In April, Football Outsiders offered projections for each team’s record in 2017 and they had the Colts at 7-9, finishing third in the AFC South.
With the draft now over Football Outsiders decided to again take an updated look at each team’s record, and even though they liked the Colts’ draft and even though the Colts made slight improvement in their projections, they’re still projected to finish 7-9 and third in the division.
There was slight improvement, though: in April the Colts’ projected mean wins was 6.6, and now it’s all the way up to 7.3. That makes their 7-9 record even more solidified and that makes them closer to the first two teams in the division, the Titans and the Jaguars - who are both projected to go 8-8. The Texans, surprisingly, are projected to finish 6-10 and in fourth place.
FO did seem to like the Colts’ draft, though, as they wrote in the introduction to the article that, “Subjectively, we can all be excited that the Los Angeles Chargers added wide receiver Mike Williams and then filled two holes on their offensive line. But objectively, Indianapolis drafting Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson in the first two rounds has a stronger effect on our forecast for 2017. (But not much stronger: We still have Indianapolis third in the AFC South.)” So they like the Colts’ draft additions, but it’s not enough to lift them out of third place.
The four AFC South teams are so close in these projections, however, that it’s entirely conceivable that the standings will wind up differently. With the Colts having a very easy schedule, a very good quarterback in Andrew Luck, and what figures to be at least a somewhat improved defense, it’s hard to see them finishing with a worse record than they have the last two years - doing so would almost guarantee that there would be a new head coach for the Colts in 2018.
I do expect the Colts to finish with more than seven wins in 2017, but I think this projection is valuable in providing a more cautious approach to the Colts’ season. I think many fans assume that with Luck, an easy schedule, a new GM who is quite popular, and what looks to be younger and better defensive talent, the Colts should return to the playoffs. That might be true, but it wouldn’t neccessarily be indicative of the Colts’ progress in their rebuild. They’re still not there yet, and this projection - even if it seems low (finishing worse than the Jaguars?) it can still serve as a good reminder that the Colts are indeed a rebuilding team with a quarterback and a schedule that makes a return to the playoffs very possible.