After an 11-5 campaign last season spurred by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, inspirational head coach Chuck Pagano and interim coach Bruce Arians, the Indianapolis Colts head into the 2013 NFL season looking for even more success.
Luck, a Pro Bowler his first year in the league, led the Colts on seven game-winning drives last season, including four fourth-quarter comebacks (via Pro-Football-Reference.com).
But the Colts ranked 21st in the league in points allowed per game, while allowing 7.4 yards per pass attempt (23rd). They also ceded 5.1 yards per carry, 31st in the league.
Here's a look at Indianapolis' 2013 schedule, complete with analysis.
|2013 Indianapolis Colts Schedule|
|Week||Date||Opponent||Time (ET) ||TV|
|1||Sept. 8 ||vs. Oakland Raiders||1 p.m. ||CBS|
|2||Sept. 15 ||vs. Miami Dolphins||1 p.m. ||CBS|
|3||Sept. 22 ||at San Francisco 49ers||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sept. 29||at Jacksonville Jaguars ||1 p.m.||CBS|
|5||Oct. 6||vs. Seattle Seahawks||1 p.m.||FOX|
|6||Oct. 14||at San Diego Chargers||8:40 p.m. ||ESPN|
|7||Oct. 20||vs. Denver Broncos||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|8||Oct. 27||BYE WEEK||—||—|
|9||Nov. 3||at Houston Texans||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|10||Nov. 10||vs. St. Louis Rams||1 p.m.||FOX|
|11||Nov. 14||at Tennessee Titans||8:25 p.m. ||NFL Network|
|12||Nov. 24||at Arizona Cardinals||4:05 p.m. ||CBS|
|13||Dec. 1||vs. Tennessee Titans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|14||Dec. 8||at Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 15||vs. Houston Texans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 22 ||at Kansas City Chiefs||1 p.m.||CBS|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||1 p.m.||CBS|
Note: For a complete look at Indianapolis' 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
The Colts went 11-5 and made it to the playoffs last season, but they own the third-easiest strength of schedule in the NFL in 2013. That has to feel good for Colts fans right off the bat.
They play the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars (twice), Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans (twice), San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins, all of which are teams that Indy is capable of defeating.
The Chiefs, Raiders and Titans ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in yards per pass attempt allowed in 2012. That doesn't bode well against a developing Colts passing attack led by Luck.
The Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders, Titans, Cardinals and Dolphins also ranked in the bottom 10 in points per game, neither possessing a particularly dangerous quarterback (although the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill did develop nicely down the stretch).
While the Colts do play the Houston Texans twice, don't forget that they went 1-1 against the Texans last season.
In the 28-17 victory over Houston in Week 17, the Colts went 9-for-15 on third downs. Luck had 191 passing yards, with two touchdowns to no interceptions. T.Y. Hilton racked up 111 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
The toughest opponents for the Colts figure to be the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams.
The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl behind a dominant defense and an electric offense last season. The Seahawks have beefed up their defensive line and receiving corps in the offseason. The Broncos ranked second in the NFL in points per game last season. The Bengals won seven of their last eight games behind a burgeoning defense in 2012. And the Rams won four of their last six games, including a victory over the 49ers in Week 13.
Most Pivotal Matchup
The Colts would have to feel good about beating the Texans in Houston in a prime-time matchup coming off their bye week. They lost there last season in Week 15, 29-17.
Arian Foster rushed for 165 yards in that game, while Matt Schaub went an efficient 23-of-31 for 261 yards and a touchdown. Andre Johnson was on the other end of 151 of Schaub's yards while scoring the touchdown as well.
The Colts' pass defense is still at risk of being gouged in Houston again, barring some major changes and progress. They signed former New York Jets safety LaRon Landry in free agency, even though he struggled mightily in coverage last year, per ProFootballFocus.com.
If the Colts expect to win the division, a win on the road against the division champs would be a big step in the right direction.