INDIANAPOLIS — Who's on the docket to open the season? How many primetime games are there? With an expanded playoff format, which opponents could become major factors down the stretch?
We'll have our answers to all those questions soon.
The Indianapolis Colts will release their 2020 season schedule at 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday night, a half-hour ahead of the start of the NFL Network's "Schedule Release '20" show, a three-hour program "which breaks down the upcoming 2020 NFL regular season schedule, division-by-division, analyzing the top matchups and primetime games," according to a league release.
And as a refresher, the Colts already know their eight home and away opponents for the 2020 season.
Those coming to Lucas Oil Stadium include the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and, of course, their three AFC South Division rivals, the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
The Colts will be traveling to take on the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Texans, Jaguars and Titans.
You can read more about those matchups by clicking here.
But this year's schedule release does add a little bit more intrigue due to a major change set forth by the recently-passed collective bargaining agreement between the league owners and the NFLPA.
Now the AFC and NFC will each have seven, not six, playoff teams, adding an extra game in each conference during Wild Card weekend.
As a result, only the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and the NFC will earn a first-round bye; previously, the top two seeds earned a bye.
So what does that mean for the regular season? Added importance to several games down the stretch; according to NFL analyst Warren Sharp, if each conference had an extra team in the playoffs the last 10 years, then five additional 10-win teams, nine additional nine-win teams and six additional eight-win teams would've earned postseason berths.
The NFL last expanded the playoffs for the 1990 season, increasing from 10 to 12 the number of teams to qualify for the postseason, according to a league release. Since 1990, at least four new teams have qualified for the playoffs that missed the postseason the year before — a streak of 30 consecutive seasons.
The Colts, who finished 7-9 in 2019 and didn't qualify for postseason play, hope to do their part to extend that streak to 31 seasons in 2020.
Another major aspect of the new CBA, a 17-game regular season, will not go until effect until the next year at the earliest.