After a lot of griping and complaining that was fair, at last.
Thursday night, the NFL put out its schedule for 2022, and there they were. Two big games for the Indianapolis Colts and the city. Lucas Oil Stadium will host two Monday Night Football games. The first will be on November 28 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the second will be the day after Christmas against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The move from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan might have pleased the league office. Maybe the NFL saw Jonathan Taylor tear apart the New England Patriots in prime time last December and thought that putting one of the best players in the NFL in prime time might help bring in more viewers.
Maybe the NFL is finally realising that it has screwed over Jim Irsay, the Colts, and the city of Indianapolis way too many times over the last decade or so, and it is finally trying to make up for it.
More: The Colts’ 2022 schedule shows that Indianapolis will have one less game at home.
If that’s true, it’s taken a long time to get here.
The numbers tell the truth. Since Andrew Luck was the quarterback, Indianapolis has been cheated out of prime time home games. Since 2011, only 30.6% of the Colts’ prime time games have been played at home. This is the lowest rate in the NFL.
And the problem was getting worse before the NFL released the 2022 schedule on Thursday night. Since 2016, the Colts have only played 23.5 percent of their prime time games at home. That’s a laughable number that’s hard to defend.
All of the old arguments against it don’t work.
Even though Indianapolis is one of the NFL’s smaller markets, the size of the city doesn’t matter much to TV viewers who watch the game from their own homes.
And it’s true that the Colts haven’t been as successful since Peyton Manning left as they were when Indianapolis ruled the NFL in the 2000s, but that argument falls apart every time the NFL lets the Bears play Aaron Rodgers on Sunday Night Football or gives the Raiders another home game when they’ve barely had time to unpack from Las Vegas. Since 2011, 70 percent of the Raiders’ prime time games have been played at home. This is the second-highest number in the league, behind only Arizona.
Make sense of that.
Even though the stadiums where the Cardinals and Raiders play are nice, State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas aren’t exactly Lambeau Field.
But there’s one more point to make.
In 2021, the Colts were able to host two prime-time games, which is the same number they have on this schedule. What’s the big deal?
One of those 2021 games was against the bad New York Jets on a Thursday night. The only reason it was a prime time game was because it started at a certain time. The other was a flexed option. The NFL only gave Indianapolis a prime-time game because none of its other choices were good enough.
There are two different Monday Night Football games in 2022.
One is against the Steelers, who are still one of the most popular teams in the NFL after Ben Roethlisberger left. The other is about quarterback Justin Herbert, who is one of the league’s rising stars.
But the Colts shouldn’t be happy about the other team. There are good reasons for both football (a team that plays in prime time at home has a big advantage in getting ready for the next week because they don’t have to take a red-eye flight) and the stock market (big prime-time games produce a lot of excitement and revenue).
Indianapolis has the players and track record to play on the biggest stages in the NFL. Every time the NFL put the Colts in prime time in 2021, they played interesting, close games against good teams. The only exception was Thursday Night Football, when they beat the Jets in front of everyone (including road games vs. Baltimore, San Francisco and Arizona). The league finally seems to realise that the Colts do well against good teams when Frank Reich is their coach.
Indianapolis is also scheduled to play two other prime time games: a Thursday night game against the Denver Broncos and their star quarterback Russell Wilson, and a Sunday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys, the most popular team in the league.
The NFL is starting to realise that the Colts can be interesting during prime time. Taylor, a rising star who ran for more than 170 yards in both of Indianapolis’s home prime time games in 2021 and finished both of them with exciting touchdown runs, probably has a lot to do with it.
No matter why, giving Indianapolis two Monday night games at home was the right thing to do, even though the NFL still has a long way to go to make it right.
The Colts’ 2022 schedule has a lot more to look at than just the big games. Based on how many games they win in 2021, Indianapolis’s 2022 schedule is the sixth easiest in the NFL. Five of the first seven games are against teams in the AFC South, including two against the Titans.
This gives the Colts a chance to take control of the division or end up chasing Tennessee again. Indianapolis has to play in the tough AFC West, and early games against the Chiefs and Broncos could be important for getting off to a good start.
But all of that is normal, standard analysis that comes with the release of the schedule every year.
Monday Night Football games are set to take place in Indianapolis twice.
Finally. Been waiting a long time.
But the NFL has a long way to go to make up for what it owes to this city.
Tickets for the Colts in 2022 are on sale.
Tickets for individual Colts games at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2022 can be bought at Colts.com/Tickets or Ticketmaster.com.
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