Breakdown: The new-look Colts make their debut at Chicago in a rematch of Super Bowl XLI. But with a new GM, coach, staff and quarterback and with few players left from six seasons ago, Indianapolis will look hardly anything like the team that beat the Bears on Feb. 4, 2007.
Indianapolis draws just two division games in the first half of the season, hosting the Jaguars on Sept. 23 and playing at Tennessee Oct. 28. Then three of the Colts’ final four are against Tennessee and Houston.
The games outside the AFC South that appear most challenging at this stage are spread out, which should be a good thing. After opening at the Bears, they host the Packers on Oct. 7, travel to New England for a Nov. 18 game and visit Detroit Dec. 2. They get to prepare for Jay Cutler in the preseason, Aaron Rodgers after the Colts' super-early Week 4 bye, Tom Brady a week after they play against Blaine Gabbert at Jacksonville and Matthew Stafford after they host Buffalo.
Complaint department: Maybe a Week 4 open date seems like a favor to rookie head coach Chuck Pagano, who will be guiding a rookie quarterback in Andrew Luck. But even as it can help the Colts brace for a visit from the Packers, it’s too early a break for a team that will be loaded with young guys and would benefit more from a later bye to catch their collective breath.
Twice in three weeks: Maybe the Colts will improve over the course of the season and have their best chance to knock off defending division champ Houston late in the year. If that’s the case, playing the Texans twice in the final three weeks of the season is a good thing. However, I suspect a young, inexperienced team will be running out of gas and searching for the final whistle in December, in which case playing two out of three against Houston at the end could seem almost unfair.
Colts Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at N.Y. Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 8, at Jacksonville, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at New England, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, Houston, 1:00 PM