The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will visit Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night, Oct. 18, in a rematch of January’s AFC Championship Game. The Patriots won that previous game 45-7 and have knocked the Colts out of the playoffs in each of the past two postseasons.
Former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos return to Indianapolis on Nov. 8 in a 4:25 p.m. Sunday kickoff. The Colts took out the Broncos in Denver in a January AFC Divisional playoff game.
It will be the fourth career meeting between Manning and quarterback Andrew Luck with the Colts holding a 2-1 advantage. The Colts opened the 2014 season with a 31-24 loss at Denver.
Another primetime game will be on a Thursday night when wide receiver Andre Johnson makes his return to the Lone Star State to face the Houston Texans on Oct. 8 at NRG Stadium. Johnson, the Texans’ franchise receiving leader, was released and recently signed by the Colts.
A fifth primetime test will be on the road when the Colts visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, Dec. 6, at Heinz Field. The Steelers routed the Colts 51-34 at Pittsburgh last season.
After opening at the Bills and at home against the Jets, the Colts visit Tennessee then host the Jaguars. After the quick turnaround trip to Houston, they have 10 days to prepare for the Patriots. New England also defeated the Colts 42-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2014 regular season.
The Colts return home to host the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 25 before the road trip to take on the Panthers. Then the Broncos come to town in Manning’s second game against his former team in Indianapolis. The Colts won 39-33 in his 2013 return.
The bye weekend is after the Denver game in Week 10 on Nov. 15.
Three of the last four games are against AFC South opponents as the Colts visit the Jaguars on Dec. 13, host the Texans a week later and finish the regular season at home against the Titans.
The other late-season game is on the road against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 27 at Sun Life Stadium.
Flexible scheduling may be applied in Weeks 5-10. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into primetime and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time.
Also, a select number of games are being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences.
“Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 11-17 as it has been in recent years. In Weeks 11-16, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time.
Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to Jan. 3.
The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into primetime.
COLTS 2015 SCHEDULE
Aug. 16 — Colts at Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, 1 p.m. (TV TBA).
Aug. 22 — Chicago Bears at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 7:30 p.m. (TV TBA).
Aug. 27-30 — Colts at St. Louis Rams, Edward Jones Dome, TBA (TV TBA).
Sept. 3 — Cincinnati Bengals at Colts, 7 p.m. (TV TBA).
Sept. 13 — Colts at Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Sept. 21 — N.Y. Jets at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN).
Sept. 27 — Colts at Tennessee Titans, LP Field, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Oct. 4 — Jacksonville Jaguars at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Oct. 8 — Colts at Houston Texans, NRG Stadium, 8:25 p.m. (CBS).
Oct. 18 — New England Patriots at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 8:30 p.m. (NBC).
Oct. 25 — New Orleans Saints at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 1 p.m. (FOX).
Nov. 2 — Colts at Carolina Panthers, Bank of America Stadium, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN).
Nov. 8 — Denver Broncos at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 4:25 p.m. (CBS).
Nov. 15 — Bye weekend.
Nov. 22 — Colts at Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Dome, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Nov. 29 — Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 1 p.m. (FOX).
Dec. 6 — Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field, 8:30 p.m. (NBC).
Dec. 13 — Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, EverBank Field, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Dec. 20 — Houston Texans at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Dec. 27 — Colts at Miami Dolphins, Sun Life Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Jan. 3 — Tennessee Titans at Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS).
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.