The NFL released its 2010 schedule Tuesday, and for the Indianapolis Colts, that meant finding out what it could take to repeat as AFC South Champions.
They will need to negotiate a road-heavy first half of the season.
A division champion heavy-third quarter follows that.
Well, if the defending AFC Champions haven’t secured their playoff positioning entering the final month of the season – as was nearly the case this past season – they’ll have to negotiate a division-heavy final four weeks of the season to finish what seems to be one of the team’s more difficult schedules in recent memory.
With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seeking a way to have more teams play front-line players in late-season games, all teams will play a division game in Week 17. The Colts, who angered many fans by pulling starters and front-line players at various stages of their final two games last regular season after clinching home-field advantage will play Tennessee at home in the 2010 regular-season finale.
We’ll run down the schedule quickly in this post, then follow it up with a game-by-game look at the Colts’ 2010 schedule. First, the rundown:
The Colts will open with an AFC South game at Houston on September 12 at 1 p.m., a match-up that begins a stretch of five road games in the first half of the season and three road games in the first four weeks of the season.
That Week 2 match-up will be the first trip to Indianapolis for Colts quarterback Peyton Manning’s younger, brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The only previous meeting between the brothers came in a nationally-televised season opener in 2006. The Colts won that game in Giants Stadium – dubbed by many observers as “The Manning Bowl” – and won Super Bowl XLI following the season.
The Colts, who visit Denver and AFC South rival Jacksonville on September 26 and October 3, respectively, then play host to the Kansas City Chiefs before visiting the Washington Redskins in Indianapolis’ second prime-time games of the season on October 17.
That game also will be on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
The Colts’ open date will be Week 7, their latest bye week since 2005. They will then play host to the Texans in their third scheduled prime-time game and their lone appearance of the season on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The first half of the season will end the following week when the Colts visit Philadelphia on November 7 at 4:15 p.m.
The second half will begin with one of the Colts’ five 1 p.m. kickoffs: a November game against defending NFC North Champion Cincinnati. The game against the Bengals also is the first of a stretch of four consecutive games against 2009 division champions.
The Colts will play New England in Foxboro on Sunday, November 21, at 4:15, then will play host to defending AFC West Champion San Diego in an NBC Sunday Night Football game on November 28 at 8:20 p.m.
They then play host to defending NFC East Champion Dallas on Sunday, December 5 at 4:15 p.m.
The final month of the season includes no defending division champions, but the Colts close with three division games in the last four weeks, including two games against the only other team to win an AFC South title in the division’s eight seasons of existence.
The Colts will play their final scheduled prime-time game on Thursday, December 9, when they visit Tennessee at 8:20 p.m. That will be the third consecutive season Indianapolis has played a road division game on Thursday in December, having beaten Jacksonville in that situation each of the last two seasons.
The Titans won the division in 2002 and 2008, with the Colts winning it in 2003-2007 and 2009.
Indianapolis will play host to the Jaguars on Sunday, December 19, at 1 p.m. The Colts will then visit Oakland on Sunday, December 26, at 4:05 p.m.
The 2010 season will mark the first season in which all NFL teams will finish the season with games in their own division, a scheduling guideline that makes the Colts’ schedule look similar in the regular-season finale to past schedules.
The Colts will play host to Tennessee on Sunday, January 2, at 1 p.m. They previously played host to Tennessee in regular-season finals in 2007 and 2008, with the Titans winning in 2007 and the Colts winning in 2008. Neither game had playoff implications for Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 2010 SCHEDULE
Sunday, August 15 | SAN FRANCISCO 49ers | 1:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 19 | at Buffalo Bills (Toronto) | 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 26 | at Green Bay Packers | 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, September 2 | CINCINNATI BENGALS | 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 12 | at Houston Texans | 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 19 | NEW YORK GIANTS | 8:20 p.m.
Sunday, September 26 | at Denver Broncos | 4:15 p.m.
Sunday, October 3 | at Jacksonville Jaguars | 4:05 p.m.
Sunday, October 10 | KANSAS CITY CHIEFS | 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 17 | at Washington Redskins | 8:20 p.m.
Sunday, October 24 | Open Date
Monday, November 1 | HOUSTON TEXANS | 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 7 | at Philadelphia Eagles | 4:15 p.m.
Sunday, November 14 | CINCINNATI BENGALS | 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 21* | at New England Patriots | 4:15 p.m.
Sunday, November 28* | SAN DIEGO CHARGERS | 8:20 p.m.
Sunday, December 5* | DALLAS COWBOYS | 4:15 p.m.
Thursday, December 9 | at Tennessee Titans | 8:20 p.m.
Sunday, December 19* | JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS | 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 26* | at Oakland Raiders | 4:05 p.m.
Sunday, January 2* | TENNESSEE TITANS | 1:00 p.m.
HOME GAMES IN BOLDFACE CAPS
All times local to Indianapolis
*Kickoff time subject to change