While reading various articles put out on the other SB Nation NFL sites (which all do very good work, I must add), I stumbled upon this article written by "Bronco Mike" at Mile High Report about the top five Denver Broncos games to look forward to in 2013. The reason I read the article was to see where the Broncos' trip to Indy ranked on his list (spoiler alert: it was third). It got me thinking, however, what are the top five games for Colts fans to be looking forward to in 2013? Here are my picks - I didn't include games within the AFC South since the Colts play them each twice a year, although the Houston Texans games may have made the top five if I did. Let me know what games you are most looking forward to watching in 2013 in the comments.
5. Arizona Cardinals (Away)
Many of you will disagree with putting the Cardinals in the top five, but allow me to explain. First of all, the Cardinals will likely be quite a bit improved from last season - it all depends on the quarterback. At this point it seems as if Drew Stanton will be starting (and that is definitely an improvement), but they still may draft somebody. And that leads me to my next point - there are numerous Colts' connections to the Cardinals. Drew Stanton may be starting at quarterback, and he was the Colts' backup to Andrew Luck last year. The Cardinals also signed cornerback Jerraud Powers as a free agent from Indy this year, and the Colts signed Cardinals' free agent cornerback Greg Toler. So both teams will be starting a cornerback who started last year for the other team. Lastly and most significantly, Bruce Arians is the head coach of the Cardinals. Last season, Arians won the Coach of the Year award for the job he did filling in for Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis. Arians played a huge role in the Colts' playoff run and Andrew Luck's rapid acclimation to the NFL. While this game isn't quite as good as it could have been had Arians returned to Indy, it still is a game filled with story lines for the Colts. (And if you still disagree with me putting this game here, be thankful I didn't include the Chargers because of their Colts connections - their new general manager is former Colt Tom Telesco. Be thankful.)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (Away)
The Bengals made the playoffs a year ago, one of the five playoff teams from 2012 that the Colts will face (the only one not on this list is the AFC South rival Houston Texans). The Bengals also have a promising young quarterback in Andy Dalton, although he has been largely overshadowed by some of the other guys - like Andrew Luck. The Bengals are a team that has made the playoffs each of the last two years as a wild card, but this year they could be poised to make a run at the AFC North title. The Colts travel to play the Bengals in the regular season (they always play in preseason, but it never matters) where they will face a tough test.
3. Seattle Seahawks (Home)
Perhaps no team improved more this offseason than the Seattle Seahawks, and that is a scary thing for the rest of the league. They were already a legitimate playoff team a year ago and they seem to have only gotten better. Russell Wilson is entering his second season as the Seahawks' quarterback after taking the league by surprise and having an incredibly successful rookie campaign. This will be the first time that Andrew Luck will match up against Wilson, both of whom were drafted last year as part of a rookie class that has the potential to be very, very good. Wilson and Luck (along with Redskins' quarterback Robert Griffin III) headline the class, and in 2013 Wilson comes to Indy to play Luck's Colts. Who knows, maybe I'll find out that Russell is my long lost cousin? Ok, that won't happen, but regardless this should be a great game and I'm looking forward to seeing the Seahawks come to Indy.
2. San Francisco 49ers (Away)
Most people know that the Colts will face their former quarterback in 2013. What most people don't realize, however, is that it will happen in San Francisco against the 49ers. Their coach is Jim Harbaugh, the best quarterback to play in Indianapolis until 1998, when some kid named Manning arrived. Harbaugh - affectionately known as the Comeback Kid - played four seasons for the Colts and led them to two playoff berths (they had one in the ten years prior to Harbaugh's arrival combined). Besides for that storyline, however, there is also the fact that the 49ers are the defending NFC Champions and one of the best teams in the league. Their young quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, showed last year that he is one of the most promising young players in the NFL, as is Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck. Going west to play is never easy, especially when the opponent is a great team like the 49ers are. It will be a huge test and a huge measuring stick for the Colts.
1. Denver Broncos (Home)
Colts fans will get to see one of the NFL's best teams come to Indianapolis. That's worthy of a game to look forward to, right? And oh yeah - a certain quarterback returns to the city where he is beloved and that he called home for 14 of the most incredible years in National Football League history. Peyton Manning, entering his second season with the Denver Broncos after being released by the Colts in favor of Andrew Luck, makes his first (and in all likelihood only) return to Indianapolis to play in the "House that Peyton Built" - Lucas Oil Stadium. Not only will this game be a huge test for this young Colts team, but it will also feature a battle of two of the league's biggest star quarterbacks in Manning and Luck. If you want a game filled with history, drama, and offense, this will be one of the must-see games of the NFL season. The hope here is that Colts fans give Peyton the respect that he deserves in his return, but that once the game starts Lucas Oil is rocking for the home team. If Denver doesn't open hosting the Baltimore Ravens, this game would make sense to me to put on Sunday Night Football in week one to start the season. And that'd be perfectly ok with me, as I am certainly looking forward to it but the later the game is in the year, the longer we will have to listen to analysts and fans look forward to it. No doubt, this will be one of the must-see events of the 2013 NFL season.
Colts 2013 Opponents:
What games are you most looking forward to in 2013, Colts fans?