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Top 5 must-see Colts games for 2013

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

Peyton's return is No.1, but others fascinate, too

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 12:01 am

While everyone will be pointing to the Indianapolis Colts reunion with Peyton Manning, there are plenty of other interesting games on the 2013 schedule.

The Colts play the third-easiest schedule, according to strength of schedule based on last year's records. Only Manning's Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers have it “easier.” Of course, NFL fortunes change drastically in a season. Last year's losers can be this year's playoff contenders. The Colts lived that last season.

Here are the leading candidates for five most interesting games facing the Colts in Year 2 of the Andrew Luck Era:

1. Denver Broncos, Oct. 20

This will be the Sunday night home game to top all Sunday night home games. While it could be a tad nerve wracking for Luck, it won't necessarily be easy on Manning, either. Memories can stir emotions and he'll have some walking into Lucas Oil Stadium, which is the house he built, figuratively speaking.

2. at San Francisco 49ers, Sept. 22

The first road game of the season is a doozy. The defending NFC champions will bring their usual defensive intensity and coach John Harbaugh will be game-planning for his former Stanford protégé Luck. Throw in Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and his Stanford connection and there's all sorts of intrigue. Can the Colts find a way to slow Colin Kaepernick? This will be a nice early test of the new and perhaps improved 3-4 defense.

3. Seattle Seahawks, Oct. 6

It's not Luck vs. RG3, but it might be the next-best thing. Russell Wilson joined Luck and Robert Griffin III as one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in recent memory. The Seahawks are considered one of the legitimate Super Bowl favorites. Wilson will get a taste of the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd, which can raise some decibels when the Colts are on defense. You have to imagine Robert Mathis will be interesting in chasing down Wilson. Luck also likely has his hands full with Seattle's defense.

4. at Houston Texans, Nov. 3

Another Sunday night showdown, this time with the team that took over the AFC South from the Colts. Indianapolis will have a real chance to regain division ownership if they can go into Houston and win. It's almost a given that Indy beats the Texans in Lucas Oil. A road win here, with the Colts offense thriving against the Texans, might be a real season game-changer.

5. at Arizona Cardinals, Nov. 24

This would not necessarily be a marquee game based on the Cardinals' track record. They're coming off a 5-11 season. But the man who kept everything together for the Colts last season, Bruce Arians, is now the head coach and he'll be devising ways to throw deep (with Carson Palmer or maybe former Colts backup Drew Stanton) on the Colts improved secondary. There will be some emotion before the game between Arians and Colts coach Chuck Pagano. But both men fiercely want to win.