We’ve officially got 2021 NFL schedules to pore over, and with a 17-game slate for the first time there’s more to break down than ever before. There are always plenty of quirks with the schedules, with certain teams getting hosed by brutal travel, untimely bye weeks, or month-long gauntlets against elite teams.
Believe it or not, a lot is determined on schedule release day. The Colts are coming off an offseason of change, with Philip Rivers and Anthony Castonzo retiring and Nick Sirianni leaving to become a head coach in Philadelphia among other departures.
Indianapolis now is heading into a pivotal transition year, so let’s take a look at what we just learned about the first season of the Carson Wentz era.
A brutal start
We’re going to find out a lot about Wentz and how far this team can go right off the bat. We’ll also know whether their current NFL odds to win the Super Bowl are right or if they currently pose value. The Colts will have by far the most trying stretch of their schedule starting right away with Week 1 when they host the Seahawks.
In each of their first five games in 2021, they’ll play a team that won 10 or more games last year. Three of those five will be on the road. Seahawks, Rams, at Tennessee, at Miami, and at Baltimore on Monday Night Football.
Wentz isn’t going to have any sort of adjustment period, and the new-look offense will have to hit the ground running. To make an NFL prediction against those opponents, a disastrous 1-4 start couldn’t be ruled out if they don’t have their A-game.
A couple other disadvantages
That opening blitz isn’t the only disadvantage on their schedule. The team also drew the dreaded Week 14 bye. Having the bye so late in the year means guys will be hurting in those crucial November weeks when other teams just got a rest.
It also means they won’t be able to reset early on if they’re struggling at midseason. They’re going to have to ride out anything and everything. Making matters potentially worse, the Colts and the AFC South are matching up with the NFC West as their NFC division this year.
The NFC West is arguably the toughest division in football, and the South, North, and East all would’ve been much easier draws. There are no gimmes amongst the Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals and 49ers, and it’s the rare division where all four teams will be competing for the playoffs.
Midseason is their time to shine
Don’t panic Colts fans, it’s not all doom and gloom. While there are reasons to be disappointed with their schedule, there are also some areas for opportunity. Indy’s set up very well for the second and third months of the season if they can weather that initial storm.
From Week 6 to Week 13, four of their eight games are against the Texans (twice), Jets, and Jaguars. Those three times went a combined 7-41 in 2020, and now there’s a very good chance Houston won’t have Deshaun Watson.
If Wentz is able to get back to some semblance of his old self, with the defense Chris Ballard has assembled, I don’t see why the Colts can’t go 4-0 in those games. The Jets and Jags games in that span are both at home too, and should both work out as solid NFL picks in the Colts’ favor.
The last month of the season will feature the Patriots, Cardinals (road), Raiders, and Jaguars (road).
The bottom line
To sum it all up, the league didn’t do the Colts too many favors. They’re going to have to deal with some adversity, and things could get rocky early on. They’ve got a great opportunity to turn things around near the midway point if they do struggle though. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long to see what this team is made of.
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