The Indianapolis Colts have been through a strange run over the past several seasons. For much of the 2010s, they had Andrew Luck at the helm of their offense. For a time, it seemed like Luck would be the next great quarterback to don the white and blue, a tradition that dated all the way back to the great Johnny Unitas and, most recently, had featured Peyton Manning. Luck took the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, as they won the AFC South in 2013 and 2014. His Colts lost to New England in the divisional round in 2014 and then in the AFC Championship in 2015, but his team looked like it would challenge the Patriots for supremacy in the conference, if not the whole league. However, a debilitating shoulder injury and a kidney laceration forced him off the field for some of 2016 and all of 2017. In 2018, he led the Colts back to the playoffs and was voted to the Pro Bowl, but then he retired just before the start of the 2019 campaign, leaving the offense in the hands of Jacoby Brissett. Brissett struggled, and the Colts missed the playoffs. At the start of free agency, the Colts had 30/1 odds to win Super Bowl LV, but they dropped to 20/1 after the Colts signed Philip Rivers away from the Los Angeles Chargers. Do the Colts really have what it takes to make the playoffs with one of football’s most talented — but least consistent — quarterbacks? Read our thoughts as you consider your sports betting on NFL futures.
NFL: Indianapolis Colts Change in Super Bowl Odds after Free Agency Wave #1
First, let’s talk about whether Rivers really makes the Colts better. He will have a solid O-line in front of him in Indianapolis. In 2019, they were the only line that featured the same five starters in all 16 games. The running game in Indy will give him some balance, as their attack was seventh in yards. Rivers ranks sixth in passing yardage all time in the NFL. However, quarterbacks who roll up the passing yards tend to find themselves trailing in the second half a great deal of the time. So while Rivers is an improvement on Brissett, I’m not sure that he will get the Colts to the top of the NFL’s mountaintop.
Rivers is coming in off his worst statistical season since 2016, and this is his year-38 season. Rivers has never had a cannon of an arm; his deep balls have so much air under them that defensive backs often have time to recover and either swat the ball or away or snatch an interception. Rivers does have accuracy, but he has a tendency to uncork bad decisions. Having a better line in front of him should mean that his hand is forced less frequently, but only time will tell.
The Colts made an impressive deal by trading for DeForest Buckner, a defensive tackle who had plied his trade with the San Francisco 49ers. He is 26 years old and should be moving into the prime of his career. Over the last two seasons, he has 19 ½ sacks and joins a D-line that already had the talented Justin Houston. Kemoko Turay is an edge rusher with an extremely high ceiling, so the Colts’ front four should be the best in the AFC South.
The salary cap will not be the Colts’ friend in 2020. The quarterback position is charging $49.325 million against the cap, which includes almost $3 million in dead cap money for Brian Hoyer, whom the team released. The Buckner deal did cost the Colts their first-round pick in the 2020 draft, but getting an elite defensive tackle in the prime of his career is worth that exchange.
So when it comes to picking a Super Bowl winner, I’d steer clear of the Colts. But what about the AFC South? That is a lot more interesting futures wager. The Houston Texans inexplicably dealt DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson, who has not been an elite running back for several seasons now. The Tennessee Titans made it to the AFC Championship last year and gave Ryan Tannehill a mammoth extension, but they were a wild card team for a reason as they struggled in the first half of 2019. The Colts, with Rivers and an improved defensive line, could emerge from that scrum with an AFC South crown.