The Indianapolis Colts had one of the more tensed off-seasons to say the least.
On July 30, 2011, the Colts signed Peyton Manning to a 5 year, $90 million contract after negotiations in which he made it clear that he did not need to be the highest-paid player in the NFL.
Shortly after giving the all-world quarterback of the last decade a hefty sum, things went south. The Colts parted way with the quarterback who had been the face of the organization for so long.
Truly a sad occasion... but then Luck struck!
The Colts sought out to get their QB of the future. With the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Colts took Andrew Luck.
Although Luck has been poised and calm throughout the process, he has to feel the immense pressure that comes along with filling the shoes of arguably the greatest signal caller ever.
During the Manning era, a good case could be made that the AFC South was the weakest division in the NFL.
Because the Colts rarely left any room for debate as to who would win the division. Over the course of the last nine seasons, the Colts won the division seven times. This turned into something we grew to expect.
Well, now the division is once again an "up for grabs" type of experience. I'm sure that the reigning division champs, the Houston Texans would disagree.
Having players with super-star potential such as Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, Brian Cushing, and J.J. Watt, the Texans are planning to stay atop the AFC South for seasons to come. The Texans have every right to be confident going into the season after making a playoff run last season, that most would agree, was cut short due to some key injuries.
Now, prior to seeing the schedule, my immediate thought of "the game" of the season for the Colts would have to be one of those against the division rival, Texans. The two teams don't meet until weeks 15 and 17. Unless it came down to who takes the division, which I seriously doubt (at least this season), these match-ups will be lopsided, with the Texans winning at home and away.
But let us back track a little. Things get interesting way before the Texans.
Aside from the divisional foes, the season schedule is no cake-walk to New Orleans. Indianapolis won't face the toughest schedule, but they definitely have their work cut out for them starting in Week 1 when the Colts travel a little north to Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears have high hopes this season, feeling that they were sure-fire contenders last season, had not they been plagued by injury.
LUCKily, the Colts won't have to visit Chicago later in the season when fingers are frigid, and temperatures are unBEARable (See what I did there!). However, that doesn't make it any easier visit Soldier Field and leave victorious. Frankly, I think the Colts will take their first bump on the chin in Week 1.
But in the grand scheme of things, a Week 1 loss could prove to be beneficial. It may serve as that small dose of reality needed to jump-start the team, ensuring that everybody in the organization is on one accord.
This could help to prepare for weeks 2 and 3. The Colts make their home debut in Week 2, playing host to the Minnesota Vikings. A game that is completely within reach. I like Luck in this one, given the offense, defense, and special teams all play mistake free football. A 1-1 record isn't bad heading into the Week 3's divisional match-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A tough win over the Vikings can definitely propel the Colts to their second win in as many weeks. They can beat the Jaguars, who have been less than impressive and having their own issues with star running back, Maurice Jones Drew. Also, they can match the total number of wins from a season ago, a mark that should be eclipsed in no time.
And then comes what I believe to be the most pivotal point of the season. Week 4 is bye week for the Colts. Yes, it's really early, but definitely necessary if you ask me. By my prediction, they should be 2-1 at this point. Coming off of two wins in a row, there should be much confidence in the Colts' locker room. More importantly, time to work on the small things and to finds ways to clean up the mistakes.
The bye week couldn't come at a better time, seeing that the Colts will welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to Lucas Oil in Week 5.
The Green Bay Packers are definitely worth two weeks of preparation. I'm sure that every team wishes they could have the same privilege. They are arguably the toughest team on the schedule this season. If ill-prepared, the cheese-heads are more than capable of embarrassing you. They score quick, fast, and attack at will. The defense is filled with veterans who can make plays on the ball. So Luck will have to be on point.
This is a statement game, and it's imperative that the Colts do just that-- make a statement. The Colts have to come out and let it be known that they have plans of returning to 12-win seasons.
No one is expecting Luck to outplay Rodgers, but they need to ensure that the rest of the league knows that their coming to play every week. Not only play, but expecting to win as well. Also, by Week 5, we tend to know who has what it takes to pull away and make a run at their division.
Although, it'll still be too early in the season, and in the career of Andrew Luck to give Indianapolis the nod in this one, I get the feeling that a good showing against Green Bay will be a determinant in the way the remainder of the year plays out. Luck is a premiere quarterback. His savvy and knowledge of the game is something for the organization as well as their fans to be excited about. The help of veterans like Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Dwight Freeney is also always reassuring.
So there it is... Biggest game of the year: Week 5, against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
As far as hopes of New Orleans in 2013, let's just say that the Colts will need a whole lot of LUCK!