Indianapolis — While the Indianapolis Colts knew back in February who they would be playing during the 2012 regular season, there were plenty of questions about the dates, locations and times of those games.
National Football League officials, however, made things a lot clearer Tuesday night when the full schedule was officially released to the public.
Indianapolis will begin the 2012 campaign on the road at Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 9 and will take on Minnesota a week later on Sept. 16 in the home opener. Both games are set to begin at 1 p.m.
The Colts will open AFC South play in the third week of the season when Jacksonville comes to Indianapolis on Sept. 23.
“We are looking forward to a very competitive schedule, especially an always tough AFC South slate,” first-year Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday evening in a prepared statement.
“The first few weeks of offseason workouts have been spirited and we are working extremely hard to meet our offseason goals. This team continues to gel and build chemistry with each passing day and we will continue to labor at a high level.”
With a new quarterback, presumably former Stanford standout Andrew Luck, taking over for former four-time league MVP Peyton Manning, the Colts appear to have a favorable early portion of the schedule in terms of home and away games.
Indianapolis will play three of its first four contests, and five of its first eight, at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts’ third home game, though, will be against Green Bay, which won the Super Bowl after the 2010 season and posted a 15-1 record last year.
Starting out the year against the Bears in Chicago isn’t an easy task either. The two teams will meet for the second time in the regular season since Indianapolis won Super Bowl XLI in February of 2007. The Colts are 22-18 against Chicago in the all-time regular season series. Indianapolis won its last road trip to Soldier Field (41-10) in 2004.
• Key 2012 games — Road: Sept. 9 at Chicago. First game for Indianapolis’ presumed top draft pick (Luck); Nov. 18 at New England. Huge rivalry plays out again. Dec. 16 at Houston. Defending division champs. Home: Sept. 16 vs. Vikings. Home opener with new quarterback; Oct. 7 vs. Packers. Colts defense face big test; Dec. 30 vs. Texans. Best team in division.
• Must-see Colts game in 2012 — Sept 9 at Chicago. First game for new Indy quarterback on the road against a quality defensive unit; Oct. 7 vs. Packers. A possible faceoff of former Pac-10 quarterbacks (Aaron Rogers vs. Andrew Luck); Nov. 18 at Patriots. Despite potential match up of Tom Brady and Luck, New England has too much firepower.
• Colts 2012 schedule strength — Coming off a 2-14 season, which tied St. Louis for the league’s worst, Indianapolis has seven games in 2012 against teams that won nine or more games a year ago. Three of the first four games are at home, which could help Indy get off to a good start.
• A look at the 2011 records of next season’s opponents — Bears (8-8), Vikings (3-13), Jaguars (5-11), Packers (15-1), Jets (8-8), Browns (4-12), Titans (9-7), Dolphins (6-10), Patriots (13-3), Bills (6-10), Lions (10-6), Texans (10-6), Chiefs (7-9).
• Overall 2011 win-loss percentage of 2012 opponents --.500 (128-128).
• One prime time game — Thursday, Nov. 8 at Jacksonville (8:20 p.m. on NFL Network). The Colts have had four or more prime time games dating back to the 2004 season.