The NFL released their 2012 regular season schedule on Tuesday night. Thanks in part to a league-worst 2-14 record in 2011, the “reloading” Indianapolis Colts find themselves with low expectations and very little nationwide recognition in the upcoming season. As it stands now, the Colts will only have one nationwide prime time game, which will be away on a Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Colts begin their new era with an away game against the Chicago Bears, who the Colts defeated in Super Bowl XLI. This season’s Chicago team will be much different, with new offensive weapons and a new offensive coordinator. The Bears will be looking to return to prominence in a difficult NFC North division.
Rookie head coach Chuck Pagano will lead his version of the Indianapolis Colts to three home games in a row in weeks two, three, and five of the regular season. The new “Horseshoe” has an early bye in week four, which could prove problematic in the long run for a young team lacking in experience.
In week six, the Colts travel to New Jersey to battle the New York Jets. The Jets defeated the Colts in the 2010-11 NFL Playoffs, which just happened to be the last game in a Colts uniform for Peyton Manning. In the previous year, these two teams met in the AFC Championship game. Both teams missed the playoffs last season, and both will be looking to rebuild and rebound from their own separate disappointments.
If the Colts can hold steady throughout the middle part of the season, they may find themselves in a very winnable situation near the end of the year. The Colts have three of their six AFC South divisional games scheduled in the last four weeks of the regular season. Indianapolis plays the often-injured (and often overrated) Houston Texans in week 15 and week 17. The Texans won the AFC South in 2011, making the NFL Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
These young Colts have a big hill to climb. As a franchise that won more games in the last decade than any other NFL team in any ten-year span, Indianapolis looks at the 2012-13 season as a possible stepping stone in their return to glory. Regardless of what happens in the 2012 NFL Draft next weekend, the Indianapolis Colts have made the moves to try and position themselves for a possible return to the postseason in the near future.