INDIANAPOLIS — After a slow start to the 2018 season, the Indianapolis Colts turned on the jets and became one of the more entertaining teams in the entire National Football League.
On Wednesday, we learned just how entertaining the Colts are expected to be in 2019.
The NFL announced the 2019 regular season schedules for all 32 teams, and the Colts' 16-game slate includes three primetime matchups, one year after the team was initially selected to play in just one game in front of a national audience.
All three of the Colts' 2019 primetime games will be on the road against defending division champions:
» Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs on NBC's Sunday Night Football
» Week 12 against the Houston Texans on FOX/NFL Network/Amazon's Thursday Night Football
» Week 15 against the New Orleans Saints on ESPN's Monday Night Football
Here's a little on each matchup:
• Week 5: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs; 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6; NBC's Sunday Night Football
The Colts will be looking to avenge their season-ending loss to the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, a 31-13 decision on Jan. 12 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs would go on to fall to the New England Patriots, 37-31, the following week in the AFC Championship Game.
Led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the league's Most Valuable Player in 2018, the Chiefs last season finished 12-4 and claimed the AFC West Division title. Kansas City had the league's most potent offensive attack, as their franchise-record 565 points — and 35.3 points per game average — were the third-most in NFL history. The Chiefs led the league in yards per play (6.84) and yards per game (425.6).
Mahomes had an incredible first full season as a starting NFL quarterback, finishing with 383-of-580 completions (66 percent) for 5,097 yards with a league-best 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 113.8 quarterback rating.
The Chiefs' defense, meanwhile, ranked tied for first in the NFL with 52.0 team sacks. Defensive end Chris Jones had 15.5 sacks, including one in 11 straight games, an NFL record.
But Kansas City in 2019 will have to figure out how to generate pass rush without the likes of Dee Ford and Justin Houston, who combined for 22 sacks last year. Ford on March 12 was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, and the team released Houston, who eventually signed a free agent deal with the Colts on March 21.
If the Colts can defeat the Chiefs, it will be their first victory over a team that had eliminated them from the playoffs the previous season since Week 12 of the 2008 season, when they went on the road and defeated the San Diego Chargers, 23-20. The Chargers had defeated the Colts, 28-24, in the Divisional Round of the 2007 playoffs the season prior.
• Week 12: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans; 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21; FOX/NFL Network/Amazon's Thursday Night Football
While these two teams will have already met in Week 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium, there's no doubt the Texans' home crowd will be fired up for this one. After all, the Colts not only went into Houston and snapped the Texans' nine-game win streak back in Week 14 last season, but Indy also dominated its division rival, again at NRG Stadium, in their Wild Card Round playoff matchup on Jan. 5, 21-7. You might remember that as the "T.Y. Hilton Clown Mask Game."
But while the Colts had the upper hand against the Texans down the stretch last season, the fact of the matter is Houston was able to claim the 2018 AFC South Division title, in large part due to its Week 4 overtime victory in Indianapolis. The fact this Week 12 matchup was selected for a national TV audience is a good indication that the league and the networks believe these two teams will be in the hunt once again in 2019.
The task of containing the duo of quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has proven extremely tough the last couple years, but Indy will hope to continue to try to corral the extremely talented Texans' defensive front that includes J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney along the line and Whitney Mercilus at linebacker.
The last time the Colts played an opponent they had defeated in the playoffs the previous season was Week 9 of the 2015 season, when they defeated the Denver Broncos, 27-24, at Lucas Oil Stadium; Indy went on the road to defeat Denver, 24-13, in the Divisional Round of the 2014 playoffs.
• Week 15: Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints; 8:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16; ESPN's Monday Night Football
This should be a fun one.
Two of the league's more well-rounded teams from 2018 will meet up in this late-season primetime matchup at the always-loud Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, in what one can assume will be a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Super Bowl XLIV, in which the Saints defeated the Colts, 31-17, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The Saints, of course, will be led by the ageless Drew Brees, as the Purdue product will be entering his 19th NFL season in 2019. Last season, Brees was just as solid as ever, completing 364-of-489 passes (74.4 percent, a single-season NFL record) for 3,992 yards with 32 touchdowns to just five interceptions for a 115.7 rating. Along the way, Brees broke Peyton Manning's career passing yards record of 71,940, as well as Brett Favre's career completions record of 6,586. Brees enters the 2019 season just 19 passing touchdowns short of Manning's NFL career record of 520.
New Orleans in 2018 finished 13-3, and first in the NFC South Division. They defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, 20-14, in the Divisional Round of the playoffs before suffering a controversial 26-23 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Rams the next week in the NFC Championship Game.
The Colts and Saints will be meeting up for the first time ever on Monday Night Football. Indy will be looking for its first Monday night victory since Week 13 of the 2016 season, a 41-10 thrashing of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Colts are 22-18 (.550) all-time in games played on Monday Night Football.