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Colts Season Preview: Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for The First Quarter of the Season

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It is official. Andrew Luck will miss week one of the regular season. While that news is not welcome by any fan who has seen Scott Tolzien throw a football, it also is not something that is completely unexpected. Most of us had been bracing ourselves to see Luck miss some time. What we still don’t know is just how much time that will be. It might be that missing one game is enough time for Luck to get back and ready to go. More likely, his absence will be longer.

Without Andrew Luck, the current Colts roster is simply not very good. They have some serious flaws and will certainly struggle at various times throughout the season. But this is not new.

In 2014, a very flawed team made it all the way to the AFC Championship game. That team had the likes of Greg Toler, LaRon Landry, Arthur Jones, Trent Richardson, and an offensive line with such standouts as Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton.

The roster this season has a lot greater potential than that one. However, it depends on a lot going well. The team has to stay healthy, and some of the rookies and second-year players need to make significant leaps in their play to make this team a winner. Chris Ballard has already made it clear, as has Irsay, that they are focused on the long-term. They don’t mind a season of struggles if it means they will be prepared to be a very competitive team next season.

This all got me thinking that it would be interesting to have a look at what the best and worst-case scenarios are for the Colts through the first four games. More than likely the Colts will fall somewhere in between these two, but it still makes for an interesting exercise. Let’s have a look:

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Worst Case – (1-3)

In the worst-case scenario, Luck is not able to play for any of the first four games. This is not entirely out of the question because he hasn’t practiced at all or played any kind of football since the end of last season. It will take time to rebuild strength and build back up to his normal throws and timing. As the Colts have repeatedly said, they won’t rush him back.

We already know we will see Scott Tolzien start week one against the Rams. While they would make for what should be an easy win with the firepower Luck brings to the game, pitting their brutal defense against Scott Tolzien and Frank Gore is a lot uglier. Add to that the fact that the Colts’ struggles to stop even middling running backs from carving them up and you could be in real trouble when trying to envision how the young defense deals with Todd Gurley. What should be an easy win ends in a low scoring loss.

Week two sees the debut of Jacoby Brissett as the backup after Tolzien fails to make anything happen. While Brissett is clearly the more talented player, his lack of knowledge of the offense and reps with the receivers creates difficulty in a game where the Cardinals put up big points. Once again, the defense faces a dynamic runner in David Johnson and an even more impressive receiver corps with a quarterback in Carson Palmer who can effectively distribute the ball. With such a young defensive backfield, this game was always likely to be a shootout, but it is not one Brissett is capable of winning for them, especially on limited reps with the first team.

The Cleveland Browns come to town in week three as a team right in the midst of rebuild mode. While they are one year in and are beginning to amass young talent, they are still lacking in many places. The hope is that DeShone Kizer can be their long-term answer at QB, but as a rookie without much in the way of established receivers, he will have struggles and seeing him early in the season is likely the best time for the Colts.

Without a significant run game to push the Colts, the Browns place too much pressure on Kizer to win through the air, and Ballard’s mandate to focus on takeaways pays off. With one more week under his belt, Brissett looks better and that helps the running game to get going. It isn’t pretty, but the Colts get a win here.

Century Link Stadium is not a place anyone likes to play. The Seahawks play up in their home games almost more than any team out there, and this is no exception. What was already expected to be one of the best defenses in football added Sheldon Richardson to their ranks this off-season. Even with Luck on the field this game was going to be a tough one. Without him, they get steamrolled in an embarrassing outing that fans the flames on Chuck Pagano’s already very hot seat.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Best Case - (3-1)

In the best-case scenario, Luck makes his return in week two against the Cardinals at home. The Colts have said many times that he will not require much time to be back in action once he is 100%, so this is not an impossibility, although it is not my prediction for how things will unfold.

Week one against the Rams is a tough one. Tolzien has not looked great, but one player we haven’t talked about much in the preseason stands out against a tough defense and makes Tolzien look a lot better than he is. That player? T.Y. Hilton.

Hilton hasn’t played much this preseason because quite frankly he doesn’t need to. This game won’t take much to win it. Jared Goff isn’t capable of doing serious damage through the air, which allows the Colts to clamp down against the run and let their defense capitalize on turnovers as they have done well all off-season.

Aaron Donald’s hold out helps the Colts offense tremendously and Marlon Mack gets the ball in space on a 3rd down dump pass and breaks it for a big touchdown. It proves to be a crippling blow and the Colts squeak out a win in what is otherwise an ugly game.

Luck makes his return for the home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. While on paper it seems primed to be a shootout, the Colts take advantage of the Cardinals defense on the ground as well as Doyle and Moncrief having big games to keep in it.

David Johnson gashes the defense for a lot of yards, but the Cardinals passing game is not able to be as effective as they would like and Hooker has a big game. While he clearly is not in a completely normal rhythm, Luck is an obvious improvement over the backups and leads them on a fourth quarter scoring drive to close out the game.

The Browns come to town and face a Colts team on its first 2-0 start of the Pagano era and with a quarterback feeling much more like himself. Their lack of firepower as well as the Colts opportunistic defense makes this one a relatively easy win with the running game again playing a big role in the victory.

We see Luck able to take advantage of the play-action as defenses are kept honest on third downs by Mack’s continued demonstration of his home-run potential. The connection between T.Y. Hilton and Luck gets back on track here and we get our first glimpse of how good this offense can be.

On the road against the Seahawks is a tough out no matter how good you are. While the Colts have played well through three games, the running game is unable to get going as the Seahawks stifle it and the physical defensive backs throw the Colts receivers off their rhythm.

Jack Doyle gets the bulk of the looks as the offensive line struggles to hold up against the best defense in football. Although the Colts keep it close due to a great game by Donte Moncrief and a turnover created by John Simon, they lose a close one thanks to a missed field goal.

What do you think?

Poll

How will the Colts do through the first four games of the season?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    No wins. Cancel football. Fire everyone. The world is meaningless.
    (106 votes)
  • 27%
    1 win. The Colts have had worse starts I guess...
    (247 votes)
  • 46%
    2 wins. What’s new? Isn’t this just called "the Pagano?"
    (423 votes)
  • 9%
    3 wins. Luck gets back ahead of schedule and this team far exceeds expectations.
    (89 votes)
  • 4%
    4 wins. Clearly, you’ve been drinking. Congrats on being the eternal optimist.
    (38 votes)
903 votes total Vote Now