Following a 4-12 season in 2017, the Indianapolis Colts decided to part ways with head coach Chuck Pagano. To be fair, the Colts played the whole season without the services of Andrew Luck, who was slow to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. However, a 4-12 season was too much to forgive, costing Pagano his job.
After a rather unconventional coaching search that saw Josh McDaniels take the job only to back out at the last second, the Colts settled on Frank Reich as their new head coach. With Luck presumably healthy heading into the season, several notable roster moves made over the offseason, and Reich leading the way, the Colts are hopeful that they can catapult themselves back into the playoff picture in 2018, perhaps even emerge as a dark horse to reach the Super Bowl.
According to oddsmakers, the Colts have slim playoff hopes at +8000. Even before Luck needed surgery, the Colts needed plenty of help to become a Super Bowl contender. Not knowing if Luck will be the same quarterback he was before the surgery makes it virtually impossible to pick the Colts to win the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Indianapolis is projected to just win 5.5 games this year. The Colts would need just a two-win improvement from last year to top that mark. If you think Luck (coming off surgery, remember) is worth two wins, taking the over is a great bet.
Obviously, it’s all about Luck’s health. Jacoby Brissett looked serviceable at times last year, but Luck can be a transformative player. There are no guarantees with him, and he will certainly need time to round into form, but he’s a bonafide difference maker if his arm is anywhere near the level it was before the surgery.
Fortunately for Luck, the Colts made a concerted effort during the offseason to improve the offensive line, which has been a disaster throughout much of Luck’s time in Indianapolis. Center Ryan Kelly and left tackle Anthony Costanzo will anchor the group that could also include first-round pick Quentin Nelson and second-round pick Braden Smith. That group could have some growing pains, but there is plenty of talent, so they could improve over the course of the season.
Indy should also have a nice contingent of playmakers at Luck’s disposal. T.Y. Hilton remains the team’s best playmaker, and he’ll be complemented this season by free-agent signing Ryan Grant. Tight end could end up being an important part of the Indianapolis offense. Jack Doyle returns after 80 catches and a Pro Bowl invitation last year. The Colts also signed the enigmatic Eric Ebron. If Luck needs to make shorter passes, those two could prove invaluable.
The backfield, however, remains a work in progress. Marlon Mack is the presumed starter, getting the job almost by default after Franke Gore signed elsewhere. The Colts are going to hope that rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins can step in right away. In any event, the Colts will have a young backfield that will have to answer plenty of questions early in the season. That’s not exactly an ideal way to support Luck coming back from surgery.
Defensively, the Colts had a lot of problems last season that need fixing. The team parted ways with Jon Bostic and Johnathan Hankins, two of their better players, and also switched to a 4-3 scheme, so there were a lot of moving parts over the offseason. The defensive line is questionable at best, as the Colts will be relying on converted linebacker Jabaal Sheard and second-round rookie Kemoko Turay to provide a consistent pass rush. There may be just as many questions at linebacker with second-round pick Darius Leonard expected to take on a starting role right away due to a lack of established players at that position.
Meanwhile, it’s in the secondary where the Colts need to show the move improvement. If Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers can stay healthy, Indianapolis should have a reliable pair of safeties. However, there are a handful of cornerbacks battling it out for starting positions during training camp, so clearly the Colts don’t know who their best options will be at that position.
Clearly, the defense is a huge concern for Indianapolis heading into the season. If Luck proves he’s healthy and the new-look offensive line holds up, the Colts will be capable of scoring points. However, uncertainty about their running game and a lack of answers on defense makes it hard to envision the Colts being in the playoff hunt this year. However, improvement late in the season is possible for such a young team.
|Sep 9||Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM|
|Sep 16||@ Washington Redskins||1:00 PM|
|Sep 23||@ Philadelphia Eagles||1:00 PM|
|Sep 30||Houston Texans||1:00 PM|
|Oct 4||@ New England Patriots||8:20 PM|
|Oct 14||@ New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|Oct 21||Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|Oct 28||@ Oakland Raiders||4:05 PM|
|Nov 11||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|Nov 18||Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM|
|Nov 25||Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|Dec 2||@ Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|Dec 9||@ Houston Texans||1:00 PM|
|Dec 16||Dallas Cowboys||1:00 PM|
|Dec 23||New York Giants||1:00 PM|
|Dec 30||@ Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM|
With the AFC South returning two playoff teams from a season ago and the Colts playing both teams that played in last season’s super bowl, Indy has plenty of marquee games on the schedule in 2018. The schedule is no doubt challenging for the Colts but far from insurmountable.
Week 1: vs Bengals – Win
Luck surprises everyone with a solid performance in his first start back. It doesn’t say much against the Bengals, but it’s a good start to the season nonetheless.
Week 2: at Redskins – Loss
The shortcomings of the Indy defense get exposed by veteran quarterback Alex Smith. Meanwhile, Luck isn’t quite accustomed to the rigors of playing back-to-back weeks after a year away, so he struggles.
Week 3: at Eagles – Loss
This game has mismatch written all over it. Even if Carson Wentz isn’t back yet, the Eagles have way too much talent on offense for the Colts to stop.
Week 4: vs Texans – Loss
Luck has a good game, but the Indianapolis defense can’t do anything against Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Ultimately, the Houston pass rush puts enough pressure on Luck to prevent a 4th-quarter comeback.
Week 5: at Patriots – Loss
A trip to New England on Thursday night, you’re out of your mind if you think the Colts are winning this game.
Week 6: at Jets – Win
The Jets can’t seem to figure out who they want to play at quarterback. That uncertainty plays right into the hands of the Indianapolis defense.
Week 7: vs Bills – Loss
Consistency is still a problem for the Colts at this point. One week after a solid performance against the Jets, Luck and company fail to put their best foot forward at home against the Bills.
Week 8: at Raiders – Loss
The Indy defense forces Luck into another shootout. This time, Derek Carr creates a few more plays downfield than Luck, enabling the Raiders to pull off a close win.
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: vs Jaguars – Loss
Both teams had extra time to prepare for this game. However, the difference is that Jacksonville’s defense used the extra time to find new and interesting ways to put pressure on Luck. He has a rough day, as the Colts get blown out at home.
Week 11: vs Titans – Win
The Colts don’t let last week’s lopsided game bother them. Luck and the offense bounce back in a big way while the Indy defense puts together a solid performance against Marcus Mariota.
Week 12: vs Dolphins – Loss
The Colts are coming along, but they still can’t seem to find much consistency, especially on defense. The Indy defense has another off week, and so they get picked apart by Ryan Tannehill.
Week 13: at Jaguars – Win
The Jaguars come into this game a little overconfident. Before they know it, Luck connects with Hilton on two big plays down the field. Jacksonville isn’t set up to overcome a double-digit deficit, so the Colts hang on for the win.
Week 14: at Texans – Win
The Colts put everything together for the second straight week. The offensive line holds up against the Texans this time around, allowing Luck to beat Watson in a shootout.
Week 15: vs Cowboys – Win
The Indy defense has a good outing against a Dallas team that still isn’t great at throwing the ball. Meanwhile, Luck is starting to look strong and healthy late in the season.
Week 16: vs Giants – Win
This game becomes more about the Giants having a late-season meltdown than the Colts playing well. Nevertheless, Luck has a solid outing, as the Colts continue their strong finish to the year.
Week 17: at Titans – Loss
The Titans have a lot on the line in this game, plus they’re upset about losing to the Colts earlier in the year. Indy fights hard but can’t quite close out the season on a high note.