The first eight games feature have a few very interesting quirks about them, but it will be up to Indianapolis to take advantage of the scheduling in their favor and to not allow themselves to be set back by the factors that work against them.
The first eight games feature four home dates and four road games, which means that there is balance to their schedule overall. This means that they won't face a brutal stretch of four out of five games being on the road, yet they won't have the edge that comes with a similar grouping of home games.
They do, however, have three away games out of four in Weeks 5-8. Two of those are division games — at Houston and at Tennessee — so it will be good to get the division road games out of the way early in the season.
The Colts open 2008 with a rematch of Super Bowl XLI against Brian Urlacher and the Bears
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The other is against the Green Bay Packers. It's definitely a good thing that the Colts get to travel to Lambeau Field in October, as opposed to having to make the trek in late November or December.
Indianapolis faces a one o'clock start only three times in the first nine weeks — a Week 4 bye has probably been troubling the veterans on the team since it was announced, since older players tend to prefer a late season rest — and they have three primetime games, including what will soon be dubbed Super Bowl XLII 1/2, the Week 9 matchup against the rival Patriots.
Three of the four non-conference games are scheduled for the first half of the season, which could be either a curse or a blessing, depending on the quality of the NFC North. The first two games of the season are against non-conference opponents — Indianapolis opens with the Bears at home, then travels to Minnesota to play the Vikings.
The Bears have obviously taken a big step back since they fell to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI, but they have a solid defense and have historically been a better early-season team than a late-season team under Lovie Smith.
Minnesota is a popular "sleeper" pick to make the playoffs this year, to the point where they no longer have sleeper status. In fact, they may be the favorite to win their division.
Both the Vikings and Bears are good teams that have strong defenses and will be good early indicators of where the Colts are from an offensive standpoint, as well as how their defensive front seven is going to hold up, since both teams like to run the ball — though the Vikings are more talented than Chicago up front and in the backfield.
With three division games in the first eight, that leaves only two non-division conference games, the aforementioned battle royal with New England and a home date against the Ravens in Week 6.
That means that each win the Colts earn in the first half of the season will mean less than any losses they suffer in the second half, which will feature seven conference games.
However, every win counts and Indianapolis will look to put their streak of seasons with at least a 7-0 start to four in a row.
The Colts tend to start the season strong, so the smart money is on the opener at home against the Bears.
Super Bowl XLII 1/2 against the Patriots in Week 9. The hype machine will once again be at full speed ahead for that home contest on November 2nd.
Best Guess at a Projected Record:
6-2 after eight games. They'll lose one of the division games, since those are always tough, two of them are on the road, and every team in the division looks to have improved since last season — which is impressive since every team in the division finished at least 8-8.
If there is another loss on there, it's either at Green Bay — depending on what the quarterback situation is at that point — or the game against the Patriots.
Indianapolis was on a roll against the Patriots for a while and will look to start a new winning streak against New England, but that is without a doubt the toughest game on the entire regular season schedule for the Colts in 2008.