Indianapolis Colts Season Preview – Are the Colts on the Verge of Reaching the Super Bowl?
By Michael Wynn
| August 13, 2019
Go ahead and examine all 32 general managers in the NFL. Take as much time as you need. You aren’t going to find a GM more competent than Chris Ballard.
The 2018 PFWA Executive of the Year has displayed that he knows exactly how to rebuild an organization that was in dire straits. In less than 24 months, he has transformed what was a suspect franchise into one of the betting favorites in the AFC.
It’s easy to look at the return of Andrew Luck and directly correlate it to Indianapolis’ ascent a season ago. However, I look at what Ballard was able to accomplish in the draft as equally — if not more — pertinent to the team’s overall success.
Remember that Darius Leonard, the linebacker the Colts selected in round two of the 2018 draft, was voted as the Defensive Rookie of the Year. The South Carolina State product was also awarded First-Team All-Pro honors.
And what about Quenton Nelson, the 331-pound left guard they drafted out of Notre Dame? Like Leonard, Nelson was also recognized as a First-Team All-Pro and has quickly emerged as one of the top offensive linemen in football.
After beginning the year 1-5 and looking like one of the NFL’s bottom-dwellers, Frank Reich took control of the situation, and the team won nine of the final ten games on the schedule and steamed into the playoffs.
The Colts didn’t slow down there as they followed by storming into NRG Stadium and trouncing the Texans by two touchdowns. Indy ran into a buzz saw the following week when they had to face the 2018 NFL MVP, eventually losing in the Divisional Round to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Overall, there is a ton to look forward to in Indianapolis as we inch toward September.
This Indianapolis Colts 2019 season preview should clue you in on what to expect from Andrew Luck and company. Futures odds are included, and I’ll even give you a prediction as to how far this team can go.
Indianapolis Colts 2019 Outlook and Expectations
Head Coach: Frank Reich
2018 Record: 10-6 (lost in Divisional Round to Chiefs)
Key Addition: Justin Houston (free agent)
Key Loss: Dontrelle Inman (signed with New England)
Nothing against Dontrelle Inman and the skill set he possesses, but if he is the biggest piece that Indianapolis lost from last year’s puzzle, this team is in really good hands.
Once again, this is a direct reflection of Chris Ballard and the rest of Indy’s front office brass. Their aptitude for understanding what it takes to generate a first-rate product on the field is evident.
When you look at the loss of wide receivers Dontrelle Inman and Ryan Grant, you start to look at what they did to replenish the WR core. They signed Devin Funchess in March and drafted Parris Campbell in April.
Funchess is 6’4” and weighs 235 pounds but never really established himself fully in Carolina. Now in Indianapolis where airing it out is much more prevalent, Devin gives Luck a legitimate red-zone threat who can elevate on quick fades to the corners.
Parris Campbell caught 90 balls and 12 touchdowns as a senior at Ohio State, and few players are turning more heads thus far in mini-camp than the 21-year-old rookie. When asked about Parris Campbell’s speed, Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni responded with this.
“You know, I think when you get the type of speed that Parris has, that’s just something that you can’t replicate when you’re a defensive coordinator.”
Should Campbell pan out and Funchess stay healthy, we could be looking at one of the most compelling offenses in all of football. T.Y. Hilton’s bond with Andrew Luck will only continue to grow, and Eric Ebron has developed into a true touchdown machine. During the 2018 regular season, Ebron’s 13 TDs were more than that of any pass catcher in the NFL not named Antonio Brown.
As for the running game, Marlon Mack ripped off 908 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns despite only appearing in 12 contests. The former South Florida runner is just 23 years old and is a solid bet to be among the NFL’s top RBs in 2019.
Nyheim Hines is a perfect complement and a speedy third-down back, not to mention ESPN has crunched the numbers and stated that the Colts have the best pass-blocking offensive line in football.
Now let me tell you about this defensive unit’s potential.
I already boasted about Darius Leonard, but I’m not sure the average fan comprehends exactly what he brings to the table. Darius was all over the field in 2018, deflecting eight passes, picking off two balls, and forcing four fumbles. His 163 tackles not only led the league, but it was also 19 more tackles than any other defensive player in the NFL.
Justin Houston comes over from Kansas City to provide a presence on the edge, and once again, it appears that Chris Ballard has struck gold in the draft.
Adam Vinatieri will turn 47 the day before the Colts take the field in week 17, but by then, Indianapolis could be sitting on 11 or 12 wins with the AFC South already locked up.
Indianapolis’ Best Attribute – Dynamic Offense
When you truly consider how many weapons Andrew Luck will have at his disposal in 2019, it’s easy to become animated. Nearly all 11 of the men who are on the field at all times will have advantages in their respective matchups.
It starts up front with their sturdy offensive line that deserves every bit of praise they have received. I referred to ESPN crediting the Colts with the best pass-blocking O-line in the business, and that wasn’t based on opinions or hearsay. That’s based on metrics and analytics.
As for the proof that I can convey, I can confirm that Indianapolis surrendered the fewest number of sacks of any team in the National Football League.
Now let’s inspect the skill positions.
Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines will handle the majority of the touches coming out of the backfield while Jordan Wilkins will be rotated in. I alluded to Eric Ebron hauling in 13 touchdowns, but Indy also gets Jack Doyle back at tight end, which is a huge plus for the Colts. Jack caught 80 balls in 2017 and only trailed Travis Kelce in terms of receptions by a tight end.
I spoke about restocking at the wideout position with Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, but I failed to elaborate that Chester Rogers could assume a big role as well. The more attention secondaries have to pay toward the supporting cast, the more space T.Y. Hilton will have to roam around in.
All in all, this offense is sizing up to be as dynamic as any.
The Colts’ Biggest Worry – Staying Healthy
It’s a bit unclear how Jack Doyle will respond from having hip surgery in February. Marlon Mack missed four games last year, and neither T.Y. Hilton nor Devin Funchess (with the Panthers in ’18) could complete full seasons.
The trials and tribulations of Andrew Luck’s throwing shoulder have been well documented, and Jacoby Brissett isn’t exactly the backup quarterback capable of leading a team to the Promised Land. It’s safe to say that Luck needs to stay upright if this team is going to live up to their expectations.
As challenging as it is to navigate through the AFC, the Colts can ill-afford to lose any of their key players to a catastrophic injury of any kind.
Football is a high-contact sport, and players are bound to get banged up throughout a grueling 16-game season. No matter how much of an emphasis a team places on conditioning and building strength in the core muscles, it’s inevitable that the “injury bug” will bite.
Indianapolis needs to hope that “the unavoidable insect” only takes a nibble and not a huge chunk.
Indianapolis Colts Betting in 2019
I wouldn’t say the AFC North is wide open, but the division crown in 2019 is most definitely up for grabs. The Titans are a bit of a mystery, and the Jaguars are trying to get back to relevancy, but my Houston Texans season preview tells us that Bill O’Brien’s bunch is ready to put up a serious fight.
Readers were assured they’d get a prediction, so here I go.
I think Indy gets the job done and eclipses double-digit wins en route to winning the AFC North. I wish I didn’t have to lay all that juice (-150) on them reaching ten or more wins, but I’d have a hard time betting that Frank Reich comes up short, even at the appealing price tag of +130.
I’d consider pulling the trigger on Indy to win the AFC Championship, and quite frankly, winning Super Bowl 54 in Miami is still within the realm of possibility. The problem is that the Chargers and the Chiefs might have something to say.
Counting out the New England Patriots in 2019 would be a big mistake.
Nonetheless, +800 is pretty appetizing if you ask me. While you’re at it, throw a few bucks down on Indy hoisting the trophy in February. You might get lucky and find yourself in the enviable position of being able to hedge your action!