Indianapolis Colts Season Prediction



Additions: DL DeForest Buckner (Trade), QB Philip Rivers (FA), CB Xavier Rhodes (FA), S Tavon Wilson (FA), FB Roosevelt Nix (FA), TE Trey Burton (FA), WR Michael Pittman Jr. (Draft), RB Jonathan Taylor (Draft)

Losses: TE Eric Ebron (FA), CB Pierre Desir (FA), DL Margus Hunt (FA), OL Joe Haeg (FA), WR Chester Rogers (FA)


Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement last year forced the Colts to adjust on the fly. Jacoby Brissett was thrust into a starting role just weeks before the season opener. After a hot start, Brissett and Indy sputtered to a 7-9 record, partially due to the unexpected and rapid decline of Adam Vinatieri.

So, this year, with new faces at both quarterback and kicker and a full offseason to prepare, I have the Colts going… 7-9. I know. It feels wrong. But, I try not to get too caught up in how the team did last year and instead look at the team’s current composition. Based on the roster and schedule, I think Indy is a 7-win team.

After 16 years in San Diego/Los Angeles, Philip Rivers is the Colts’ starting quarterback while Brissett slides back into his natural backup role. 2019 was a rough year for the fertile father. I think he’s a little better than what he showed last year, but decline has clearly set in. Brissett actually played well to start the season before a knee injury and ensuing struggles, so I’m not expecting a huge jump in overall qb play. Same goes for kicker. The favorite to win the job, Chase McLaughlin, hasn’t shown enough to suggest he’ll be a major upgrade, with just 11 career games and a 78% field goal percentage.

Rivers will have the benefit of playing behind possibly the best offensive line in the league, though. Quenton Nelson is so awesome that even casual fans know who he is. That’s a rare feat for a lineman. The rest of the line isn’t quite up to his level, but that’s an impossible standard. All five starters are back after Anthony Castonzo signed a two-year deal this offseason. With no weak link in the group, Rivers might not know how to react to actually having time in the pocket for once.

Indy’s weapons get a lot of talk, and they certainly are intriguing. I think they’re more great than elite, though. Rookie Jonathan Taylor is the future at running back and should take over at some point this season. Until then, Marlon Mack will hold down the fort as a proven and capable starter.

While the receiving corps gets a lot of love, I’m not as sold on them. T.Y. Hilton is a good-not-great WR1 coming off an injury-plagued season. Hopefully 2019 was just a blip in a great career. The Colts spent second-rounders in back-to-back years on Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. Both will see time and benefit from the attention Hilton draws. With that being said, the hype around Pittman seems to have gotten a little out of control. People seem to forget that he was the eighth receiver drafted and only a rookie. Campbell is a really fun player with potential, but he did almost nothing last year amid injury struggles.

Great tight end has been a staple in Indianapolis play for years. With Eric Ebron leaving for Pittsburgh, Trey Burton was brought in. As I’ve said, I’m not the biggest Ebron guy, so I don’t think this was a huge drop off. Training camp has dealt a blow to the position’s outlook, though. Starter Jack Doyle has been dealing with neck problems while Burton will miss the start of the season with a calf strain.

All in all, I don’t think it’s that great of an offense. Somewhere from just inside the top 10 to slightly below average is my gauge on them. Defensively, it’s a similarly mediocre bunch. Coordinator Matt Eberflus has done a great job maximizing the unit lacking in star power.

DeForest Buckner, as great as he is, can’t play all 11 positions. Outside of Darius Leonard, he’s the only star of the group to me. Justin Houston and Kenny Moore warrant some recognition, too. However, Houston is more really good at his point in his career than anything. Putting a second-year slot corner in that category feels premature, too.

The rest of the defense is a mix of meh, solid, and good. Indy’s d-line falls in the last category, as they were particularly stout against the run (7th in yards and a less impressive 12th on a per carry basis). Kemoko Turay will bring some exciting pass-rush potential once he is fully recovered from last year’s ankle injury. With the addition of Buckner, they’re capable of overwhelming some offensive lines.

While Leonard roams the weak-side, Walker will man the middle linebacker spot. Whenever the Colts deploy three linebackers, Bobby Okereke will join them. The 2019 third-round pick has some intriguing traits and has the coaching staff looking for ways to get him more snaps. With a stud in Leonard and league-wide deemphasis of the position, this is a good linebacker group.

The secondary is where you see a lot of the meh. As a whole, it might even be worse than that. Rock Ya-Sin will take one outside corner spot after an up-and-down rookie season while Indy prays for a time machine at the other. I’m not too keen on betting on an Xavier Rhodes career revival. Safety Malik Hooker had his 5th-year option declined in May. That should tell you all you need to know about how his own team views him. Fourth-round pick Khari Willis will start alongside him after a pleasantly surprising rookie season. Indianapolis struggled against the pass last season and the secondary was a big reason why. There’s a good chance this remains a weakness in 2020.

Indy is pretty much the epitome of average to me. Depending on how the ball bounces, they could go 10-6 or 6-10. They’d probably be in the middle of the pack if I ranked the toughest schedules in the league, too. For consistency’s sake, I’ll give them back-to-back 7-9 seasons with both the quarterback and kicker blowing games.

What’s your record prediction for the Colts? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.

Looking Back…Who Won the Colts-Pats Jacoby Brissett Trade?

The History

To start 2016, Tom Brady was serving a four-game suspension as punishment for his role in Deflategate. Jimmy Garoppolo replaced him, but a week 2 injury led to Brissett taking the reins.

While his play was far from exceptional, it was still impressive for a third-round rookie thrown into the fire. He showed great rushing ability, although his passing was extremely inconsistent even with coddling from the play-calling.

Still, between his three games in 2016 and an excellent showing the following preseason, he displayed enough potential to become a valuable asset. So, the Patriots trading him days before the next season for an underwhelming return definitely came as a shock.

For an Indianapolis team expecting to be without Andrew Luck for the whole year, this was a no-brainer. New England’s asking price was only Dorsett, who had failed to live up to his draft day expectations. I picture Chris Ballard hanging up the first time he got this offer expecting it to have been a prank call.

Indianapolis Post Trade

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Brissett played as well for the Colts as anyone could have realistically expected. After Scott Tolzien embarrassed himself, the team, and all of America with his pitiful week one performance, Brissett started every game the rest of the way.

Statistically, it was ugly, but that doesn’t take into account just how bad Indianapolis was. In 2016, a healthy Luck was only able to will them to eight wins. Expecting Brissett to surpass or even meet that with less than a week of preparation would have been insane.

With the most sacks allowed in the league, his offensive line play was terrible. T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle were solid top targets, but it’s hard to get them the ball when you get drilled instantly every play. Old man Frank Gore didn’t move the needle in the backfield, either.

It was a terrible situation, and Brissett still managed to make the most out of it. Getting four wins was somewhat of an accomplishment, though it’s worth noting that those came against the 0-16 Browns, the 4-12 Texans (twice), and the 6-10 49ers before they acquired Garoppolo.

Whether by his own volition or the team’s game plan, Brissett didn’t take many risks. He barely topped 3,000 yards and sported a 13:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. While it was by no means perfect, just surviving that season was impressive.

In 2018, Brissett was relegated back to his natural role as a backup. Luck returned and led the team to 10 wins and another in the playoffs. The ensuing divisional round beatdown proved to be Luck’s final game, though, as he shockingly retired just weeks before the season opener.

Once again, Brissett was thrust into a starting role with little time to prepare, but this time he and the team handled it a lot better. Indianapolis showed faith in their new starter with a two-year extension. Eight weeks into the season, Brissett was making that investment look genius, playing the best ball of his career and captaining a 5-2 team.

Then, a knee injury sidelined him against the Steelers, and everything changed. After sitting out one game, he returned a much worse player. So bad, in fact, that the Colts signed Philip Rivers this offseason to start. Now, Brissett will collect a cool $15 million to likely warm the bench behind one of the most durable quarterbacks in NFL history.

Even though he may have squandered his last starting opportunity in the league, Brissett was still a huge steal for Indy. They got 3 years and 30 starts of solid play. For a worse player at a significantly less valuable position, that’s a win any day.

New England Post Trade

Photo by Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

To some degree, trading your third-string quarterback for a recent first-round pick is impressive. That’s about the only way you can like this trade for the Patriots, though.

Like I said before, Brissett’s play had already greatly surpassed his draft evaluation, so getting only Dorsett back was underwhelming. Interestingly, after New England traded away Garoppolo for a similarly disappointing return months later, theories began to emerge that this was Bill Belichick’s payback for Robert Kraft refusing to move on from Brady.

If true, that would explain the peculiar timing of and return for the Brissett trade, but it still wouldn’t justify it. Belichick is one of the most methodical and unemotional coaches in sports history, so sabotaging his own team out of spite certainly would come as a surprise.

To make matters worse, Dorsett did even less in New England than Indianapolis. At just 528 yards, 2016 remains his best season as a pro. In three years with the Patriots, he averaged just over half that. Even last season when the team’s receiving core was uncharacteristically awful, he failed to make his mark.

Even though he bombed this trade, Belichick deserves a smidgen of credit for declining Dorsett’s fifth-year option. Teams are often too stubborn to admit they were wrong about a player. That usually results in overly long leashes and undeserved contract extensions, so props to the Pats for cutting their losses.

Instead, the Pats resigned him to a cheap one-year deal for 2019. Now, he’s headed to Seattle where a roster spot isn’t guaranteed. 5 years after getting a call night one of the draft, he might have just received his final call for a contract.

Besides the terrible return, I can’t help but think New England would have been much better off keeping Brissett. The Garoppolo trade at least made sense in that he was due for a new contract, but Brissett had three years left on his rookie deal. He certainly could have been a trustworthy backup to Brady if not his future successor.

Belichick doesn’t miss often, but this one was undeniable. It was questionable then and looks even worse now.

Final Verdict: Colts Win

Outside of an inclination to give New England the benefit of the doubt, there was never a reason to like this trade for the Pats. They gave up a great backup quarterback for a bad receiver. In his first year as Colts GM, this was great move by Ballard in a short career full of them.

Who do you think won the trade? What deal should I look at next? Sound off in the comments.