In case you all thought I was just wallowing in the misery of the Reds 'ace' giving up 5 runs and losing a 'stopper' game to a hack like Ryan Dempster, the truth is that I've been sick for a couple of days. Because of that, I was utterly incapable of commenting on the release of the 2008 schedule. As a couple of astute readers already pointed out, the ebbs and flows of the league from year to year ensure that few stats are as meaningless as 'preseason' strength of schedule. This link from ESPN shows just how irrelevant the hand wringing is. The Horse has a brutal run on paper again this year, but some of those teams they play will regress. There are a couple of rules that serve to help us understand just about every Colts' season:
1. They will win at least 12 games
2. They will win the AFC South
3. They will go at least 7-1 at home (unless they have have another give up game)
4. They will win their first 6-8 games in a row.
5. All predictions are based on Freeney and Harrison being healthy.
Keeping these rules in mind is critical for spotting the potential pitfalls on the way.
Here's a game by game look at what 2008 will likely bring:
Week 1: Bears - Win (by a lot)
The first of several prime time games will invariably feature John Madden commenting that Rex Grossman fumbled because of "freakishly small hands".
Week 2: @Vikings - Win
Run D isn't the problem for the Colts that it used to be, and I trust Tavaris Jackson about as far as he can throw himself. That's an unnecessarily awkward way of saying, "He sucks, we win by 2 TDs."
Week 3: Jholes - Win
No team did less to help itself fix what was really broken than the Jags. Their defense was not good last year, and they did nothing but lose players. Their wide receiver additions are hilarious. They are heading back to 8-8, 9-7 territory
Week 4: @Texans - Win
This might be a tougher game than in years past (though they usually put up a fight at home), but I like the Colts coming off the bye week.
Week 5: Baltimore - Win
Remember when this was a scary game?
Week 6: @Packers - Win
This is one of those classic 'looks tough on paper until you remember that Brett Favre just retired' games. It seems there's one every year.
Week 7: @Titans - Win
As we've repeatedly shown, the Titans win in spite of VY. Unless he gets hurt before this game, they are going down at home on Monday night.
Week 8: Patriots - Win
I must admit that I hate playing them on a short week, but I think that a healthy Colts team is better than a healthy Pats team, so I'm picking them here.
Week 9: @Steelers - Loss
I don't think the Steelers are that good, but this game has bad weather/bad field written all over it. The '72 Dolphins rest easy.
Week 10: Texans - Win
No way the Texans win at Indy. Never happened, never will as long as #18 is upright.
Week 11: @Chargers - Win
Listen, I don't get the 'Phil Rivers has arrived' talk. He played a courageous game against NE in the playoffs...but he also sucked. He left the game at RCA with his team trailing. It was Billy Volek who won that game. So what has Phil Rivers done? He beat a mediocre Titans club and sucked at NE. . . oooh scary. I also scoff at the whole 'Chargers have the Colts number thing'. They won a game so long ago, that SD doesn't even have the same coach/QB anymore and two of the weirdest games ever last year. This team doesn't scare me at all.
Week 12- @Browns - Win
Perhaps no team will be as hilariously disappointing as Cleveland next year. All you had to do was watch them last year to see that they were frauds. Romeo Crenell got one of the least deserved and most franchise crushing contract extensions in history. This club will be in the crapper for about 3 more years.
Week 13- Bengals - Win
This team has fallen hard and fast.
Week 14- Lions - Win
Week 15- @Jholeville - Loss
I don't like the set up here. The Jags will be needing this to stay alive in the wild card hunt, and are playing at home on a short week. The Colts should have most everything sown up by this point, so this one smells.
Week 16 - Titans-???
So here's the magic question again: to rest or not to rest? The Colts and Bucs (two teams that rested starters last year) lost their first playoff games, thus renewing the moronic call to play every game all the way through. Everyone forgets that both teams came out blazingly fast in those games. I'm a believer that it doesn't much matter. In the new NFL, home playoff games are increasingly unimportant in terms of knowing who will win. If I had to guess, I'd say the Colts sit everyone down again, as the Titans eek out a narrow win that eliminates the Jags from playoff contention.
Final record 13-3.
I know. They went 13-3 last year too, so it seems like chalk. That's the thing about the Colts under Dungy. They are going to win between 12 and 14 games, so 13 seems like as good a number as any. Worst case, they go 11-5. Best case, they run the table (although ask a Pats player if they really think that is a 'best case' scenario anymore!)
Here's a list of (mostly) schedule related reading:
John Clayton talks about how tough the AFC North has it. I'm telling you, it's going to be a looong season in Cleveland.
DJ Gallo picks the top 40 games of the year. Number XI is priceless. He seems to think that Pats game is a big deal. Wonder why?
Don Banks (like everyone else) likes the Colts Pats the best, and also tries to drum up a non-existent controversy about the Colts-Browns.
FO looks back at the '02 draft. We did pretty well in that one.
Does this story scare anyone else? Other than maybe Mark Cuban when has the phrase "hands on owner" ever been a good thing?
Here's an old article that just came to me. Check out the photos too. It makes me feel sick to see the old park that way. I'll never forget seeing Billy Moore get the championship winning hit in '86 or Razor Shines play his last game. My favorite Bush memory is watching an exhibition game with the Reds. Deion Sanders led off with a walk, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch. He was the fastest man I've ever seen. His acceleration was freakish. He was also much larger than I would have guessed. Thanks Chad, for the links (and for going to a lot of those games with me!).
Demond Sanders: I mostly agree with your picks and reasoning. Obviously it is a little dangerous making picks when we don't yet know whether two of Indy's highly compensated super stars will even take the field at 100% in 2008. However, I agree that we have to approach the season as if Harrison and Freeney will be back to normal. If that pair plays the entire season I think the Colts will finish 15-1 or 14-2. They'll fire bomb the Patriots at home if they have everyone at their disposal. I'd figure them to lose to the Steelers and maybe the Jags. I think they'll win XLIII next February.
Remember logic would dictate that this team should be much improved from 2007. They won't have as many injuries. Key players at OT, WR, CB, LB, and DT will have much more experience. If Polian can solve some minor issues at RB and DE depth this will be a team that we talk about for a long, long time. It's been tossed around many times before, but don't be surprised if we finally see the the return of Raheem Brock to Defensive End. Also, I'm starting to favor using an early-ish pick on a pass-catching back.