The Indianapolis Colts enter 2021 on a quest to prove that they really are the AFC team with the best chance to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs in the conference.
They have the three-headed running game to deflate the ball when necessary. They have a former No. 2 overall pick with a cannon under center who’s theoretically entering his prime, as opposed to a future Hall of Famer living out his swan song (surprisingly effectively, though!) in real time. They have a defense captained by the game’s best linebacker and a rebuilt offensive line.
Whether you prefer Tennessee in the AFC South or KC in the conference overall, you have to admit that this roster is solidly stacked and has a chance to do great things.
And they’ll be tested a lot this season, early and often, thanks in part to owner Jim Irsay getting in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ear.
Irsay reportedly took Goodell aside and asked for his team to be spotlit in primetime more often this year (subscription required), and the commissioner obliged, stacking four games in various late-night slots.
Luckily (?) for the Colts, they’re not quite against the highest level of opponents, and there’s a chance Indianapolis will be the favorite more often than not — perhaps a second favor from the big boss?
Indianapolis Colts’ primetime schedule 2021
So, for those keeping score (all of us?), that primetime slate consists of a Monday Night Football showdown with the Ravens (Week 5, capping a brutal stretch), followed by Sunday Night Football with the 49ers (Oct. 24) and Thursday Night Football with the Jets (Nov. 4). Add a Christmas Saturday Night game against the Arizona Cardinals, and you’ve got one of each!
It almost feels like a sarcastic (and loving) slap in the face from the Commissioner’s Office to our ownership group. “Oh, you like primetime games? Here’s one of everything. Let us know what you like best, guinea pig.”
That Ravens game looms the largest and most challenging, though facing a resurgent Cardinals defense towards the tail end of the season at night doesn’t sound like much fun, either.
The Colts will face off with Baltimore (after struggling to contain the mobile Lamar Jackson last year, as well as the mobile Deshaun Watson…) after battling the Seahawks, Rams, Titans and Dolphins in successive weeks. All were above-average teams last year, and all look very much the same this time around — except Los Angeles, which upgraded by adding Matthew Stafford under center.
At least they receive the extra day’s rest of a primetime slate for that one, but the defense could be quite worn out from chasing Russell Wilson followed by three standout squads.
If you like waiting all day for Sunday Night, though, you might have our fearless leader to thank this season.
Luckily, with the team Chris Ballard has built, Indianapolis should be able to shake off any week-to-week doldrums rather well.
With great power comes great responsibility, right? The spotlight is going to arrive sometime, whether it’s midseason or in the postseason. No better time than the present to get prepared to be a playoff favorite.