The Indianapolis Colts‘ 2014 season will start in the Mile High City against a Denver Broncos team that’s had a long, long offseason to stew in its post-Super Bowl frustration and embarrassment. Not a bad move on the NFL‘s part to throw the up-and-coming Colts directly into the angry fire in front of a national Sunday night audience.
The Colts are getting a lot of positive preseason buzz due to their rise in talent coupled with an apparent weakness of schedule (the softest in the league, based on last season’s numbers). Last week, NFL analyst Dave Dameshek went so far as to name the Colts his favorite to finish the regular season with the best record in the AFC, assuming the AFC South remains abysmal and the NFC East remains erratic. It’s true: the schedule appears favorable, but there will be some definite challenges. What if things go badly in Denver in Week 1, then in Week 2 Chip Kelly brings his high-octane Philadelphia Eagles to give the Colts’ defense a workout, potentially leading to dozens of panicky headlines, like “The Colts are 0-2, where do we go from here?” Well, then hopefully a couple of conference games will have them back to .500 by October.
The league obviously expects big things from the Colts this season, giving them the maximum five primetime games, including those first two weeks of the season, a Monday night game featuring the return of Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw to play their former team, the New York Giants, and yet another November edition of Colts vs New England Patriots, in which Tom Brady will visit Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since 2009.
The run from Week 5 through Week 8 will probably tell the story of the season, when the Colts face most of the AFC North; I’m not convinced they will compete for the top seed in the AFC, but by the end of this midseason run, we’ll have a pretty good idea of who they are and where they’re going. And, of course, there will be a much-heralded meeting between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III on November 30th, the first time the Nos. 1 and 2 draft picks will play each other (the preseason game their rookie season doesn’t count); that game is currently scheduled in the early slot, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it at least shift to 4pm if both quarterbacks are playing well.
The Colts will spend three of the last four weeks of the season on the road, but it’s possible they could wrap up the AFC South with an annual win in Indy against the Houston Texans on Dec. 14th. The Texans have never won in Indy, and hopefully that’s a holiday tradition that will continue at least one more year.
Here’s the full schedule (all times EST):
Week 1: Sunday Sept 07 — 8:30pm at Denver Broncos
Week 2: Sunday Sept 15 — 8:30pm vs Philadelphia Eagles
Week 3: Sunday Sept 21 — 1pm at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 4: Sunday Sept 28 — 1pm vs Tennessee Titans
Week 5: Sunday Oct 5 — 1pm vs Baltimore Ravens
Week 6: Thursday Oct 9 — 8:25pm at Houston Texans
Week 7: Sunday Oct 19 — 1pm vs Cincinnati Bengals
Week 8: Sunday Oct 26 — 4:25pm at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 9: Monday November 3 — 8:30pm at New York Giants
Week 10: Bye Week
Week 11: Sunday Nov 16 — 8:30pm vs New England Patriots
Week 12: Sunday November 23 — 1pm vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 13: Sunday November 30 — 1pm vs Washington Redskins
Week 14: Sunday Dec 7 — 1pm at Cleveland Browns
Week 15: Sunday Dec 14 — 1pm vs Houston Texans
Week 16: Sunday Dec 21 — 4:30pm at Dallas Cowboys
Week 17: Sunday Dec 28 — 1pm at Tennessee Titans