The Indianapolis Colts have a new franchise quarterback, and they will just have to hope he performs better than he did a year ago.
The Colts' trade for Carson Wentz is the type of organizational paradigm shift that overshadows everything else the team did this offseason and will come to define their season.
If the 28-year-old is the player he was in 2020, Indianapolis will have given up two Day 2 picks for one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. If he returns to the performance level of his first three NFL seasons, then the Colts may have their quarterback for the next decade.
Everything else—the draft, free-agency signings and rest of the roster—is secondary to the Wentz gamble.
After the 17-game NFL slate was released Wednesday, here's a look at what to expect from the Colts in 2021.
Colts 2021 Schedule
The Colts' strength of schedule is tied for the 23rd-hardest based on their opponents' 2020 records. No team in the AFC South has an easier road to the playoffs.
The division's common opponents of the AFC East and NFC West average out to middle-of-the-road, given the AFC East's weakness and the NFC West's strength. The Colts get the good fortune of playing the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks at home.
From a talent perspective, the Colts will be an underdog in at least five road games (Ravens, Bills, Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins) and potentially a sixth (49ers). They should be favorites in at least six home games, with the remainder being decided by how Indianapolis fares as the season progresses.
The Houston Texans are going to be perhaps the NFL's worst team in 2021, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are in the infancy of their rebuild with Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer in their first NFL season. Neither is expected to be much competition at the top of the division, leaving the Titans and Colts as the South's only playoff contenders.
Capturing the division for the Colts is as simple as being better than the Titans. They split their games in 2020, with Tennessee winning the division because of its better record in divisional matchups.
The Colts can't slip up against Jacksonville or Houston in 2021. The road to a wild card coming out of the AFC will be even fiercer than it was a year ago, with the Patriots, Chargers, Dolphins and Denver Broncos all fashioning themselves as contenders to compete at least for a wild-card spot.
Indianapolis has talent all over the field on both sides of the ball. Its fate comes down to Wentz.