INDIANAPOLIS — There are generally two ways to land primetime games in the National Football League: build up a ton of offseason hype, or make it so that you're so good that the league can't help but include your team in games played on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights.
Frank Reich would prefer the latter approach as it pertains to his Indianapolis Colts squad. So when he revealed the Colts’ 2020 regular season schedule to his team on Thursday — a 16-game slate that includes just one primetime game, which is on the road — he tried to give that development its proper perspective.
"Just for the record: they didn't give us a home night game last year or the year before," Reich told his team in a virtual meeting. "You know, I understand the NFL has its reasons for doing what it does, but we want some respect, men. And so we've just gotta earn that."
The Colts' only primetime game in 2020 lands in Week 10, a Thursday Night Football matchup against the AFC South Division rival Tennessee Titans in Nashville. The Colts this season are one of seven NFL teams with one or fewer primetime games; the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions have none, while the Colts, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins each have one.
But perhaps the potential issue isn't the amount of primetime games the Colts have had in recent seasons — it's the location of them.
Starting in 2012, the first official season without Peyton Manning on the roster, and running through the scheduled 2020 games, the Colts have played (or will have played) 27 primetime regular season contests; 20 of those, or more than 74 percent, have been road games. The 2020 Week 10 game at the Titans is the sixth straight primetime game the Colts will have played on the road.
Of those primetime games since 2012, 10 have been on Sunday Night Football (with seven on the road), eight have been on Monday Night Football (with six on the road) and nine have/will have been on Thursday Night Football (with seven on the road). The Colts have a 9-10 (.474) record in those first 19 road primetime games.
So how does that compare to the rest of the league? Over that same timespan (2012 through games scheduled in 2020), the percentage of Colts primetime games played on the road is higher than any other team in the NFL by almost four percentage points:
|Team||Total Primetime Games (Since 2012)||Away Primetime Games (Since 2012)||Percentage Of Away Games|
|New York Giants||39||25||64.1%|
|Kansas City Chiefs||35||21||60%|
|Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers||26||15||57.69%|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||17||9||52.94%|
|New England Patriots||43||22||51.16%|
|Green Bay Packers||45||23||51.11%|
|New York Jets||24||12||50%|
|New Orleans Saints||35||16||45.71%|
|Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams||25||10||40%|
|San Francisco 49ers||36||13||36.11%|
|Las Vegas/Oakland Raiders||23||6||26.09%|
For further reference, the Colts rank exactly in the middle of the league, 16th overall, in terms of total primetime games since 2012 (27).
So how can the Colts try to start the process of reversing this trend?
For starters, there are ways to create buzz for yourself to possibly entice NFL schedule makers to create more primetime opportunities.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for example, have signed quarterback Tom Brady and acquired tight end Rob Gronkowski in recent weeks, and now they're on the docket for five primetime matchups in 2020, two of which are at home. Tampa Bay had just one primetime contest in 2019, and it was on the road against the Carolina Panthers.
The Raiders, meanwhile, are set to begin their first season in Las Vegas after making the move from Oakland, and are scheduled to have four primetime games in 2020, all of which are at their brand new home, Allegiant Stadium. The team had two primetime games last year, both of which were in Oakland.
But rather than making big splashes and just hoping for the best, Reich would rather just earn more primetime opportunities the hard way — and that's on the football field.
"We're gonna earn that just by taking care of business," Reich told his team. "When we play in primetime, we've gotta prove that we are a dominant team."
The Colts' one and only shot to do just that this upcoming season is Week 10, on the road, against the Titans, who advanced to the AFC Championship Game last season.
"No better time than against a division opponent and a team that we know is going to be a very good team in our division," Reich said.
(Game data since 2012 via Pro-Football-Reference.com and the 2020 NFL schedule.)