While it's true that the Colts still have a lot of star power and have been one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL so far this century, with ad revenue and competitive play on the line, league officials did not balk at the prospect of putting Jim Caldwell's squad on the big stage. Hopefully, they can live up to the hype and continue their winning ways.
New England will visit Lucas Oil Stadium again this season
AP Photo/Tom Strattman
2. A typical fast start would help the team tremendously: Four of the team's first six games are on the road. That's a tough draw to start the season but, for a team that went undefeated in September and October for four straight seasons, it's a good sign for the last ten games of 2009.
Playing only two games at Lucas Oil Stadium in the first seven weeks — with a bye in Week 6 — means that Indianapolis has home dates in six of their final ten games.
This is a huge advantage, as four of those final ten are division games, and nine of them are conference games. In a league where a team needs to take advantage of whatever edge it can, that's a big factor for the Colts, so they need to start the season as strong as they had prior to 2008.
3. The Patriots have to travel to Indianapolis again: In one of the best rivalries of the decade, New England dominated the early part of the century with the Colts turning the tide since the 2006 AFC Championship Game. Starting with that game, Indianapolis has not had to travel to Foxborough, which obviously sways things in its favor.
Although the Colts lost the last regular season matchup between the two teams at the RCA Dome in 2007 — then again, everyone lost to the Patriots during the 2007 regular season — the fact that they haven't had to cross enemy lines to play the game has helped them significantly. They re-gained their winning ways against New England last season at Lucas Oil Stadium and home field should work to their advantage again this year.
4. Speaking of travel . . . Even though they play the NFC West in 2009, the Colts will not spend a lot of time on planes. Their two road games against nonconference teams are at St. Louis and at Arizona.
Both Seattle and San Francisco need to come to Indianapolis and even their AFC West game against Denver is at home, not at San Diego or Oakland. They also don't have consecutive road games on the west coast, which can be a drain on a team as the season wears on.
The only road contest that could present an issue is the final game of the season, which is at Buffalo. Swirling winds and inclement weather could be a challenge for the Indianapolis passing attack.
Ideally, by that point, they Colts will be able rest their starters and not be in a must-win situation.
5. Don't put too much stock in strength of schedule: In 2008, the NFC East and AFC North faced the toughest regular season schedules based on the 2007 standings. Both divisions sent two teams each to the postseason, with the Eagles reaching the NFC Championship Game and the Ravens and Steelers playing each other in the AFC Championship Game.
The AFC East was projected to be a weak division and saw three teams post winning records. The NFC West was seen as a weak division, but the Cardinals represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. Six teams made the postseason in 2008 that failed to qualify in 2007.
Trying to predict future results based on previous experience and data will prove to be an exercise in futility for the 2009 season. The Colts can only play the teams on their schedule. The fact that they've made the playoffs the past seven seasons will be a good leading indicator for the coming year.