Colts Face a Tough Road in 2008

The NFL released its schedule for the 2008 season Tuesday, and the Indianapolis Colts will once again be one of the league's most visible teams, with five prime-time games. But it won't be an easy ride for the Colts.

The team's schedule is certainly one of, if not the toughest of any team. That's no surprise, as the Colts already knew their opponents before Tuesday.

In addition to two games with AFC South opponents Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston, the Colts face the AFC North (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland) and the NFC North (Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago), as well as last year's AFC finalists, New England and San Diego.

In the AFC South, both Jacksonville and Tennessee were playoff teams last season. Pittsburgh, Green Bay, San Diego and New England were all division winners.

That's eight of 16 games against playoff teams from last season. Additionally, Minnesota and Cleveland both narrowly missed the playoffs last season, Houston finished 8-8, and Chicago was a Super Bowl-losing team two years ago.

Out of Indianapolis' 13 opponents, nine of them finished 2007 with a record of .500 or better, while three finished 7-9. Only Baltimmore (5-11) finished more than one game below .500. In all, the Colts opponents had a 123-85 record in 2007.

Tennessee and the rest of the AFC South will be trying to knock off the Colts this fall
AP Photo/John Russell

The fun begins on Sept. 7, when the Colts will open new Lucas Oil Stadium with a rematch of Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears (8:15 p.m., NBC). A week later, the Colts travel to Minnesota for the Vikings' home opener (1 p.m., CBS).

On September 21, the Colts open defense of the AFC South title at home against the team that figures to be their stiffest competition for the division crown, Jacksonville (4:15 p.m., CBS).

The team's bye week comes early, in Week 4. The Colts travel to face Houston in an AFC South matchup on October 5 (1 p.m., CBS). The team then hosts Baltimore on October 12 (1 p.m., CBS), before beginning what figures to be the toughest two months of the season.

In a span of 22 days, the Colts will travel to Green Bay (Oct. 19, 4:15 p.m., CBS), then to Tennessee for "Monday Night Football" (Oct. 27, 8:30 p.m., ESPN), before hosting arch-enemy New England on Sunday, Nov. 2 (8:15 p.m., NBC). The next week, the Colts hit the road again, traveling to Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 (4:15 p.m., CBS).

The Colts finish their season series against Houston at home on Nov. 16 (1 p.m., CBS) before traveling to San Diego (Nov. 23, 8:15 p.m., NBC) and Cleveland (Nov. 30, 1 p.m. CBS).

Keeping up? that means that between Oct. 19 and Nov. 30, the Colts will play five of seven games on the road, and five of those seven games will be against playoff teams from 2007.

The Colts final quarter of the season looks a bit easier, at least on paper. Indianapolis hosts Cincinnati (Dec. 7, 1 p.m., CBS) and Detroit (Dec. 14, 1 p.m., CBS) before traveling to Jacksonville for its fourth and final game on Sunday night (Dec. 18, 8:15 p.m., NBC). The Colts close the regular season at home against Tennessee (Dec. 28, 1 p.m., CBS).

In many ways, the middle part of the Colts' schedule is not unlike 2007, when they had a similar stretch of four games in 21 days from weeks 7-10.

The Colts came through that with losses to New England and San Diego, but still managed to win the AFC South and secure a first-round playoff bye with a 13-3 record.

But injuries took a toll on the Colts last season and finally caught up to them in a playoff loss to San Diego.

Time will tell how the script plays out in 2008, but staying healthy will again be a key to success, especially in October and November. But with this brutal slate, success isn't the first word that comes to mind. Survival is.

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