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NFL Network analysts think the Colts will be terrible in 2016

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp USA TODAY Sports

There’s a different feeling in the air at Anderson University this year than there was last year at this time. Last year at this time, the Colts were one of the most-talked about teams in football throughout training camp as a Super Bowl favorite. This year, however, the media attention has shifted to the other extreme as many people are picking them to finish third in the AFC South. The media hype is long gone for the Colts.

That was evident on NFL Network yesterday, as Elliott Harrison and Heath Evans did a game-by-game prediction of the Colts 2016 schedule and had them finishing 6-10. And in their prediction, the Colts would finish the season on a five-game losing streak before winning the regular season finale. The Colts tweeted out the video this morning with the caption, “start your morning off with a good laugh.”

I think the question that everyone is asking is this: What changed? Why’d the Colts go from a Super Bowl contender last year to a 6-10 team this year? I think a part of it is some members of the media feeling burned after being wrong last year, so they’ve shied away from making anything close to that same prediction again.

But I think there’s an even larger factor at play than that, and he wears number 12. Last year, Andrew Luck was considered an MVP frontrunner. He had just thrown for an NFL-best 40 touchdowns in 2014 and a Colts franchise record 4,761 yards that year as well. This year, Luck’s status as the NFL’s next best thing is being questioned. He just turned the football over 13 times in seven games and missed nine games due to injuries. The difference in the expectations is that last year, Luck was considered good enough to mask over whatever flaws the team had, so people were willing to overlook them. This year, there’s some questions as to whether Luck is really capable of overcoming all of those holes on the roster. From what I can tell, that’s the main reason for the change in expectations.

Here’s the craziest thing of all about this NFL Network prediction, however: we know that at least Harrison doesn’t expect another bad year from Luck. In his bold predictions article, he actually predicted Luck to throw for over 5,000 yards with the Colts still finishing third in the AFC South. During the video, they even said, “I expect Andrew Luck to bounce back.” That’s what makes this 6-10 prediction even more confusing.

Simply put, if Andrew Luck plays all 16 games and plays well, the Colts won’t finish 6-10. They proved in the first three years of the regime that Luck is capable of covering flaws and carrying an average to below-average roster. The problems arose last year when Luck wasn’t able to do that. So every prediction this year should first and foremost answer the question: how will Andrew Luck do this year? If that answer is that Luck will struggle, a third place finish shouldn’t be a surprise. But if that answer is that Luck will play well, a 6-10 pick is ridiculous.

I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that Andrew Luck will get back on the right track this year. But you can’t have it both ways: if you’re going to predict Luck to play well and bounce back, you can’t have the Colts at 6-10. That, much more so than the record itself, is what makes this prediction so laughable - and Colts fans aren’t the only ones laughing, either.