Finally, after a long, slow burn to the climactic release of the historic 17-game schedule for all 32 teams in the NFL, fans have something to plan trips around and try and predict week-to-week results for their favorite teams.
For the Indianapolis Colts, the 17-game schedule release gives them a chance to see how their schedule lines up, when the bye week is, and what the final push towards a potential playoff berth will look like.
Looking ahead to the 2021 schedule, there's five key takeaways for the Colts and their fan base to focus on as we enter a sort of dead period in the NFL.
Back-to-Back Home Games To Open The Season
For the first time since the 2013 season, the Colts will open the regular season with two straight home games, taking on the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams in non-conference action to open the 2021 season.
You may remember in that 2013 season that second-year QB Andrew Luck led the Colts to an AFC South division title and an appearance in the AFC Divisional round following a thrilling 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round at home.
The Colts will get the chance to prove themselves right off the bat with a new QB in Carson Wentz and a new offensive coordinator in Marcus Brady against two NFC playoff teams in the Seahawks and Rams. In fact, the Rams were the best defense in football in 2020, so it's a pair of big tests right off the bat.
Lengthy Road Trip Early
Though it will be nice for the Colts to open up the 2021 season with two straight home games at Lucas Oil Stadium, that means they'll have to hit the road for a lengthy road trip early in the season.
Starting in Week 3, the Colts will travel to the Tennessee Titans, the Miami Dolphins, and the Baltimore Ravens - a three-week span that will see the Colts travel 4,093 miles round trip to take on two AFC playoff teams in the Titans and Ravens, and a team in the Dolphins that just missed out on a playoff bid in 2020.
Depending on the start the Colts get off to at home against the Seahawks and Rams, that three-week stretch could be a significant turning point in the season, one way or the other.
Schedule Weakens As Season Progresses
The good news is, the Colts will play four of the six playoff teams they'll face on the schedule in the first five weeks of the season, taking on the Seahawks, Rams, Titans, and Ravens.
Things get easier from there though as the Colts will battle the Houston Texans, New York Jets, and Jacksonville Jaguars sandwiched around a tilt with the San Francisco 49ers before entering a two-week stretch against the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Weeks 11 and 12.
Should the Colts get through the first five weeks of the season in good shape, they'll take on just five teams with a record of 8-8 or better in the 2020 season. That plays a significant factor in the Colts having the 23rd hardest schedule in football this season.
Finally, A Home Prime-Time Game
For years, the Colts and their rabid fan base have been clamoring for a home prime -time game. Finally, the NFL obliged (sort of).
The Colts will host the Jets on Thursday Night Football in Week 9 on Nov. 4, marking the first time the Colts will have a home prime-time game since late 2017, when Indianapolis hosted the Denver Broncos, falling 25-13.
While it is a prime-time home game, the Colts still get no Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football love. Maybe next year.
A Late-Season Bye Week
With a 17-game schedule, the NFL had to push some bye weeks back, giving teams a week off later into the season.
The Colts benefit from the bye week changes, landing a Week 14 bye week, joining the Philadelphia Eagles, Patriots and Dolphins with the late-season bye week.
While some could look at the late bye week as a detriment to the team, it will come at a great time where the team will likely need that late week off to get some key guys healthy, rested and ready to push through the final four games of the season in hopes of grabbing a playoff spot.
Have thoughts on some key takeaways from the Colts' 2021 schedule? Drop a line in the comment section below!