We’ve seen all sorts of predictions for the Colts’ 2017 season so far, and most of them don’t have Indianapolis winning the AFC South.
But in ESPN’s recent predictions, based on their FPI metric, the Colts have hte best chance to win their division and are predicted to finish in first place.
Per ESPN, “a team's FPI rating combines its efficiency ratings on offense, defense and special teams -- based on each unit's expected points added per play -- with the sum of all three squad ratings yielding the overall FPI rating.” Using those FPI ratings, the season is simulated 10,000 times to develop these predictions.
Using that method, the Colts were given a 36% chance to win the AFC South, with 8.5 projected wins. The good news for Indy is that they have the best chance to win the AFC South, but the bad news is that they have the lowest chance to win their division of all eight teams picked to finish in first place in 2017.
Here’s what ESPN’s write-up had to say about the AFC South:
The AFC South might end up being the NFL's most competitive division in 2017. All four teams have at least a 10 percent chance of winning the title, and none of FPI's predicted division winners has a worse chance to win than the Colts at 36 percent. Part of the reason each team has a chance to compete is the relatively easy schedule each team faces (at least based on what we know about these teams three months before the start of the season). FPI has four of the nine easiest schedules in the league belonging to the members of the AFC South.
For comparison’s sake, the Colts’ 36% chance of winning the division was followed by the Titans (30.6%), Texans (22.5%), and Jaguars (10.9%).
It probably is encouraging to some Colts fans to see the team actually predicted to return to the top of the AFC South, since there have been varying opinions about the matter. It’s a very possible scenario, however, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is the obvious one, and that’s quarterback Andrew Luck. Having him as the franchise player at the game’s most important position gives the Colts a big edge, and it gives them the clear best quarterback in the division.
Second, the Colts have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, but part of that is due to the division - meaning that each of the four teams in the division have a very favorable schedule. Even still, though, the Colts couldn’t ask for a much better schedule for a hopeful return to the playoffs.
And third, the Colts should be at least somewhat improved in a number of areas, particularly on the defense (because it would be hard for them to be much worse). So with a hopefully improved defense, that should also benefit the team’s case.
All in all, though, the AFC South should indeed be a tight race in 2017, especially with the week 17 matchup between the Colts and Texans. That could be a huge game, just like the mid-December matchups between those two teams have been for the past few years. It should be a close race, but the Colts do figure to stand a very real shot at winning the AFC South and thus returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.