Looking at the 2010 schedule for the Colts, they face a rough opening stretch, with road games in three of their first four games and only two home games in their first six before heading into their bye in Week 7.
Two of their first six games will be in prime time, with Sunday night contests against two NFC East teams in the Giants and Redskins. First up is a home tilt against Peyton Manning's brother Eli Manning in Week 2. That will be a game marked by media hype and compelling storylines, but not something that the Mannings are likely to discuss at the dinner table at Thanksgiving.
Washington had a relatively quiet offseason by their standards, but it will be interesting to see what the veteran presence of Donovan McNabb brings to a squad that has made it clear that they do not want to repeat the failures of 2009.
The NFC East had two playoff teams in 2009 and the Redskins were the only club to finish with a losing record, so they are a difficult non-conference draw for the Colts. In 2009, Indianapolis posted a 4-0 record in non-conference play and it will be difficult for them to duplicate that feat in 2010.
In the AFC, the Colts catch a break in that they get to play against the still-developing AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs will be looking to rebound from a 4-12 finish last season and the Raiders have struggled through most of this century, posting a 5-11 record last year.
What's interesting is that Indianapolis draws the Denver Broncos at Denver in Week 3. The Broncos have historically fared better in the first half of the season than in the second and are especially tough at home in the early going, so the Colts should be prepared for a fight in that early-season matchup.
San Diego has been a matchup nightmare for Indianapolis the past few seasons, so the Week 12 battle versus the Chargers on a Sunday night figures to be just that. Home-road splits have not proven to work to the advantage of the Colts in the recent history of that series, but it is fortunate that that game is at Lucas Oil Stadium.
As the AFC South division winner in 2009, Indianapolis faces the other division winners from last season in Cincinnati and New England. The Patriots have proven to be a tough out in any season and the Bengals will look to improve the potency of their offense after a strong defensive performance in 2009. It would have been preferable if the Ravens and Dolphins had won their respective divisions last season, as the Colts match up more favorably against those clubs, but a team can only play the games on their schedule.
With six home games in their last ten, it is critical that Indianapolis head into their Week 7 bye with a winning record. If they can host Houston in Week 8 with at least a 4-2 record, they will be well-positioned to win their division, which would guarantee them a playoff spot and a chance to compete for another title. The key to success for Indianapolis this century has been getting out to a fast start and they will need to repeat that effort to have continued success in 2010. But, simply getting off to a fast start may not be sufficient.
In order to win their division and advance to the postseason, the Colts need to continue their dominance of the AFC South. The past four seasons, Indianapolis has gone 21-3 in their division, which has been instrumental in their success. They have four division games after the bye versus two before the bye, with three of those contests after the bye coming at home.
They need to avoid a late-season swoon — especially against Tennessee, who they play twice, with one of those games coming on the road on a Thursday night after four days rest following a tough home game against a talented Cowboys team — lest they lose their hold on the division. So far this century, for the most part, the road to an AFC South title has gone through Indianapolis and the Colts need that to continue.
|Sept. 12||at Houston||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 19||New York Giants||8:20 p.m.|
|Sept. 26||at Denver||4:15 p.m.|
|Oct. 3||at Jacksonville||4:05 p.m.|
|Oct. 10||Kansas City||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 17||at Washington||8:20 p.m.|
|Nov. 1||Houston||8:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 7||at Philadelphia||4:15 p.m.|
|Nov. 14||Cincinnati||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 21||at New England||4:15 p.m.|
|Nov. 28||San Diego||8:20 p.m.|
|Dec. 5||Dallas||4:15 p.m.|
|Dec. 9||at Tennessee||8:20 p.m.|
|Dec. 19||Jacksonville||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 26||at Oakland||4:05 p.m.|
|Jan. 2||Tennessee||1:00 p.m.|
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