By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
When the Colts walked out of Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2019, despite falling 31-13 to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs that cold Saturday afternoon, optimism was soaring from Indianapolis, as the Colts started the 2018 season 1-5 before finishing the year at 10-6 and scoring a road playoff victory against their division rival, Houston Texans.
The future from Indy looked bright. They finally solidified their offensive line thanks to rookie Quenton Nelson. The defense had young talent galore, led by the eventual defensive rookie of the year Darius Leonard. And the biggest kicker of all, the Colts had finally found the perfect coach to work with Andrew Luck.
Then the sucker punch came, and Luck decided he had taken enough punishment in his career and that now was the time to retire while he was still a young man.
Andrew Luck’s decision was entirely justified and hard to argue with, but the Colts were left in quite the position, as Luck’s retirement would be announced just weeks before the 2019 season kicked off.
Now 12 months later, the Colts have put their hopes on 38-year old Philip Rivers to take the team back to the top of the AFC South. By the time we conclude this preview, Rivers may have another seven children.
Colts 2019 Season Review
After getting the equivalent of the Hans Moleman, when Andrew Luck retired a month before the season, the Colts were left with no other choice than to turn the keys of the offense over to his backup, Jacoby Brissett.
To Brissett’s credit considering he was thrust into duty as the Colts starting quarterback, he played very well out of the gate for Frank Reich. Brissett led the Colts to a 5-2 start, threw for nearly 1600 yards and had an impressive 14 touchdowns to only three interceptions to start the season.
After the hot start, Brissett would injure his knee in a 26-24 loss to the Steelers, and while he would only miss one start, Brissett did not look like the same quarterback after the injury. He struggled mightily, throwing for less than 200 yards in five of his last seven starts, and did not throw a touchdown in his last three games.
The quarterback’s struggles could be traced back to a rash of injuries that just seemed to blanket the team after their aforementioned quick start to the season.
Brissett would lose his top two WR’s in the passing game when T.Y. Hilton and rookie Parris Campbell would both land on the injured list for a good portion of the season, and after an outstanding 2018 season, TE Eric Ebron would regress once again in 2019, seeing his yardage cut in half and going from 13 touchdowns to just 3.
Following the Colts 5-2 start, Indianapolis would end the season 2-7 and finish the year a game under .500 at 7-9. The record was not really a surprise considering the circumstances.
There were still several bright spots for Frank Reich’s group to carry into the 2020 NFL Season, however, as the team’s offensive line further gelled and is now the best unit in football. This allowed for the Colts to have the 7th best rushing attack in the NFL last year, with Marlon Mack’s 1091 yards and 8 touchdowns leading the way.
Defensively, the Colts were very stout against the run, with Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard leading the way once again on the Indy defense, this despite missing three games to injury.
Elsewhere, Indy was pretty much middle of the pack on the defensive side of the ball, and they simply could not stop teams late, probably in large part to a depleted offense that could not stay on the field themselves.
2019 also provided the likely end of Adam Vinatieri’s career, as the best kicker of all time finally showed signs of being AARP eligible and would struggle all season for the Colts.
Already Fearing 3 AM “You Up?” Texts from Jim Irsay
QB Philip Rivers (Chargers)
DT DeForest Buckner (Trade/49ers)
CB Xavier Rhodes (Vikings)
DT Sheldon Day (49ers)
TE Trey Burton (Bears)
The “Not Sure Any of These Guys are Actually Free-Agent Losses” Losses
TE Eric Ebron (Steelers)
CB Pierre Desir (Jets)
WR Devin Funchess (Packers)* COVID-19 Opt-Out
QB Brian Hoyer (Patriots)
T Joe Haeg (Buccaneers)
DE Margus Hunt (Saints)
WR Chester Rogers (Dolphins)
Colts 2020 Offensive Preview
The Colts enter 2020 hoping that Philip Rivers has enough gas in the tank for one final run at a Super Bowl. If you watched Rivers play for the Chargers in 2019 however, you may be thinking that’s a pretty ask of the 38-year old sleep-deprived father of 9.
Rivers played, basically, in the same manner, Philip Rivers has played in most of his career. The fiery competitor who has never been shy about throwing a pass into double coverage racked up 4615 yards passing and 23 touchdowns in 2019, but also threw 20 interceptions and fumbled the ball away another eight times. The Chargers would lose most of their games by less than a touchdown, and Rivers turnovers were usually the deciding factor.
38-year old quarterbacks don’t play like 38-year old quarterbacks any longer though, as Tom Brady and Drew Brees continue to prove, and if Rivers does have enough left for one more run, the personnel in Indianapolis can only help prolong that career a little bit further.
First of all, Rivers is going to love the Colts’ offensive line as much as he loves sending the kids to day care. Quenton Nelson is the closest resemblance to a brick wall in the league, with Anthony Castonzo playing left tackle and the vastly underrated Ryan Kelly playing center, the Colts o-line has the nastiest left side in football.
The Colts offensive line helps open up massive holes in the run game for the explosive Marlon Mack, but Mack has yet to play an entire season in his career, and his durability is a question. To remedy this, the Colts drafted Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor in the second round, giving Indy a potentially scary good tandem at running back.
Outside of AFC South defensive backs, Philip Rivers will also have his share of weapons to throw the ball to in Indianapolis as well, headlined by longtime Colt T.Y. Hilton and second-year Ohio State product Parris Campbell. Indianapolis also expects to get production out of USC rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr.
Indy returns Jack Doyle at tight-end and replaced Eric Ebron with former Philly Special touchdown thrower Trey Burton coming to the team in free agency.
Colts 2020 Defensive Preview
On the defensive side of the ball, the Colts got aggressive in patching up their defense that was pretty much bang average in 2019. As mentioned earlier, the Colts were very stout against the run a year ago, in large part because of their outstanding linebacker Darius Leonard.
In 2020, the Colts run defense could be even better, as the team went out and traded their first-round overall pick to the 49ers for DT DeForest Buckner. Buckner will pair with former Chiefs edge rusher Justin Houston on the defensive line and should immediately make an impact on a defense that struggled to consistently generate a pass rush a season ago.
In the secondary, the Colts went out and got Xavier Rhodes in free agency. Rhodes has been nothing like the cornerback he was at the start of his career, however, and when paired with TJ Carrie, there are quite a few questions to be had there. The Colts secondary is highlighted by their talented young safety Malik Hooker, but this unit as a whole definitely looks to be below average on paper.
Colts 2020 Outlook & Prediction
The Colts may have overachieved a year ago by going 7-9 with Andrew Luck retiring so close to the season. There is plenty of talent on this roster, especially on the offensive side of the football, but it will likely all come down to how Philip Rivers plays in 2020.
If Rivers reverts back to the same form as he had in 2019, when he was still playing with weapons like Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry and Keenan Allen, the Colts are going to struggle in a pretty tough division. But if Rivers can capture that same form as he had in 2018, Indianapolis is a dangerous team in the AFC.
While Rivers having a great season wouldn’t be a surprise in the slightest, we believe the 38-year old quarterback will continue to trend down as his career draws to a close. Indy has too much talent to be a bad team, so we expect them to hover around the same place they were a season ago at 7-9.
Colts 2020 Projection: 8-8, 2nd Place AFC South
Colts 2020 Betting Preview
The Indianapolis Colts will be one of the most fascinating teams during the 2020 season, as this is a team that is truly a toss-up. We honestly believe there are much better futures on the board, but with that being said, here are the futures bets we’d lean on the most in relation to the Indianapolis Colts.
- Colts UNDER 9 Wins — (-105) at DraftKings Sportsbook
This bet really comes down to what you think Philip Rivers will provide for this Colts team. As mentioned above, we’re not buying him leading Indy into the playoffs. Because of this, we also do not see the Colts having a winning season in 2020 and will take the under 9 wins here at nearly even money. We will also add that because this team is such a toss-up to peg, that we are not overly confident about this play.
- Indianapolis Colts to Make Playoffs (NO) — (+154) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Continuing the theme and taking the plus money to boot. With the extra playoff spot, this is admittedly a risky play, but we’re sticking to our guns and fading Philip Rivers this season. The same qualification about the Colts being such a hard team to predict comes into play with this bet as well.
- Jonathan Taylor to Win OROTY — (+800) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Marlon Mack has never played a full 16-game season, and his style of running doesn’t seem like it’s going to change that fact any time soon. Enter the talented rookie Jonathan Taylor, who could very well wind up closing the season getting the bulk of the carries in Indianapolis. If we are very wrong about Philip Rivers and this Colts team is in the playoff hunt with Taylor racking up stats, this pick is very much in play.