For the second straight season, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will open the year on the road with an early 10 AM PST kickoff, facing a far more formidable opponent this time around in the upstart Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 12.
Finishing second in the AFC South with an 11-5 record in 2020, Indianapolis returned to the postseason boasting a top 10 offense and defense and came into the tournament red-hot. However, coach Frank Reich's squad wasn't quite able to pull a road upset in Buffalo during the wild card round, losing a 27-24 heartbreaker to the Bills.
After failing to advance in the postseason, the Colts have undergone substantial roster changes on both sides of the football aiming to catch up with the Chiefs and Bills. Most notably, former starting quarterback Philip Rivers announced his retirement after one season with the franchise, leaving general manager Chris Ballard on the hunt for a long-term signal caller once again.
Weeks after Rivers hung up his cleats, Indianapolis opted to send a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second-round pick to Philadelphia for embattled quarterback Carson Wentz, who lost his starting job to Jalen Hurts last season. The team hopes reuniting him with Reich, who served as the Eagles offensive coordinator during Wentz's first two seasons, will help turn his career back around.
Wentz should have plenty of weapons at his disposal, as the Colts re-signed former Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton and will have talented young wideouts Michael Pittman and Paris Campbell returning for their second and third seasons respectively. Dominating behind a strong offensive line led by perennial All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, running back Jonathan Taylor will also be back for his second season after rushing for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie.
If there's a major question mark for Indianapolis offensively, the team still must find a replacement for left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who announced his retirement shortly after the conclusion of the 2020 season. Former Kansas City starter Eric Fisher recently signed, but coming off an Achilles injury, he won't be ready for the start of the season, leaving Sam Tevi as the slated starter.
Through the draft, the Colts were able to continue adding to their defensive line, using a first-round pick on Michigan pass rusher Kwity Paye and second-round pick on Vanderbilt defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo. Those two players will join a front seven already headlined by All-Pro DeForest Buckner and linebacker Darius Leonard.
Indianapolis will have some new faces roaming the secondary as full-time starters after letting injury-prone safety Malik Hooker leave in free agency. George Odum should step into the lineup alongside Julian Blackmon, who started 14 games as a rookie in 2020. Rock Ya-Sin and Xavier Rhodes will return as starters at the cornerback position for a defense that finished 20th in the NFL against the pass last season.
With a young roster featuring numerous All-Pro-caliber players and quality coaches across the board, the Colts may present one of the Seahawks tougher out of division road opponents this season. If Wentz can get back to his 2017 form, they have a chance to be a dark horse Super Bowl contender in the AFC.
But if there's a silver lining, Seattle has won 11 of its last 12 games with 10 AM PST starts, including defeating Atlanta last September. Coach Pete Carroll's club seems to have figured out how to handle those early starts that once plagued the franchise and facing a talented team like Indianapolis that is breaking in a new quarterback and has questions at left tackle right out of the gate may be better than later in the season.