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2014 Colts "Strength of Schedule" Deceiving

Posted Feb 18, 2014

On paper, the Colts will play the easiest schedule of opponents based on how those teams finished in 2013. The trouble is, NFL games are not played on paper.



INDIANAPOLIS – In the departments of ‘appearances can be deceiving’ or ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ those thinking the Colts will have the league’s easiest chance to return to the post-season should think twice.

 

The Colts’ 2014 opponents (Home:  Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New England; Away:  Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York Giants, Dallas, Denver) earned a combined .430 winning percentage (110-146) in 2013, placing the club’s strength of schedule at 32nd.

 

While the percentage holds true on paper, that is the last surface on which games are played.

 

This past season, five-of-12 playoff participants were new (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego).  Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least five teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the post-season the year before.

 

This past season, the Panthers (7-9 to 12-4) and Eagles (4-12 to 10-6) went from last-to-first in their respective divisions.  Eighteen teams have done it since 2003, and this has happened annually in the NFL during that span.

 

Never before has the NFL experienced such an 11-season change of playoff faces, and it has been in business for 90-plus years.

 

Carolina entered 2013 owning the “toughest” schedule based on its opponents’ 2012 records, but that ranking dropped to 17th when this past season was over.  Carolina met Atlanta, which fell from 13-3 in 2012 to 4-12 last year, twice, and that helped drop its strength of schedule formula.

 

The same Falcons were an example for the Colts in 1998.  Atlanta was 7-9 in 1997 and hosted Indianapolis on December 6. 

 

Entering the season, a young Colts team may have perceived that to be a winnable late-season game.  Instead, the Colts found the Falcons at 10-2 and on the way to reaching their first Super Bowl.  

 

2014 NFL STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Pct.

Team

2013 Combined Records

.578

Oakland

148-108

.570

Denver

146-110

.564

St. Louis

144-111-1

.563

San Diego

144-112

.563

San Francisco

144-112

.561

Seattle

143-112-1

.559

Kansas City

143-113

.547

Arizona

140-116

.520

N.Y. Jets

132-122-2

.516

New England

131-123-2

.512

Atlanta

130-124-2

.508

Miami

129-125-2

.504

Green Bay

128-126-2

.500

Buffalo

127-127-2

.496

Chicago

125-127-4

.492

Detroit

124-128-4

.490

Washington

125-130-1

.488

Dallas

125-131

.484

Tampa Bay

123-131-2

.479

Philadelphia

122-133-1

.477

Minnesota

121-133-2

.473

Carolina

120-134-2

.469

Cincinnati

120-136

.469

Pittsburgh

120-136

.469

New Orleans

119-135-2

.465

Cleveland

119-137

.465

N.Y. Giants

119-137

.461

Baltimore

117-139

.453

Jacksonville

116-140

.441

Houston

113-143

.438

Tennessee

112-144

.430

COLTS

110-146

Boldface-2014 Colts opponent

 

The Colts will face four teams that had winning 2013 seasons and reached the playoffs – Denver (13-3), New England (12-4), Cincinnati (11-5) and Philadelphia (10-6).

 

Helping tilt the “strength” formula to the Colts’ advantage (on paper) were the finishes of division foes.  Houston was 2-14.  Jacksonville was 4-12 and Tennessee was 7-9.

 

Last year, the Colts tied for the division lead with Houston and Tennessee at 1-0 and 2-1 and with the Titans at 3-1 before leading the AFC South the rest of the way.

 

Chuck Pagano, with two seasons concluded, is the dean of division coaches, while Houston and Tennessee will wage contests this year with Bill O’Brien and Ken Whisenhunt at the respective helms.

 

Pagano has kept the Colts focused on the weekly “process” since taking the reins in January of 2012.  Indianapolis has not lost consecutive games under his tenure, and he will keep the same approach in 2014.

 

In the unlikely event his players should stray from the mindset, Pagano can point to recent history when his maiden Indianapolis team was ranked 32nd by a major international news organization.

 

That ranking spawned a rallying shirt as the Colts rebounded from a fourth-place 2-14 finish to 11-5, pushing Houston to week 15 before it could capture the division title.

 

The Colts will not be deceived.  Indianapolis was anything but an easy touch in 2012.  It will not expect any on the 2014 schedule.


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