In fact, since Sam Darnold assumed the helm as the team’s starting quarterback, they’ve dropped 12 of 16 games away from home. Nevertheless, he is primed for improvement in 2020 since the Jets made it a point to shore up the line in front of him during the off-season. They signed George Fant and Connor McGovern to contracts at an average of $9 million per year. And they also added Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton with the 11th pick of the 2020 draft. But not all Jets fans are highly sold on head coach Adam Gase. So it remains to be seen whether this team will make progress or regress this coming season.
Week 17: vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Indy’s regular season concludes with them welcoming the Jags to Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts own a 7-3 record at home against this fellow AFC South foe since 2010, so expectations associated with chalking up a W should be high. And the fact this game occurs on the final week of the season brings with it certain quirks. If you’re of the opinion that the Jags won’t be a playoff contender in 2020, this becomes a meaningless game for them. And this season is undoubtedly the start of Rivers’ last hurrah in the NFL so it remains a question mark as to whether the Colts will contend as well. That could make it doubly meaningless. And perhaps Rivers sits out. But Jacoby Brissett was reliable at times last year and is completely capable of leading this team to victory in the season finale.
Week 6: vs Cincinnati Bengals
In recent years, the Browns would occupy this slot. In 2020, the other Ohio NFL team will figure prominently as the easiest game on many a team this season. There is a lot of excitement about the future with the Bengals taking Joe Burrow first overall in this year’s draft. And he has an ideal head coach to learn from with Zac Taylor having a reputation as a so-called quarterback whisperer. Having said that, there are likely going to be growing pains during his rookie season. There is a steep learning curve associated with becoming a regular starting quarterback in the NFL. And morphing into a franchise quarterback further requires a prodigious work ethic. This year’s “Battle of I-74” will be a quarterbacking clash between a grizzled veteran and an inexperienced rookie. For that and other reasons, expect the Colts to prevail rather convincingly in Week 6.