Andrew Luck was the quarterback set to steer the Indianapolis Colts back to the glory days reeled in by Payton Manning at the end of the last decade, but injuries continued to strike. Luck missed the 2017 season entirely, slowly working back from a mismanaged shoulder injury, and then started 16 games in 2018, only to announce his retirement in August 2019 at 29-years-old.
The Colts went from making it to their first playoffs appearance in four years to sinking back to third in the AFC South with a 7-9 record. However, not to be dissuaded by Luck’s announcement, the Colts have continued to build and move pieces, and now the stage is set for them to conquer a wide-open division.
A new build already coming to fruition
Perhaps the defining aspect of the Colts while they had Luck under center was that GM Ryan Grigson neglected the offensive line season after season. Luck lacked protection throughout the earlier stages of his professional career, with the only reasonable offensive line being formed in what would prove to be the last season of his career. Regardless of pressures and hits, Luck was sacked a massive 156 times from 2012 to 2016, averaging 2.2 sacks sustained per game.
Having finished with decent numbers in 2018 – the second term of Chris Ballard in the GM role – the Colts O-line grew into the third-best in the NFL last season and entered this season as the best-rated before a ball had been snapped. It was too little too late for Luck, but for veteran Philip Rivers, who signed in the offseason, there will be plenty of time to pick out speedster TY Hilton, the lanky Parris Campbell, or the useful Zach Pascal downfield. Better still, defenses will be kept honest by the presence of the ever-consistent Marlon Mack and exciting rookie Jonathan Taylor in the backfield.
Of course, it’s not all about offense in the NFL. Yet another reason why Luck was put under pressure so often was because the Colts’ defense was sub-par in most seasons, putting more pressure on the QB to hold the rock and make the big plays. Now, the defense looks menacing, and potentially a top-ten unit by the time the season closes. Trading for DeForest Buckner to add to a defense already loaded with playmakers, was a power move by the front office, making a statement to the rest of the AFC South that the Colts are going for the top spot in 2020.
— NFL (@NFL) March 16, 2020
The AFC South is there for the taking
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 16, 2020
Having gone six years since last claiming the AFC South, Indi fans might just be eyeing up their home team to do it this year. One of the best places to turn to for a mix of expert ratings and to see how the NFL audience is leaning is the bookmakers. With online sports betting legal in many states, including Indiana, you can bet that Colts fans have been looking to the +120 favourite odds of Indi to win the division. Sitting above evens, however, means that other teams are being given a look this year.
The leading competitor to the Colts’ run at the divisional crown is the Tennessee Titans. A hardy team seemingly held back for years by the plateauing of Marcus Mariota’s talent, the Titans have found solace in an upstart Ryan Tannehill and powerhouse back Derrick Henry. However, the O-line and the defense has taken a hit, particularly with Ryan Conklin, Logan Ryan, and Cameron Wake departing.
The Houston Texans are rated behind the Titans and Colts this year. It’s understandable after they lost their most potent receiving threat (DeAndre Hopkins) in a trade for running back David Johnson (who has started 26 times in three seasons), and saw their once-terrifying defense slip again. As for the Jacksonville Jaguars, everyone can see that they are trying to ‘Tank for Trevor,’ so they’ll be all-but a nonfactor this season.
With the Colts taking their roster another step forward and there being several question marks over their divisional rivals, the Indianapolis Colts look poised to finally ascend to the top of the AFC South once again.