Frank Reich On Lack Of Primetime Games: 'We've Just Gotta Earn That'

The Indianapolis Colts on Thursday revealed their 2020 season schedule, which includes just one primetime game — on Thursday night, on the road, against the Tennessee Titans. What did head coach Frank Reich have to say to his team about the lack of games with a national spotlight?

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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:

Table inside Article
Team Total Primetime Games (Since 2012) Away Primetime Games (Since 2012) Percentage Of Away Games
Indianapolis Colts 27 20 74.07%
Miami Dolphins 17 12 70.59%
New York Giants 39 25 64.1%
Buffalo Bills 15 9 60%
Kansas City Chiefs 35 21 60%
Baltimore Ravens 29 17 58.62%
Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers 26 15 57.69%
Minnesota Vikings 28 16 57.14%
Cincinnati Bengals 24 13 54.17%
Houston Texans 28 15 53.57%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 9 52.94%
Chicago Bears 36 19 52.78%
Pittsburgh Steelers 41 21 51.22%
New England Patriots 43 22 51.16%
Green Bay Packers 45 23 51.11%
Atlanta Falcons 26 13 50%
Cleveland Browns 14 7 50%
Detroit Lions 18 9 50%
New York Jets 24 12 50%
Dallas Cowboys 46 22 47.83%
Tennessee Titans 17 8 47.06%
Denver Broncos 41 19 46.34%
Philadelphia Eagles 41 19 46.34%
New Orleans Saints 35 16 45.71%
Washington Redskins 25 11 44%
Seattle Seahawks 37 15 40.54%
Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams 25 10 40%
Carolina Panthers 21 8 38.1%
San Francisco 49ers 36 13 36.11%
Arizona Cardinals 21 7 33.33%
Las Vegas/Oakland Raiders 23 6 26.09%
Jacksonville Jaguars 8 2 25%

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.)

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