INDIANAPOLIS — Football fans can begin marking their calendars and arranging game day plans, because the 2021 NFL schedule has been released.
Week 1 was announced Wednesday morning, with the Indianapolis Colts opening the season at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 12 at 1 p.m. It’s the first time the Colts will kick-off the season at home since 2018 when they hosted the Cincinnati Bengals.
Single-game tickets for the upcoming season go on sale Thursday morning at 11 a.m.
This is the first year of the new 17-game regular season and three preseason game schedule. The Colts will host nine regular season games and one preseason game.
COLTS 2021 SCHEDULE
- Sept. 12 (Sunday) Seattle, 1 p.m. (FOX)
- Sept. 19 (Sunday) Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. (FOX)
- Sept. 26 (Sunday) at Tennessee, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Oct. 3 (Sunday) at Miami, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Oct. 11 (Monday) at Baltimore, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
- Oct. 17 (Sunday) Houston, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Oct. 24 (Sunday) at San Francisco, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
- Oct. 31 (Sunday) Tennessee, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Nov. 4 (Thursday) New York Jets, 8:20 p.m. (FOX, NFL Network)
- Nov. 14 (Sunday) Jacksonville, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Nov. 21 (Sunday) at Buffalo, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Nov. 28 (Sunday) Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. (FOX)
- Dec. 5 (Sunday) at Houston, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Dec. 12 Bye
- Dec. 18-19 New England, TBD
- Dec. 25 (Saturday) at Arizona, 8:15 p.m. (NFL Network)
- Jan. 2 (Sunday) Las Vegas Raiders, 1 p.m. (CBS)
- Jan. 9 (Sunday) at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Some takeaways from Wednesday’s schedule release:
Kicking off ’21
The Colts open at home for just the fourth time in the last 12 seasons and traditionally haven’t put their best foot forward, regardless the location. They’ve lost their last two season openers at home (34-23 to Cincinnati in 2018 and 39-35 to Detroit in ’16), have dropped seven straight opening-day games and 10 of their last 11.
The last time they opened 1-0? It was a 21-17 nod in 2013 over Tyrod Taylor and the Oakland soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders. Andrew Luck passed for 178 yards and two TDs, but it was his 19-yard TD run with 5:27 remaining that produced the winning margin.
This used to be a ho-hum issue for the franchise and an absolute nightmare for those of us who had nasty content deadlines. It’s gotten to be a hot-button issue for owner Jim Irsay, who has been vocal about the overall lack of prime-time exposure and the scarcity of prime-timers in Indy.
The Nov. 4 meeting with the New York Jets (a Thursday nighter) is the lone prime-time game at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Oct. 11 (Monday night) trip to Baltimore and Oct. 24 (Sunday night) journey to San Francisco means the Colts will have played eight straight prime-time games away from home before the Jets visit.
The fourth prime-time date is a true holiday treat: Christmas night against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale.
The last time the Colts had at least four prime-time games: 2015 (five).
Welcome back, Tom
The expansion to a 17-game schedule added the league’s biggest draw to the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium dance card. That would be Brady and the Bucs, with familiar faces of Bruce Arians, Tom Moore and Clyde Christensen in tow.
But Brady is the brightest star, and might be the most disliked adversary – I initially typed “hated,’’ but decided to tone it down a bit – to step foot in Indy. With all due respects to Bill Belichick, of course. Brady’s a seven-time Super Bowl champion – the latest came Feb. 7 in Tampa against the Kansas City Chiefs – who’s heading into his 22nd season and, at 43, showing no signs of slowing down.
The Brady vs. Colts rivalry began Sept. 30, 2001 when Brady stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe and made his first career start against Peyton Manning and Indy in Foxborough. He essentially was along for the ride in a 44-13 Patriots’ blowout – 13-of-23, 168 yards, no TDs, no interceptions – but it nonetheless set a tone that’s persisted for two decades.
Brady will be making his 20th career start against the Colts and sixth in Indy. He’s 15-4 against the Colts and has won eight straight.
Feel free to boo till it hurts.
Feeling the draft
It’s ridiculous to slap draft grades on the Class of 2021, but the Colts have the opportunity for some up-close evaluations. The schedule includes meetings with five of the top six overall selections and four of the top five quarterbacks taken.
Over the 18-week journey – the bye comes in week 14 – they’ll encounter Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (No. 1), New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (No. 2), San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (No. 3), Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (No. 5), Miami wideout Jaylen Waddle (No. 6) and New England quarterback Mac Jones (No. 15). The only question is whether the 49ers will be following Jimmy Garoppolo’s lead while Lance watches and learns, and if the Patriots do the same with Cam Newton and Jones.
Coordinator Matt Eberflus’ defense also must deal with the 1st overall pick from the 2019 draft: Arizona’s Kyler Murray. And let’s not forget Buffalo’s Josh Allen (7th overall in 2018), Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa (5th overall in ’20) and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (32nd overall in ’18 and MVP in ’19).
We should know sooner rather than later whether general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich have constructed a roster capable to reaching the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
The Colts open with consecutive home games for the first time since 2013 – week 1 against Seattle, week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams – but then face what appears to be a daunting three-game stretch on the road against Tennessee, Miami and Baltimore. That’s two 2020 playoff teams who finished 11-5 (the AFC South champ Titans and wild-card Ravens) and a Dolphins bunch that fell short of the postseason despite a 10-6 record.
Based on 2020 records, Colts’ opponents posted a .478 winning percentage. That’s tied-23rd on strength of schedule, but don’t put much weight on that.
Yes, the Houston Texans (4-12 in ’20) appear to be an absolute mess with the uncertainty surrounding Deshaun Watson. But the Patriots (7-9) spent a zillion dollars in free agency and welcome back several front-line players who opted out of ’20 due to COVID-19 concerns, the buzz around the Jaguars (1-15) seems to be real this time with the arrival of Lawrence and coach Urban Meyer and the Jets (2-14) have had a solid offseason, topped jettisoning Sam Darnold and replacing him with Wilson.
It’s worth reminding everyone the Colts are turning to yet another QB1. Carson Wentz replaces the retired Philip Rivers who supplanted Jacoby Brissett who took over for the retired Andrew Luck.
In a real rarity, they’ll have a different starting quarterback for a sixth straight opener: Wentz (’21), Rivers (’20), Brissett (’19), Luck (’18), Scott Tolzien (’17), Luck (’16).