NFL Preview: Can Indy Bounce Back to AFC South Supremacy?

At one time, the AFC South belonged to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had as their quarterback one Peyton Manning. Manning turned into one of the greatest gunslingers to ever walk onto a football field. The lucky Colts managed to replace Manning with Andrew Luck.

Indianapolis Colts 2017 Preview

Luck has already gone to 3 Pro Bowls in only 5 NFL  Seasons. He’s easily one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. But even with Luck, Indy hasn’t had much success in what’s traditionally been the worst division in football, the AFC South.

Could this be the year that Indianapolis breaks through with a return to the playoffs? Or, will the Colts once again become an also-ran in the division?

I try to answer some of those questions in my NFL Preview of the Indianapolis Colts.

Andrew Luck is Great

Andrew Luck can’t be stopped. He managed to acquire a 96.3 QB rating last season on an 8 and 8 team. That’s what a great quarterback can do for you. They can make you difficult to beat if you’re a bad team, which, in the past couple of seasons, Indianapolis has been.

The Colts have a lot of issues. Riding on Luck has worked because of the QB’s brilliance. Last season he threw 31 TD passes to only 13 interceptions. He threw for 4,240 yards.

He’s also got some wheels. Luck rushed for 341 yards from 64 attempts for 5.3 yards per carry. He scored 2 rushing TDs. He might be the best quarterback in the NFL. It’s hard to knock a guy who is the sole reason for a team’s wins.

But, as good as Luck has been during his NFL career, the Colts can’t seem to protect their franchise quarterback. It’s difficult to remember another situation where a team was so desperate to not put together an offensive line that keeps their QB standing upright.

Luck has been sacked an incredible 156 times. That’s 156 times in only 70 games during a 5-year career. Luck is sacked an average of 2.23 times a game. That’s a lot of sacks for a guy you signed to a 5-year $122.97 million contract to take.

Most NFL organizations that sign a player to a $100 million plus contract attempt to protect that player’s well-being.

Maybe, the Colts believe that Luck is so good that it doesn’t matter who blocks for him. Luck will find a way. After all, he has so far in his career.

Is Andrew Luck Enough?

There’s an easy answer to that question. Andrew Luck is not enough. He never has been. When the Colts suffered at the hands of the Patriots in the famous Deflategate Game, Indianapolis had a decent offensive line. The team also had a well-regarded defense.

Indy was the up and coming team. After that season, 2014-2015, the Colts have descended into mediocrity. It’s not all the fault of the offensive line. Other players on the Colts’ offense just aren’t as good as Luck.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis’s best wide receiver, can stretch the field. But, he isn’t the type of receiver to go back to the football.  That’s not what he’s good at. He’s not going to catch a 5-yard out, ala Julio Jones, and take it to the house. Hilton’s going to beat his man deep. T.Y. also doesn’t really catch the ball over the middle. At only 5′ 9″ and 178 pounds, there’s a reason why Hilton prefers to run along the sidelines or run a flag route.

The Colts’ running back, Frank Gore, is as tough as they get. Gore’s been in the NFL for a long time. He keeps plugging away. I have nothing against Frank Gore. Nobody should. He’s one of the few players that shows up to work every day, and just plays. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Gore complain about anything. Gore’s also going into his twelfth season in the NFL. The average career for a running back in the NFL is 3.5 seasons.

What’s worrisome is that the Colts didn’t go for a running back, a wide receiver, or an offensive lineman in the first 3 Rounds of the NFL Draft. The Colts went defense, defense, and defense. We’ll get to why in a bit, but if Andrew Luck continues getting flattened at least twice per game, and if Indy’s rushing hopes are pinned solely on Frank Gore, it won’t matter how good the defense is.

Yeah…But, Indy’s Defense Isn’t Good

The Colts defense isn’t good. Before getting to the Round 1 through Round 3 defensive picks, I want to illustrate how bad the Colts’ D was in 2016. Indianapolis ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed per game. How many yards was that per? 382.6. Of the 382.6 yards per game, over 120 were rushing yards.

To stem the sieve on D, the Colts drafted Ohio State safety Malik Hooker with their first pick. Hooker is talented. He can play football with almost anybody in the NFL. The key for Hooker will be to help stop the rush.

The Colts suddenly play in a division where there’s an emphasis on rushing the football. Jacksonville spent the 4th pick in Round 1 on LSU rusher Leonard Fournette. Houston must rush the football to keep pressure off either one of their quarterbacks, Tom Savage or DeShaun Watson. The Tennessee Titans are one of the best rushing teams in the NFL.

Hooker must find a way to help stop opponent’s from rushing it all over Indy’s D.

In Round 2, the Colts drafted cornerback Quincy Wilson. Wilson could pan out as a decent pro. More than a couple of NFL Draft analysts had projected that Wilson would go in Round 1. If Wilson does pan out, the guy on the other side, Vontae Davis, is pretty good.

Then again, nothing matters in the secondary unless Indianapolis can pressure the quarterback. The Colts are terrible at pressuring the QB. Robert Mathis finally retired after last season. That means Indianapolis might be even worse at pressuring QBs this season.

2017-2018 Indianapolis Colts Schedule

In 3 of their first 4 games, the Indianapolis Colts battle 3 of the best quarterback pressure teams in the NFL. In Week 1, the Colts take on the L.A. Rams and Aaron Donald. In Week 2, Indianapolis battles the blitz happy Arizona Cardinals.

Week 3 is a reprieve of sorts. Indy hits the gridiron versus Cleveland in Week 3. But, in Week 4, the Colts are back versus a great QB pressure defense in the Seattle Seahawks.

What’s going to happen to Indianapolis in the first month of the NFL Regular Season? Indy should beat the Cleveland Browns. That’s it. By the end of the first month this season, Indy will sit at 1 and 3.

It won’t get better for the colts after the first month. Indianapolis’s bye week is Week 10. The 5 games before the bye week are:  San Francisco, at Tennessee, Jacksonville, at Cincinnati, at Houston, and Pittsburgh.

The Colts might win 3 out of 6 of those games. I don’t believe they win more than 2. As Indianapolis heads to their bye, I predict their record will be 3 and 7.

The Colts should lose only 1 or 2 more of their remaining games. They’ve got Tennessee, at Jacksonville, at Buffalo, Denver, at Baltimore, and Houston. I believe they lose 2 of their games. My prediction for the Indianapolis Colts is that they finish with a 7 and 9 record.

Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl 52 Odds

The Colts are at +3300 to win Super Bowl 52. Their fair odds are probably closer to 60 to 1. I wouldn’t touch the Colts to win Super Bowl 52 at anything less than 75 to 1.

There’s a reason. The Colts didn’t do enough to protect QB Andrew Luck. They also didn’t sign another WR to open things up for Hilton. Frank Gore will eventually hit the wall. Sure, the defense might be better, but it won’t be good enough to carry the Colts to the playoffs.

If you’re an Indy fan, heed the words of former head coach Jim Mora, “Playoffs?  Playoffs? Who said anything about playoffs!”

Right now, all Colts’ fans should be worried about is how the offensive line’s going to keep Luck standing upright.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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