To read Part One of this analysis, please click here.
Since the Colts have three of their non-conference games and their bye in the first half of the season, the second half will be more active for them and more important to them in terms of seeding for the playoffs — assuming that they win the division — and eligibility for the playoffs if they don't.
Just like in the first half of the season, Indianapolis has three division games, with two of them at home and, probably the toughest one on the schedule, a road contest in Jacksonville.
The lone non-conference game is against the Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium and, while Detroit has shown signs of improvement in the last couple of seasons, they generally fade down the stretch — the Colts play the Lions in Week 15.
The Colts will have their hands full on the road against Pittsburgh
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In their other conference games, two of them are on the road against playoff teams from last year — Pittsburgh and San Diego — and the other non-division road game they have is against Cleveland, a team that narrowly missed the playoffs in 2007 and improved in the offseason.
They open up the second half of the season with three road games out of four, and those are the tough matchups listed above. After they face the Patriots at home in Week 9, the Colts must travel to Pittsburgh, play the Texans at home, then spend the next two weeks on the road against the Chargers, then Browns.
However, the good news is that the schedule is kinder towards the end of the second half, as Indianapolis closes out the season with three road games out four — the lone away game is at Jacksonville in Week 16 — and those three games are against division foes in Houston and Tennessee and the aforementioned non-conference game against the Lions.
Should the Colts stumble through the toughest part of their schedule — in Weeks 7 through 13, they face five playoff teams from last season, six teams with winning records from 2007, and the Texans, with only two home games and five road games — they will have a chance to recover during the home stretch of the 2008 season.
Though the schedule makers didn't do them any favors with those brutal seven games in the middle of the season, as well as an early bye and ten games against teams with winning records — the Titans and Jaguars make up four of those games, since everyone but Houston represented the AFC South in the playoffs last season — Indianapolis has faced tremendous adversity and seemingly daunting schedules in the past and overcome them.
They do still have one of the finest quarterbacks in the league in Peyton Manning, one of the top coaches in Tony Dungy, an underrated defense, surprisingly good depth at a number of positions, a solid offensive line that, hopefully, will see its way through personnel losses in the offseason, and an explosive offense, capable of leading the league in scoring in any given year.
All of those factors added together, when combined with the fact that one never knows which teams are going to be good from year to year, gives Indianapolis a distinct advantage heading into 2008.
After all, while Patriots fans can like their odds in any given season with the tandem of Belichick and Brady, Colts fans know well that the combination of Dungy and Manning has proven to be quite reliable over the years.
Despite Jon Kitna's bold predictions, the Lions have shown a tendency to wear down towards the end of the season and disappear, so the Week 15 game against Detroit — possibly in a must-win situation — is the pick here.
San Diego is on quite a roll against the Colts of late, going back to their upset of the 13-0 team in 2005. Until Indianapolis can swing momentum back their way, this is the Chargers game to lose.
With so many tough road games, including an especially tough matchup against the Chargers, it's tough to see a finish better than 6-2. They'll likely drop the game to San Diego, as well as either the road division game against the Jaguars, or challenging conditions in hostile environments against good teams in Cleveland or Pittsburgh.