Colts rank 31st in 2015 schedule strength

The AFC South champions move up only one spot from NFL season before because of division's weak overall records.

The NFL’s 2015 regular-season schedule will be announced in about two months, but this much is known about what’s next for the Indianapolis Colts.

Based on the winning percentages from this past season, the Colts have the second-easiest schedule next season. That’s up one spot from the previous year’s ranking.

Now that doesn’t typically pan out for some teams, but it is a reflection of the Colts being AFC South Division champions. Playing six games each season against the Houston Texans (9-7), Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) and Tennessee Titans (2-14) has agreed with the Colts, who have gone 11-5 each of the past three years and own a 13-game division win streak.

Unfortunately, the lack of balance in the division also typically leads to skepticism about the Colts’ validity as a Super Bowl contender. Well, that and losing by double digits each of the past two playoffs at New England (45-7 and 43-22).

While the Texans made significant progress from a 2-14 season in 2013, the demise of the Jaguars and Titans will continue to have a negative impact on perception about the Colts until those teams get better.

In addition to playing those teams three times home and away, the Colts will host the Patriots, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers while traveling to the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.

The 2014 winning percentages of the Colts’ 2015 opponents is .417 (106-149-1). Only Atlanta at .409 (104-150-2) is worst.

Prior to the 2014 season, the Colts’ strength of schedule ranked the easiest of the NFL’s 32 teams, again, because the AFC South was down — the Titans were 7-9, Jaguars 4-12 and Texans 2-14 in 2013. So the AFC South combined records were worse in 2013 (24-40) than in 2014 (25-39).

For those keeping track, the Colts play the AFC East and NFC South divisions this season in addition to intraconference games against AFC West champion Denver and AFC North champion Pittsburgh.

The conference opponent schedule is predetermined and rotates each year. For example, the Colts played the AFC North and NFC East last season with intraconference games against AFC East champion New England and AFC West champion Denver.

In 2016, the Colts will play the AFC West (Chiefs, Chargers at home, Broncos, Raiders away) and NFC North (Bears, Lions at home, Packers, Vikings away). In 2017, the Colts will play the AFC North again (Browns, Steelers at home, Ravens, Bengals away) and NFC West (Cardinals, 49ers home, Rams, Seahawks away).

The 2015 regular season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 10, and concludes on Jan. 3, 2016.

Super Bowl 50 (yeah, no roman numerals this year) will be Feb. 7, 2016, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Here’s the ranking of NFL teams’ strength of schedules for 2015:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 147-107-2, .579

2. Cincinnati Bengals: 144-112, .563

3. San Francisco 49ers: 143-112-1, .561

4. Seattle Seahawks: 142-112-2, .559

5. Arizona Cardinals:142-113-1, .557

6. St. Louis Rams: 141-114-1, .553

T-7. Oakland Raiders: 139-116-1, .545

T-7. Kansas City Chiefs: 139-116-1, .545

9. Cleveland Browns: 138-116-2, .543

10. Denver Broncos: 138-117-1, .541

11. Baltimore Ravens: 137-117-2, .539

12. Minnesota Vikings: 138-118, .539

13. Chicago Bears: 136-120, .531

14. Green Bay Packers: 135-120-1, .529

15. Detroit Lions: 135-121, .527

16. San Diego Chargers: 132-123-1, .518

17. Miami Dolphins: 126-130, .492

18. New York Jets: 125-131, .488

19. Buffalo Bills: 124-131-1, .486

T-20. Washington Redskins: 122-133-1, .478

T-20. New York Giants: 122-133-1, .478

22. New England Patriots: 122-134, .477

23. Philadelphia Eagles: 121-134-1, .475

24. Dallas Cowboys: 119-136-1, .467

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: 118-137-1, .463

26. Tennessee Titans: 111-144-1, .435

27. Carolina Panthers: 111-145, .434

28. New Orleans Saints: 109-145-2, .429

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 108-146-2, .425

30. Houston Texans: 106-148-2, .417

31. Indianapolis Colts: 106-149-1, .417

32. Atlanta Falcons: 104-150-2, .409

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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