The 2020 NFL regular season is fast approaching. With that in mind, Last Word on Pro Football is analyzing the schedules of all 32 teams. Though the current COVID-19 pandemic could impact how the season ultimately pans out in terms of all scheduled games being played, it can’t hurt to take a look at the schedules as currently constructed. Here, the Indianapolis Colts most difficult games of the 2020 regular season are the focus.
Indianapolis Colts Most Difficult Games in 2020
Week 9: vs Baltimore Ravens
Road games always present unique challenges of their own. But make no mistake about it. The Colts’ toughest test in 2020 comes in Week 9 when the Ravens make the trip to Lucas Oil Stadium. After all, this is a team coming off of a league-best 14-2 campaign and is sporting the defending NFL MVP in quarterback Lamar Jackson. The defense, which allowed the third-fewest points per game in 2019, added veteran defensive lineman and reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year, Calais Campbell. As a whole, Baltimore didn’t lose many players to free agency. And they should be motivated given the upset they suffered at the hands of the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs. Needless to say, new arrival and long-time veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is going to have his hands full.
Week 11: vs Green Bay Packers
Yes, the two hardest games on Indy’s 2020 slate are at home. That’s going to make it even more challenging for Frank Reich‘s squad to contend for the postseason, especially with an aging quarterback at the helm. Green Bay obviously has its own veteran signal-caller in Aaron Rodgers. But if 2019 was any indication, the 36-year-old is showing little if any signs of decline. Rodgers led his team to the NFC title game and was one of 11 quarterbacks to eclipse 4,000 yards passing during the regular season. And only him and Drew Brees threw for more than 25 touchdown passes while managing five or fewer interceptions. And the Packers drafting Jordan Love might light a fire under Rodgers as he attempts to win another ring late in his career.
Week 10: at Tennessee Titans
Finally, a road game to discuss. When Andrew Luck was behind center, the Colts owned their AFC South rivals from Tennessee for the most part. The best example came in the final week of the 2018 season when the two teams squared off with the winner qualifying for the playoffs. Indy dominated the Titans en route to a 33-17 victory. But the tables have turned since Luck announced his retirement. Last year, the Titans made an amazing playoff run. They essentially ended Tom Brady‘s Hall of Fame tenure with the New England Patriots, shocked the aforementioned Ravens, and played the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs very competitively. Ryan Tannehill has proven reliable since signing with the club and they also boast arguably the best running back in football, Derrick Henry, who recently signed a massive extension. This excursion to Nissan Stadium won’t be easy.
Week 13: at Houston Texans
Another road clash with an AFC South foe makes this list. Much like the Titans, the Texans made a pretty impressive run in the playoffs last season. They erased a 16-0 deficit against the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card round to ultimately win 22-19 in overtime and got out to a 24-0 lead before a furious comeback by the Kansas City Chiefs the following week. Head coach Bill O’Brien has been widely criticized for letting star wideout DeAndre Hopkins go to the Arizona Cardinals. But this team still boasts an immensely talented and hugely underrated signal-caller in Deshaun Watson. And it should be noted that tight end Darren Fells managed just as many touchdown grabs for the Texans in 2019 as Hopkins (7). There were rumors in recent weeks linking Antonio Brown to the team. And though that could make for a huge distraction given his antics in 2019, there’s no doubting his talent.
Week 2: vs Minnesota Vikings
Another playoff team from last season, the Vikings did lose a formidable weapon in receiver Stefon Diggs who they traded to Buffalo. But they made an effort to fortify their receiving corps via the draft. It included taking Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick. And they still have two-time Pro Bowler Adam Thielen who dealt with a hamstring injury in 2019 but is one of the league’s best pass-catchers when healthy. Kirk Cousins certainly earned the fully guaranteed contract he signed two seasons ago by leading Minnesota to the postseason and finishing with the fourth-best passer rating among starting quarterbacks. The Indianapolis Colts have their work cut out for them to get a W in this early season tussle which is their home opener.
Week 14: at Las Vegas Raiders
It’s the beginning of a new era for the Raiders organization in 2020 as it’s their first in the city of Las Vegas. And they have a legitimate chance to contend for one of the three AFC wild-card spots (assuming the Chiefs take the AFC West once again). The team did a great job bolstering their receiving corps by taking three wideouts in the draft including speedster Henry Ruggs in the first round while also adding Nelson Agholor via free agency. Marcus Mariota also arrived from the Titans as a backup to Derek Carr who’s obviously a polarizing quarterback for Raiders fans. Say what you want about him, he was one of nine NFL signal-callers who finished the 2019 season with a quarterback rating above 100. Indy’s first-ever trip to Vegas could have playoff implications for both teams.
Week 12: vs Tennessee Titans
As mentioned earlier when discussing the road game with the Titans, the Colts unequivocally had Tennessee’s number during the Andrew Luck era. In fact, the Titans only won in Indianapolis just a single time when Luck played for the Colts. But Tennesee defeated them pretty decisively at Lucas Oil Stadium last year as part of a four-game winning streak that made their playoff run possible. This is a team that comes into their 2020 campaign fairly confident after their unlikely playoff push last season. So this is a home game for the Indianapolis Colts that deserves mention among their hardest eight games.
Week 16: at Pittsburgh Steelers
The 2019 season was a bit of a wash for the Steelers after Ben Roethlisberger suffered an injury early in the season. But they still managed to go a respectable 8-8 with both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges starting in Big Ben’s place. Normally, a road game at Heinz Field would show up a lot higher in this ranking. But let’s be honest. Roethlisberger is at the tail end of his career and it’s unclear how effective he’ll be during this upcoming season. That said, they do have some highly talented skill position players including James Conner and Juju Smith-Schuster. And T.J. Watt is emerging as one of the top perimeter pass rushers in the league. If these two veteran signal-callers can continue to summon their best play, this game during the penultimate week of the regular season could have massive playoff implications.