Long forgotten is Peyton Manning, as the “suck for Luck” thing worked out pretty well for the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts earned a wild card berth last season but lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round.
In the third year of the Luck era, the Colts are hoping that further team growth propels them past the first round and on their way towards a Super Bowl Championship.
Odds to win Superbowl: 18/1
Odds to win AFC: 7/1
Odds to win AFC South: -200
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
The Colts may transition more towards a pass-first attack offense, despite the success that the team has had with the run. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was unable to coax maximum production from Trent Richardson, and that was a problem considering the Colts endured injuries to Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw.
The Colts won’t necessarily seek to strike a perfect balance between the pass and run, but the team seeks to be versatile enough to take what the defense gives them. That’s the mark of a great offense.
Luck made major improvements last season from his rookie year. His completion percentage leaped from 54 percent to 60, and he had half the interceptions that he had his rookie season (nine vs. 18). Luck has helped the Colts win 23 games in the past two years, and he’s great in late game situations. That bodes well for a team that may not have enough to blow past the juggernauts in the AFC.
The Colts do have a nice advantage with three capable backs. Richardson averaged just 2.9 yards per carry last season after being acquired from the Cleveland Browns. At the time of the trade, it was thought the Colts snagged a major bargain, but now it seems the Browns may have known something all along. Drafted No. 3 in 2012, Richardson has the tools to be a top-flight back, and the thought is that with another season in the offense under his belt, he’ll begin to return to the numbers he posted his rookie season in Cleveland.
Bradshaw is a bit of a question mark. He suffered a neck injury that required surgery and two vertebrae had to be fused back into his neck. If he’s back full strength, he’s a valuable player in the Colts system. Ballard tore his ACL in practice following Week 1, but will add depth to the backfield if he’s healthy and ready to go. With injuries in the immediate past of both Bradshaw and Ballard, it puts a lot of pressure on Richardson.
Luck has some great passing targets. Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and T.Y. Hilton comprise a talented trio. Adding to that, the Colts have 3rd round pick Donte Moncrief who will also vie for playing time. The Colts also have two nice targets for Luck at TE (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen).
The OL has a big question mark at center. The hope is that 2013 4th round pick Khaled Holmes will be able to man the position. He is very inexperience to say the least, however, after seeing only 12 offensive plays in his rookie season. LT and RT is solid, manned by Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus. Donald Thomas and Hugh Thornton round out the line. If Holmes is up to the task, it’s a solid line, but there’s no certainty he’ll prove to be a viable option just yet.
Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky utilizes a defense focusing on man coverage with the CBs and frequent blitzing. The coverage against the run must improve, however. The inability to cover the run left the Colts open to some big plays last year. To counter this inadequacy, Manusky likes to put a safety close to the line of scrimmage, but this leaves the secondary vulnerable. It’s a tricky position for a defense.
The DL brought in Arthur Jones and D’Qwell Jackson, and that will bode well for the 3-4 scheme. Jones is a big boy at 315 lbs and is capable of playing tackle and nose. He’ll help a lot with run defense. Redding, Josh Chapman and Ricky Jean Francois round out the line, which can improve, but has to focus on improving run defense.
At LB Robert Mathis had a monster season last year with 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles. The Colts need more than Mathis to rush quarterbacks, though. Bjoern Werner had only 2.5 sacks last season and free agent addition Erik Walden had 3.0. Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson will play the inside linebacker positions. Josh McNary from the Army will be used in the nickel.
The secondary will be helped by the retention of CB Vontae Davis. He’s a great fit for the system and excels at pressing defense. Greg Toler needs to stay healthy opposite of Davis. At safety is where the real questions lie.
LaRon Landry will likely improve this season, but the loss of Antoine Bethea will sting. Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, Corey Lynch and Colt Anderson will vie to replace Bethea. Those four have 24 career starts between them, though.
Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee form one of the best kicking duos in the NFL. Matt Overton is the long snapper. Despite turning 41, Vinatieri shows no signs of slowing down. He had one of his best seasons last year, in fact. Additionally, Brown will add a lot to the coverage units.
The Colts remain the favorites in the AFC South. Luck will only continue to get better, and if the team can keep its backs healthy, it will be difficult to stop the Colts. The postseason should be a given, and this time the focus will of course be on getting past the first round. In 2013, the Colts made it to the AFC divisional championship before losing to the New England Patriots. This could be Luck’s first Super Bowl appearance this season, despite Bovada’s 18/1 odds.