The Indianapolis Colts were almost always a guarantee to make national TV appearances on a yearly basis in the Peyton Manning era. They played high-profile games against good opponents and had a team many wanted to watch.
The Colts were shown on national TV just once last season in their blowout victory at the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game was the NFL Network game of the week for Thursday Night Football on Nov. 8. The season before that, they played three times on national TV with two on Sunday Night Football and one Monday Night Football appearance. They obviously lost all three.
Expect the low amount of primetime games like last year to be a fluke because starting with 2013, there should be many national TV games for the Colts. I’d expect the Colts to reach the NFL limit of five games max on primetime for this season. Arguably, there could be up to seven but the NFL mandates a team only play on primetime a max of five times.
The Broncos game will likely break every TV ratings record because Manning will travel to and play in the stadium he basically help build. There’s so many storylines that will be key as Manning takes on his old team the Colts.
The Seahawks game will also be huge as both rookies this year, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, will face off for the first time. The Seahawks have a very stout defense and are one of the main threats to represent the NFL in the Super Bowl for next February.
Finally, the 49ers game will be huge because Luck is traveling back to the Bay Area and taking on his former collegiate head coach in Jim Harbaugh. For those who don’t know, the Stanford campus isn’t too far from San Francisco and many folks in NoCal will love to see Luck play as a professional. Keep in mind that Coby Fleener and Griff Whalen also played for Harbaugh at Stanford and the Colts have former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on their staff in that same position. That game has NBC Sunday Night Football written all over it.
The other two games to be shown on primetime will be tough choices. The three primetime networks will have either the home or away game with the Houston Texans, the road matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals or the away games against the San Diego Chargers or Arizona Cardinals.
One of the Texans matchups is almost a no-brainer as the AFC South will come down to those two teams. Both games are largely important and should be primetime TV. The Bengals game is also intriguing because both teams are separated by a little more than 100 miles and have young up-and-coming teams. Luck vs. Andy Dalton could be the next Manning vs. Tom Brady as the Bengals made the playoffs in the first two years under Dalton and the Colts made the playoffs in year one under Luck.
The Chargers and Cardinals matchups are also intriguing. Tom Telesco, formerly in the Colts front office, is now in San Diego and will model that team after what the Colts have now. The Cardinals have hired a ton of former Colts coaches, including Bruce Arians. The only way these games don’t make the primetime cut is the fear of both of the host team being terribly bad in 2012.
Nevertheless, the Colts will be very good in ’13 and once again, people will want to watch them.