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The Indianapolis Colts open their season on the road in Chicago, with a new staff, new quarterback and the usual questionable run defense.
Andrew Luck will try to avoid comparisons to Peyton Manning, or at least try to avoid a similar 3-13 rookie season. Here's how I see it shaking out:
At Bears, Sunday
The Bears should have defensive centerpiece Brian Urlacher with one mission in mind: Flatten quarterback Andrew Luck in a welcome-to-the-NFL debut. The Colts offensive line will be tested, as will the secondary tying to contain the many weapons at the disposal of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
The pick: Bears 26, Colts 16
Vikings, Sept. 16
The Colts play their first home game, against a beatable opponent. The lessons learned against the Bears should come in handy. The Colts will have the home crowd on its side. The Vikings are less than imposing on offense, so it won't be a shootout.
The pick: Colts 23, Vikings 20
Jaguars, Sept. 23
After pouncing on the Colts last season, all teams in the AFC South feel they can extend the beating this season. If Maurice Jones-Drew is in uniform, he'll go for 125 yards on the Colts, new defense or not. That's just the way it is.
The pick: Jags 20, Colts 17
Packers, Oct. 7
It's the quarterback ace of the present (Aaron Rodgers) vs. the ace of the future (Luck). The Packers are an early favorite to win the NFC and make another Super Bowl appearance. The Colts defense is not ready for this.
The Pick: Packers 31, Colts 13
At Jets, Oct. 14
Whether it's Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow at the helm for the Jets, their offense is questionable. The Colts defense will put some pressure on the QB. Luck displays his savvy this week against the Jets' defensive tricks. This would be the biggest upset win of the season.
The pick: Colts 23, Jets 21
Browns, Oct. 21
Here's a battle of rookie quarterbacks, assuming Brandon Weeden hasn't been unseated by Colt McCoy. Neither team is likely to set the league on fire, but the Colts would seem to have an edge offensively, so that's where this game rests.
The pick: Colts 31, Browns 23
At Titans, Oct. 28
It's a trip to Nashville to take on an AFC South rival, and the question will be whether the Colts 3-4 defense is able to slow Titans running back Chris Johnson. Tennessee can be a hard team to read, but their defense is decent enough to make this a game decided in the trenches.
The pick: Titans 24, Colts 17
Dolphins, Nov. 4
Here's another game featuring rebuilding franchises. The Colts appear better equipped for a fast reboot, especially considering they've had much more recent significant success than the Dolphins. Will Miami try to pick on former cornerback Vontae Davis? They shouldn't.
The pick: Colts 28, Dolphins 20
At Jaguars, Nov. 8
Here we go again, Jones-Drew Part II. Don't see a whole lot of difference between this and the first meeting, except that Luck will have half an NFL season under his belt. That's going to pay off facing the same defense a second time.
The pick: Colts 24, Jags 23
At Patriots, Nov. 18
Nothing pretty can come of this. It'll be like Obi-Wan Kenobi (Tom Brady) dueling with Anakin Skywalker (Not that Luck will be Darth Vader in the long run). The master will prevail at home. And Luck will get a nice taste of the Bill Belichick chess match.
The pick: Patriots 30, Colts 17
Bills, Nov. 25
This is a tough call, with the Colts facing a team they rarely face. On the other hand, the entirely new coaching staff is seeing everyone for the first time as a full unit. A big day for Fred Jackson could end up translating to a disappointing afternoon for the home crowd.
The pick: Bills 24, Colts 20
At Lions, Dec. 2
Now we're talking a little gunslinger action with Matthew Stafford ready to show Luck how it's done after a couple years in the league. The Lions have some defensive presence, but this could turn into a real shootout. Edge to the more experienced QB.
The pick: Lions 42, Colts 28
Titans, Dec. 9
Again, it's a good bet the Colts will be a better team the second time around against an AFC South opponent, especially if they're playing at home. The unanswerable question for now is whether one of these teams will have been debilitated by injuries. It's that time of year.
The pick: Colts 27, Titans 19
At Texans, Dec. 16
Houston has been waiting nearly all season to beat up on the Colts and assert their status as the new frontrunner in the AFC South. If Luck grows as expected, it won't be long before the tables are turned.
The pick: Texans 19, Colts 10
At Chiefs, Dec. 23
This could be an interesting matchup as the Colts fight to finish with a .500 record, which would be a huge success for the rebuilt team. Does anyone think Matt Cassel vs. Luck will be a long-term rivarly? I didn't think so.
The pick: Colts 24, Chiefs 21
Texans, Dec. 30
Look for the Texans to be in position to claim some sort of home-field advantage in the playoffs. So the urgency level will be a little stronger. On the other hand, the Colts could finish 8-8 and show rebuilding can be faster than ever envisioned. Close, but wait until next year.
The pick: Texans 27, Colts 24
Final record: 7-9