Indianapolis Colts 2013 Schedule Analysis

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<p> Indianapolis Colts 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>

The Indianapolis Colts were one of the NFL's surprise teams last season, winning 11 games and making it to the playoffs. What does quarterback Andrew Luck have in mind for an encore? Here's our look at the Colts' 2013 NFL schedule.

Indianapolis Colts 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Oakland
Week 2: Miami
Week 3: at San Francisco
Week 4: at Jacksonville
Week 5: Seattle
Week 6: at San Diego (Mon.)
Week 7: Denver
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Houston
Week 10: St. Louis
Week 11: at Tennessee (Thurs.)
Week 12: at Arizona
Week 13: Tennessee
Week 14: at Cincinnati
Week 15: Houston
Week 16: at Kansas City
Week 17: Jacksonville

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Out of the Gate: Indianapolis needs to take advantage of its opening double-dip at home against Oakland and Miami, because things get a little bit tougher after that. The Raiders and Dolphins won a combined 11 games last season. San Francisco, the Colts' Week 3 opponent, won 11 in the regular season and then two more in the playoffs before losing to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. This also will be Indianapolis' first road game, meaning a long trip out west to face one of the league's best defenses on their home field. The opening month closes with another road game, but this one is in Jacksonville, which figures to be an entirely different type of challenge.

Toughest Stretch: If not for that Week 4 date with the Jaguars, the Colts could make a strong argument for one of the NFL's toughest six-game stretches. To be fair, their bye week falls within this span, but that shouldn't take away from the level of competition this young team will be facing from the end of September to the first Sunday in November. It all begins with a trip out west to face the defending NFC champion 49ers in Week 3. The Jaguars follow, but the game is in Jacksonville, and when the Colts return home that next week it's to play Seattle, another 2012 playoff team with a strong defense. Then it's another long flight to the west coast for a Monday night affair against San Diego, which precedes Peyton Manning's homecoming when Denver comes to town in Week 7. Indianapolis will need that bye the following week because awaiting them on the other side of it is defending AFC South champion Houston, who will no doubt welcome the Colts to Reliant Stadium with open arms. These six games should be an excellent litmus test to determine if Indianapolis' success last season was a fluke or if this team is a legitimate playoff contender.

Swing Games: MIA (Week 2), at CIN (Week 14)
Crossover Divisions: AFC West, NFC West
Bye Week: Week 8
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .461 (30th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 31st

Easiest Stretch: Even though a trip to San Francisco looms large in Week 3, Indianapolis' other three games in September don't appear to be near as treacherous. The Colts get to open the season by hosting Oakland and Miami in back-to-back weeks. After the visit out west, the Colts are back on the road, but this time the destination is Jacksonville. Collectively the Raiders, Dolphins and Jaguars won 13 games last season, the same number the 49ers won between the regular season and the playoffs combined.

Circle The Calendar: It's all about family reunions for the Colts in 2013. Quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will return to their old stomping grounds in Week 3 to face San Francisco and former coach/boss Jim Harbaugh. A Week 11 trip out to Arizona means first-year Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who led Indianapolis in Chuck Pagano's absence while he battled leukemia, will be matched up against his former players and colleagues. And there's also the matter of a certain quarterback, who also spent a fair amount of time in a Colts uniform, paying a visit to Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 7. Some guy named Peyton, I think. Perhaps you have heard of him?

Divisional Notes: Five of Indianapolis' six divisional games come after its bye in Week 8. The Colts go to Jacksonville in Week 4 and don't play another AFC South team until they go to Houston in Week 9. Both games with Tennessee come in a span of three weeks (Weeks 11-13) and this pattern repeats itself at the end of the season with the Texans and Jaguars in on tap in Weeks 15 and 17. One interesting aspect to Indianapolis' divisional slate? The first three games are on the road, while the last three are at home and fall among the final five of the regular season.

Playoff Push: Last season, the Colts won five of their final six games to finish off their improbable march to the playoffs. If this team is able to repeat that success in 2013, it's entirely possible that Indianapolis could return to the postseason, especially if the Colts take care of business at home. Their three December home games are also divisional contests, highlighted by a Week 15 visit from defending AFC South champion Houston. That game is preceded by a road game in Cincinnati, a matchup that could end up determining the playoff fates for either or both teams. The other game in the final month is a visit to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Chiefs. As bad as Kansas City was last season, this is a team with a new coaching staff and new quarterback, among several other changes. And if there's any team that's familiar with that recipe and how it can lead to success, it would be the Colts.

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Andrew Luck struggled somewhat (11 TDs, 13 INTs) in road games as a rookie, so at first glace the games at Cincinnati and Kansas City may not seem ideal. The silver lining to this, however, is that while the Bengals gave up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to QBs last season, the Chiefs came in at No. 28. Luck also gets Houston at home, where he was 7-1 last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)

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Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

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