The Indianapolis Colts' 2013 schedule looks to be tougher than a year ago, with the Super Bowl-contending 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos joining the mix. Here's a look at how the season might shake out:
Raiders, Sept. 8
Send a note to the NFL schedule-makers. This is the perfect game for the Colts to have to open the season. The Raiders are rebuilding (what else is new?) and new Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey will have extra motivation.
Colts 27, Raiders 14
Dolphins, Sept. 15
The Colts should enter this game 1-0 and will again have the home-field comforts. The Dolphins will test the Colts secondary with Ryan Tannehill going deep, but Indy's up for the task.
Colts 30, Dolphins 23
at 49ers, Sept. 22
This will be quite the jarring change from the first two weeks. Andrew Luck faces a formidable defense, on the road, and you can bet the 49ers will be devising ways to surprise him. Raiders and Dolphins are not adequate previews.
49ers 27, Colts 20
at Jaguars, Sept. 29
There will be some areas to fix after the trip west, but the Colts can take out their frustrations in their first AFC South game. The Colts pass rush finds a way to get to Blaine Gabbert and Luck and the offense get back on track. Of course, you can never count out Maurice Jones-Drew against the Colts.
Colts 28, Jaguars 24
Seahawks, Oct. 6
This will be intriguing as Seattle brings the type of aggressive defensive secondary that could pounce on mistakes and grab interceptions. Richard Sherman will be yapping, no doubt, in light of playing a couple former Stanford teammates.
Seahawks 21, Colts 20
at Chargers, Oct. 14
It's Monday Night Football and a certain Dwight Freeney will be eager to see if he can't get into the backfield and into the face of former teammate Andrew Luck. Luck, however, will use T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne to his benefit.
Colts 26, Chargers 17
Broncos, Oct. 20
Can you say hype? Can you say fan angst? Can you bring out some old Star Wars analogies with Obi-Wan and Anakin? Wait, does this analogy make Andrew Luck into Darth Vader? That doesn't work. Peyton Manning proves you can go home again, and he doesn't lose big regular-season games.
Broncos 34, Colts 31
at Texans, Nov. 3
These two teams are destined to split the regular-season series, since both are quality teams but neither has a clear edge. Houston brings the power-running game concept right at the Colts, and it works.
Texans 24, Colts 17
Rams, Nov. 10
Luck cannot afford to be off his game against the Rams, because they have a decent, aggressive, opportunistic secondary. On the other hand, the Colts do, too, and can wreak some havoc for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. If it's down to Luck vs. Bradford, Colts win.
Colts 23, Rams 21
at Titans, Nov. 14
The Colts will face the Titans two of the next three games and should be favored to win both of them. That's easier said than done because division games are often the most difficult regardless of team strength. Tennessee's new defensive coordinator is Gregg Williams of the Saints' “bounty” fame.
Colts 21, Titans 17
at Cardinals, Nov. 24
Here's an interesting reunion with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians meeting his former team. Arians will no doubt use Carson Palmer, presuming he's still upright at this point in the season, to go deep and test the Colts. They'll respond.
Colts 30, Cardinals 27
Titans, Dec. 1
Here come the Titans again, and they'll be out to avenge a home loss. This is the point of the season where teams are banged up and playing hurt to finish the homestretch. A healthy running back Ahmad Bradshaw could be a good thing for the Colts.
Colts 23, Titans 13
at Bengals, Dec. 8
Remember how the Bengals punished the Colts second- and third-string units when they met in the preseason? This should be closer, but Andy Dalton and Co. have the type of team that should be able to protect its house.
Bengals 22, Colts 21
Texans, Dec. 15
This could be a huge game for the Colts in trying to earn a playoff berth, if not a division title. The difference at home should be in the comfort level of the offense. To beat the Texans, the Colts will also need some big special teams plays, perhaps a punt return by Hilton.
Colts 31, Texans 28
at Chiefs, Dec. 22
After a physical, exhausting win over the Texans, this road trip could cause some problems. By this time, new Chiefs coach Andy Reid will have his team's identity in place. Maybe the Chiefs won't make the playoffs, but they'll be the type of team that plays well at home.
Chiefs 24, Colts 23
Jaguars, Dec. 29
If the Colts are in position to make the playoffs in the season finale at home, there's no way the Jags can ruin the party.
Colts 30, Jags 21