Predictions are always risky. Hitting that space between realistic and delusional is tough and everyone has their own opinions. Add to that the fact that an injury to a critical player can turn a season upside down for any team on any given play and you have an impossible task. With that in mind, here is what the Stampede Blue writing staff are predicting for this season.
Perhaps no season has been more difficult to get a read on than the one that lies just ahead. The status of Andrew Luck's throwing shoulder or mind, or both, is entirely up in the air. Without knowing how long he will be out, predicting the outcome of games is challenging. For the purposes of my predictions, I'll assume that Luck returns for Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns.
If true, I believe the Colts will start the season 0-2 once again. I believe that Luck's return will involve shaking some rust so I predict that he will beat the Browns, 49ers, and Jaguars at home but lose to the Seahawks, Titans, and Bengals on the road. We'll be at the halfway point in the season with a 3-5 record. It is at this point I believe Luck will begin his return to form and that he will finish the second half of the season with wins against the Titans, Broncos, and Texans at home with road wins against the Bills, Ravens, and Jaguars.
This would put the Colts at 9-7 and back on the bubble of a playoff berth. It's too bad because if Luck started the regular season, I'd predict a 1-1 start to the season and 10-6 record that would likely be good enough to win the AFC South.
(9-7) Miss the playoffs
Firstly, I expect Andrew Luck to miss 4 weeks of the season (based on reports from various sports doctors/medical experts), and I expect the Colts to go 1-3 during that span. The Colts are going through a transformation period, with only 26 players from the 2016 roster returning to the team in 2017. They are very young on defense and will experience growing pains.
On offense, they are relatively strong but have an offensive line that can be exposed, especially if they are not healthy. Luck can win games by himself but without him, the Colts are one of the worst teams in the NFL.
I do not expect big things from the Colts in 2017, and making the playoffs would be a huge surprise considering the talent level and the many injuries the team has suffered at key positions. The key to success and potentially the playoffs is for the Colts to win their divisional games. If they do not win those games, they don't stand a chance of making the playoffs or even having a winning record.
(7-9) Miss the playoffs
This is an optimistic prediction, which says a lot about the state of the franchise at the moment. Regardless, this is assuming Andrew Luck misses 4 games out of the season and the Colts start the season 1-3 under Tolzien/Brissett. Luck is good enough to carry this team to yet another winning season within the division, and that should propel them into the obligatory record hovering around .500 and missing the playoffs again. The real foreshadowing here is Head Coach Chuck Pagano will be fired during the week 11 bye. It’s hard for me to believe that Chris Ballard will tolerate this kind of mediocrity, and will also want to give Rob Chudzinski an audition as an interim head coach, or maybe that’s just the optimist finding its way out of me once more.
(9-7) Miss the playoffs
I see the Colts getting back to the playoffs this season. In theory, if the team starts off the season 2-2 without Andrew Luck then they can still be in a solid position to win the division. The Titans are the true threat, however, they have yet to beat Andrew Luck, and until they can accomplish that I refuse to say they will win the AFC South. With double digits in the win column and a playoff appearance, the Colts will have plenty of momentum and salary cap to build a stronger team heading into the 2018 season.
(10-6) Division Title
Without Luck’s shoulder issues, this season on paper is a cakewalk. With a healthy Geathers, Davis, Kelly, and Luck, this schedule has 12-4 kind of possibilities. But those injuries hurt. My prediction is that Luck is ready to go against the Browns in week 3. While there are major upgrades that still need to happen across this roster, they are improved from last year, and Luck had an incredible year with half a shoulder, what can he do with a fully operational one?
This is a team that should get better with time, both as the younger players improve and learn and as the injured players get healthy. Their schedule has exactly 3 playoff teams from last season, though as Pagano says often, it is tough to win in the NFL. Ask most of the Colts opponents this year, they didn’t do a lot of it last season.
I think the Colts take losses to the Cardinals, Seahawks, Bengals, Steelers, split with the Titans and Texans and drop one more in ridiculous fashion in a game they should win. However, the AFC North and West will send two teams each to the playoffs and the Titans will edge out the Colts for the division, leaving them watching from home in December.
(9-7) Miss the playoffs
For our purposes, I’ll outline my thoughts on the likely losses for the Colts:
Arizona is chock-full of talent on both sides of the ball, and again, this Colts offense has some talent, so I don’t expect a blowout, but the Colts lose a close one at home and I might say that even if Luck comes back.
The Seahawks game comes down to pressure on the quarterback. Seattle’s weakness is their offensive line. I don’t expect a high scoring affair and I’m afraid if we can’t pressure Russell Wilson, the Seahawks may run away with this game at home, even with Luck at the helm for the Colts.
The Titans are supposed to be leagues better this year and I expect, if there’s a division game to lose, it’s either at Tenessee or the game at Houston.
I made fun of them in the preseason, but the Bengals have a really talented team and I expect they’ll put up a heck of a fight at home and get the win.
The Texans on the road is a tough game. I don’t intend to make a habit of predicting the Colts to drop division games, but again, the math says you lose a couple and on the road, it isn’t impossible to do.
(11-5) Division Title
When I first got asked this question, I initially thought 6-10 sounds about right because well, Pagano. After looking at the schedule though, even if Luck misses the first four games of the season and the team starts 1-3, the Colts should still go about 9-7. The talent on both sides of the ball is significantly improved and there's no truly dominant team in the division. Assuming Luck comes back by Week 5, then 9-7 seems about right. If he misses more, then all bets are off.
(9-7) Division Title
Considering that I thought earlier in the offseason that the Colts could win 10 or more games, I hate the thought of them going .500 (or just barely better) again. Especially since it means no playoffs and a totally “meh” outcome. I think that, between Andrew Luck, Ryan Kelly, Vontae Davis and Clayton Geathers’ early unavailability and Chuck Pagano being the head coach, that this team is destined for mediocrity again this year.
Although the Colts technically have the league’s easiest schedule this year, none of their 2017 opponents got significantly worse during the offseason. Some of the games that were once thought to be “gimme’s”, those teams improved.
When it comes down to it, the Colts are already too snake-bitten by injuries, and the rest of the AFC South division is slowly getting better all the time. I think the Colts will make a late-season run once everyone’s health is clicking, but it will be too little, too late.
(9-7) Miss the playoffs
How will the Colts finish this season?
This poll is closed