If the Indianapolis Colts are going to bounce back to make the playoffs after missing out in 2015, a six-game stretch from Oct. 30 to Dec. 11 will likely be the determining factor.
Four of those opponents were playoff teams a year ago and another is the New York Jets, whose 10-6 record included a road win at Indianapolis, although Gang Green missed out on the postseason by virtue of a tiebreaker.
This challenging stretch begins Oct. 30 at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, who made it to the second round of the AFC playoffs before losing at New England. The Colts then travel to Green Bay to face the Packers on Nov. 6. The last time they made this trip, Aaron Rodgers humbled the Colts 34-14 in 2008. But Colts quarterback Andrew Luck led the Colts to a 30-27 comeback victory over Rodgers and the Packers in 2012 at Indianapolis.
After a bye and a home game against rebuilding Tennessee, the Colts host the AFC rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving Night on Nov. 24. The Steelers, led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, have routed the Colts in each of the past two regular seasons at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.
Next is a Monday Night Football appearance at the Jets. And then the Colts come home to host the defending AFC South Division champion Houston Texans on Dec. 11 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Texans won for the first time in franchise history at Indianapolis in December.
The Colts’ strength of schedule ranks 21st, based on the combined 2015 winning percentage of opponents (.477).
COLTS 2016 schedule
Sept. 11 — Detroit Lions, 4:25 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Sept. 18 — at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Sept. 25 — San Diego Chargers, 4:25 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Oct. 2 — vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 9:30 a.m., Wembley Stadium, London, England.
Oct. 9 — Chicago Bears, 1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Oct. 16 — at Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m., NRG Stadium.
Oct. 23 — at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., Nissan Stadium.
Oct. 30 — Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Nov. 6 — at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m., Lambeau Field.
Week 10 Bye
Nov. 20 — Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Nov. 24 — Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Dec. 5 — at New York Jets, 8:30 p.m., MetLife Stadium.
Dec. 11 — Houston Texans, 1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Dec. 18 — at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m., U.S. Bank Stadium.
Dec. 24 — at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m., Oakland Coliseum.
Jan. 1 — Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.