The Indianapolis Colts have a golden opportunity in the next two pre-season games to win over some Peyton Manning loyalists and sell out their eight regular season games.
If I was a betting man, and I’m not, I’d wager that the Colts will come close to selling out the entire regular season by the end of this month.
If the Colts look good in the next two outings and there are still tickets left, that only means there are some pretty bad seats within Lucas Oil Stadium. Because so far this season—and granted, we’re very early—the Colts are doing what they need to win over central Indiana.
A stellar win over the St. Louis Rams on Aug. 12 was a good first step. It’s clear local fans are paying attention. The pre-season opener registered a 17.9 television rating, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. That means almost 200,000 in the Indianapolis market watched the game. Close to 10,000 more in this market watched the midnight replay.
That’s a marked improvement from last year, when Colts pre-season games averaged a 13.4 rating, according to Nielsen.
Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward thinks fans’ interest has been piqued not only by No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck but by a collection of new players and coaches.
“The team certainly has a new look with many new faces, and this was the first opportunity for our fans to see them in action as a group,” Ward said.
If Luck can perform as well as he did last Sunday against the Rams in prime time this Sunday night, that may be enough to sell the remaining 1,000 or so seats left for the regular season. Typically, Sunday night games have higher ratings, so the Colts have plenty to play for.
Even though the Steelers will be without pro-bowl defender James Harrison, Pittsburgh’s defense is still far better than the Rams. If the Colts succeed against Pittsburgh they could demonstrate they’re the real deal—or at least worthy of local fans’ attention.
If the Pittsburgh game isn’t enough to convince fans, maybe a Luck-Robert Griffin III showdown Aug. 25 as the Colts square off against the Washington Redskins will clinch the deal. No pressure on Luck, but if he can crack the steel curtain then outshine fellow high-profile rookie RGIII, there should be little doubt that No. 12 is ready to step in for No. 18.
No one is saying that if Luck succeeds in two pre-season games, they should clear a place for him in Canton. But reasonable fans could conclude from those outings what this team will look like come the regular season.