Again, here we are talking about when Indianapolis Colts’ franchise quarterback may, or may not return. Today, Jason La Canfora and Ian Rapoport have come out reporting similar thoughts on what they’re hearing.
Maybe we’ve all had some similar assumptions as to when Luck would be back, but it’s fair to say that very few of us expected him to return before Week 3 at the earliest. The question really isn’t when will he return, rather, it’s can the Colts survive until he does.
With this in mind, let’s take what we know for sure, and go from there. The Colts activated Luck from the PUP list, which had they not, would have required Luck to sit out of all team practices through Week 6. This, in turn, means that he could not have returned until at least Week 7 – and that in itself would be awful rich considering he hadn’t practiced to that point.
The Colts would then have a 5-week window to get him practicing, and from the day he first steps on the practice field, he has 3 weeks to be activated to the 53-man roster. So, can we then at least presume that Luck would have been out until Week 8 at a minimum? Seems reasonable to me.
Obviously, that was not what occurred, so the Colts at least felt Luck would be able to fully return to action by Week 8, right? Right. With the reports that Luck could be sidelined until October, this leads us to believe that Luck could feasibly return by Week 4 at the Seattle Seahawks. Doesn’t seem like a wise game to bring him back, so let’s go to Week 5 at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
With four weeks in the rearview mirror, could the Colts reasonably survive and go on to being successful the remainder of the season should the rest of the injured players return by then as well? That means, Ryan Kelly, Chester Rogers, Vontae Davis AND Luck are back in action. Let’s look.
Beginning with the 49ers, October 8th, the remainder of the Colts schedule offers an average win percentage of .445 – or roughly 5 wins throughout the final 12 games of the season. Realistically, the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans are better than their 2016 records would indicate so I’m going to have to give the Colts opponents at least an additional win in this projection.
With that, let’s assume the Colts win half of their remaining games (6-6), I think that sounds reasonable with everything that we know. But, given that, let’s look at how the Colts have fared through the first four weeks of the last five seasons to give us a barometer for where they could be sitting when/if Luck does return in early October.
The Colts are 10-10 in Weeks 1-4 since 2012, and that’s with Luck starting every single one of those games. Given the team’s lineup through Week 4 this season (L.A. Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks), that feels a little rich assuming that Scott Tolzien will be under center.
Maybe, we give the Colts one win here. It’s of course possible that the Colts beat the Rams today, and maybe against the Browns too. However, those teams have improved their talent level, and the Colts will be without additional key pieces to the offense through the majority of these games as well. I’m struggling to get the Colts to .500 in the first quarter of the season.
I’ll give them one win, though. So, then, with what we have figured through the final 12 games assuming Luck is back, that puts the Colts roughly at 7-9. Even if you want to give the Colts an extra win or two accounting for some heroics from Luck, at best they’re sitting at 9-7. That’s simply not going to get the Colts to the playoffs. More injuries are a virtual certainty, and without the Titans and Houston Texans completely underperforming with the talent on their rosters, or even going through a major rash of injuries themselves, I don’t see how the Colts can re-take the AFC South crown.
We didn’t expect Luck back immediately, maybe not even for a few weeks into the season, but the longer he sits, the longer Tolzien starts and the natural cushion Luck will need once he does return to get back into form – the more it looks like the Colts season will be unsalvageable. With the Colts schedule, it’s not ALL doom and gloom, crazier things have happened, but the team hovering around .500 for the season seems like it could be the possible ceiling as opposed to a reasonable starting point for even the most promising of projections.
Do you give the Luck-led Colts a larger chance than I do of pulling out a better record? Do you believe Tolzien could possibly get the Colts to .500 in Luck’s absence? Let me know in the comments.