Don't think that having home-field advantage matters in the playoffs? I give you the Indianapolis Colts as proof it does. The Colts have advanced one round in the playoffs each of the past two seasons, being eliminated on the road. In 2012, Andrew Luck's rookie year, the Colts went to Baltimore in the wild-card round and were dominated 24-9. In 2013, they staged a huge home rally in the same round and beat Kansas City 45-44. The next week at New England, the Patriots rolled 43-22. Then last season, Indy dominated visiting Cincinnati 26-10 in the wild-card round. OK, the Colts then did win at Denver, 24-13, in the divisional round, but Peyton Manning clearly wasn't healthy. Indianapolis was blown out at New England in the "Deflategate" AFC Championship Game.
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The Colts were 6-2 at home last regular season, 5-2-1 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." The team's home slate this year is ranked as the fifth-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 winning percentage of just .398. Houston does have a slightly easier one in the AFC South.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 21 -- Jets (+7.5): After facing a tough Bills defense on the road in the season-opener, the Colts host the Jets on Monday night. It's the second straight season the Colts' home opener is on a Monday; last year they lost to Philly. The last time these teams faced off it didn't go well for the Colts as they were blown out 35-9 in New Jersey on Oct. 14, 2012. Luck didn't have a TD and threw two picks. Key trend: Colts 4-6 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC East.
Oct. 4 -- Jaguars (+10.5): This probably will be the biggest that Indy is favored all season, although that Tampa Bay game has a chance. The Colts swept the Jaguars last season easily. The home game was a 23-3 rout in Week 12. That game was memorable for Colts fans in that star receiver T.Y. Hilton welcomed his newborn daughter not long before the game and then made it to the stadium in time to play and caught a 73-yard TD. He celebrated by rocking the football to sleep. The Colts really didn't play that well with three turnovers. Key trend: Colts 2-0 ATS all-time vs. Jaguars as at least a 10-point favorite (any location).
Oct. 18 -- Patriots (+1): This is the game that Tom Brady is scheduled to return from his "Deflategate" suspension even though many believe it could be reduced. Think that might draw any ratings on a Sunday night? The Patriots visited Indianapolis in Week 11 last year, with the Colts off a bye, and rolled 42-20. Luck was 23-of-39 for 303 yards and two TDs, but the Indy defense couldn't stop unheralded running back Jonas Gray. Key trend: Over is 5-0 in past five meetings between teams at any location.
Oct. 25 -- Saints (+5): First-ever meeting between Luck and Drew Brees and probably the last barring a Super Bowl matchup. Perhaps rock bottom of Indy's 2-14 2011 season, which allowed the team to draft Luck, was a 62-7 loss in New Orleans. Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky were the Colts' QB that day. That's funny. Key trend: Colts 5-5 ATS in past 10 vs. NFC West (any location).
Nov. 8 -- Broncos (+1): Peyton Manning plays his second game back in Indianapolis, and it may well be his final trip back there in the regular season. In 2013, the Colts upset the visiting Broncos in Manning's return 39-33 on an emotional night. Last season the Colts opened in Denver and lost 31-24 before then pulling the playoff upset. This is the Colts' last game before the bye. Key trend: Indy 7-3 in past 10 before bye and 5-5 ATS (any location).
Nov. 29 -- Buccaneers (+9.5): Could this be the start of a Jameis Winston vs. Luck rivalry? Hard to say that being as they play in opposite conferences, but you never know. Of course Winston was the No. 1 overall pick this year and Luck was the last QB to go at that spot in 2012. Bucs haven't been to Indy since 2007. Key trend: Over is 8-2 in Colts' past 10 at home vs. NFC.
Dec. 20 -- Texans (+5): This follows the only two-game road trip for Indianapolis as it goes to Pittsburgh in Week 13 and Jacksonville in Week 14. The Colts beat the visiting Texans 17-10 in Week 15 last season to clinch the AFC South for the second straight year. Luck was 18 of 34 for 187 yards, throwing for two second-quarter touchdowns that turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 halftime lead. Neither team had 300 yards of offense. Key trend: Colts 9-1 but just 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as a favorite vs. Houston (any location).
Jan. 3 -- Titans (TBD): No odds for the Week 17 game because too many intangibles.. These teams also played Week 17 in 2014 but in Nashville. When the Titans visited Indy in Week 4, the Colts rolled 41-17. Luck threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns. Indy kept the ball for 42:21, compared with 17:39 for the Titans. Key trend: Colts 8-1-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC South.
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