The Colts had a roller coaster 2019 season starting with Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement at the end of last August, just two weeks before the start of the regular season. Indianapolis somehow got off to a roaring 5-2 start with Jacoby Brissett as the new starting QB, which included a stunning 19-13 victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. Indy’s season eventually went off the rails after T.Y. Hilton couldn’t stay healthy and when Brissett injured his knee against the Steelers in Week 9. The Colts won just two of their final nine games to finish with a 7-9 overall record (7-7-2 against the spread) and to miss the playoffs (-250 odds).
The Colts played in an incredible nine straight one-score games to start last season, and they finished with a 5-6 mark in games decided by eight points or fewer. They also went 2-2 in contests decided by three or more scores. Indianapolis finished with a 9-7 mark toward over totals last season after averaging 22.6 points per game (16th-most) and allowing 23.3 PPG (14th-most).
With the additions of Philip Rivers and DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis saw its 2020 season win total climb by two and a half games from last season when they were lined to win six and a half games. The Colts climbed over their 2019 win total with their seventh win of the season over the Panthers in Week 16. Indianapolis is -200 to make the playoffs this year for the second time in Frank Reich’s three seasons. Entering training camp, I have the Colts power rated as the 11th-best team in the NFL (+2500 to win Super Bowl LV), as the fifth-best team in the AFC (+1200 to win the conference), and as the best team in the AFC South (+110).
|Opponent (spread if available)
|@Jacksonville Jaguars (-7)
|Minnesota Vikings (-3)
|New York Jets (-7)
|@Chicago Bears (+1)
|@Cleveland Browns (+2)
|Cincinnati Bengals (-8.5)
|@Detroit Lions (-1)
|Baltimore Ravens (+2.5)
|@Tennessee Titans (+2.5)
|Green Bay Packers (-3)
|Tennessee Titans (-3)
|@Houston Texans (+1)
|@Las Vegas Raiders (-1)
|Houston Texans (-5)
|@Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5)
Key Off-season Moves
Philip Rivers (QB)
DeForest Buckner (DT)
Jonathan Taylor (RB)
Michael Pittman (WR)
Xavier Rhodes (CB)
Trey Burton (TE)
Eric Ebron (TE, Pit)
Devin Funchess (WR, Ind)
Dontrelle Inma (WR, FA)
Chester Rogers (WR, FA)
Joel Haeg (OG, TB)
Brian Hoyer (QB, NE)
Margus Hunt (NT, NO)
Jabaal Sheard (DE, FA)
Clayton Geathers (S, FA)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Colts have huge expectations entering this season after moving into the driver’s seat in the division winner odds, ahead of the defending AFC South champs the Texans and the AFC runners-up the Titans. I wouldn’t rank Philip Rivers ahead of Deshaun Watson or Ryan Tannehill in terms of quarterbacks in the division, but the veteran QB is expected to give the Colts a level of competence that was lacking at times in the second half of the year from Jacoby Brissett.
The Colts are clearly in a win-now mode based on their off-season moves after they signed Rivers and traded for stud DT DeForest Buckner. The Colts lost their first-round pick in the Buckner trade, but they were still able to get two offensive prospects in the second round who should be able to contribute on Day One with their high floors coming out of college. The Colts traded up for RB Jonathan Taylor to be their lead runner and they selected Michael Pittman to immediately step into the lineup as their X receiver.
Rivers will have plenty of weapons around him once again but, perhaps more importantly, he’ll have one of the best O-lines in front of him after playing behind some terrible units in his final years with the Chargers. Led by LG Quenton Nelson, the Colts O-line ranked second in PFF grading last season, and they also remarkably featured the same starting five for all 16 games last season. This O-line will have a difficult time playing up to those standards again while staying in the lineup, but this group is still the biggest strength of this team.
The Colts edged out their division foes the Titans for the easiest schedule in the league based on season win totals (per Sharp Football). The Colts got the Jets and the Raiders for their extra two AFC contests while the Titans got the Broncos and the Bills for their extra games. Indianapolis has just two games scheduled against teams lined at .500 or better (Min, @Cle) in the first eight weeks of the season, which could give the Colts a little more room for error if they’re trying to get one same page early in the season.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Colts have received a ton of off-season hype in this division, and they have the chance to get off to a strong start as touchdown favorites in two of their first three games against the Jaguars and the Jets. The one concern is it could take some time for Philip Rivers to get on the same page with his weapons and his O-line in his first year with the Colts after spending his first 16 years in the dysfunctional Chargers organization. Rivers at least recently worked under Reich for two seasons (2014-15) when he served as the Chargers OC, but this will be the third straight year Reich has broken in a new starting quarterback since he took the Colts head job in 2018.
Rivers has been a gunslinger at times during his career but the Colts need him to be more of a game manager this season since they could have one of the better rushing attacks behind one of the league’s best O-line. Rivers will need to rein himself in a bit this year after averaging 18.7 turnovers per season since 2011, which includes 15.6 interceptions per season and 3.1 fumbles lost per season. His reckless playing style is a big reason why he owns the NFL record with 63 one-score losses, which includes 33 one-score losses since 2015 (6.6 per season).
Turnover differential is always a major difference between the best and the worst teams in the league, and the Colts could have another problem player in that area. Second-round pick Jonathan Taylor was the best pure runner in this year’s draft, but he did lose a concerning 15 fumbles in 41 games (.37 fumbles lost per game) in three seasons at Wisconsin. Taylor has the potential to take this rushing attack to the next level this season, but he’ll need to clean up his ball-security issues to do it.
The Colts may have the easiest schedule in the league, especially early in the year, but it could be disastrous if they’re struggling to build chemistry in the first month or two of the season. If they stumble out of the gates against their easy schedule, they could be in a battle to go over their season win total when their schedule gets much more difficult in the second half of the season. The Colts are favored in five of their first seven games (71.4%), but they have matchups against the Ravens, the Titans (x2), the Texans (x2), the Steelers, and the Packers in their final nine games.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Philip Rivers: passing yards (4000.5), passing TDs (26.5), MVP (+6000)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (3960), passing TDs (25)
Best-case scenario: Rivers is rejuvenated leaving Los Angeles and playing under his old coach Frank Reich, and he turns back the clock playing behind one of the league’s best offensive lines.
Worst-case scenario: Rivers continues his decline at 39 years old. He fails to clean up his turnovers despite playing behind a great offensive line, and he can’t get on the same page with his new receivers.
Jonathan Taylor: rushing yards (700.5), most rushing yards (+6000)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (1090)
Best-case scenario: Taylor puts Marlon Mack in the rearview mirror and becomes the clear lead back early in the season, dominating carries behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Worst-case scenario: Taylor can’t shake his ball-security issues early in his career after losing 15 fumbles at Wisconsin, and he’s stuck in a three-man committee with Mack and Nyheim Hines.
Marlon Mack: rushing yards (700.5), most rushing yards (+5000)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (490)
Best-case scenario: Rookie Jonathan Taylor isn’t quite ready to be the team’s early-down back and the added pressure brings out the best in Mack, who leads this 1-2 punch in the Indy backfield.
Worst-case scenario: The Colts drafted Taylor early in the second round to use him as their lead runner from Day One and he doesn’t disappoint, relegating Mack to spot work behind him.
T.Y. Hilton: receiving yards (1050.5), most receiving yards (+2800)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (915)
- Best-case scenario: Hilton has some better luck with a quarterback not named Andrew Luck this season as he quickly becomes Philip Rivers’ go-to guy much like Keenan Allen was with the Chargers.
- Worst-case scenario: Hilton shows he’s on the downside of his career in his first season in his 30s with Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell stepping into big roles next to him.
Best Bets and Leans
I’m a little lower on the Colts than the betting public with Indianapolis surging to favorite status in the AFC South. I initially had the Colts higher than the Titans in my power rating after the draft, but I would now have the Titans higher than the Colts after going through the process to write these team betting previews. The main reason I’d make the switch is that I’m now a little lower on Philip Rivers than I initially was after his signing in March.
Rivers has been extremely turnover prone during his career, averaging 18.7 turnovers per season since 2011. It’s not a coincidence that he holds the NFL record for one-score losses in his career, which includes an incredible 33 one-score losses since 2015. I’m starting to wonder if Rivers is capable of being the game manager the Colts need him to be with this potentially potent rushing attack behind one of the best O-lines. The Colts do have one of the easiest schedules heading into the season, but I’m leaning toward the Colts going under their season win total of nine.
I’ve never been a big fan of Marlon Mack and the Colts didn’t exactly give him a ringing endorsement when they traded up in the second round to select Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor. We had Taylor as our top pre-draft back because of his pure running ability, and it shouldn’t take him long to blow past Mack as the team’s lead runner. Mack will benefit from a lack of an off-season since Taylor will lose some practice reps, but ultimately Taylor will have to struggle with ball-security issues for Mack to have a chance to clear his rushing total. I’m betting one unit on Mack to go under 700.5 rushing yards this season.
Hilton has been the top receiver in Indianapolis for the last seven seasons, but a multitude of small injuries may have him on the downside of his career as he enters his first full season in his 30s. He’s seeking one last contract as he enters the final year of his second deal, but the Colts have shown no sense of urgency to give him a third contract after drafting his potential replacements in the last two drafts in Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell. Hilton barely squeaked inside the top-36 at the position in FPG in his last two seasons without Andrew Luck, finishing with 966 receiving yards in 16 games in 2017 and 501 yards in 10 games last season. Hilton has averaged 6.8 targets per game during his seasons without Luck and 8.4 targets per game during his seasons with Luck, and he’ll be learning on the job with new QB in Philip Rivers this season. With Hilton adjusting to a new QB and with added competition for targets, I’m betting one unit on Hilton to go under 1050.5 receiving yards this season.
Best Bets: T.Y. Hilton under 1050.5 receiving yards (-110, DraftKings). Risk one unit to win .91 units…Marlon Mack under 700.5 rushing yards (-110, DraftKings). Risk one unit to win .91 units.
Leans: Indianapolis Colts under nine wins (-110, DraftKings)