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2018 Colts Season: Stampede Blue staff predictions

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

With just days until the start of the regular season for the Indianapolis Colts, the Stampede Blue staff got together to make our predictions for the Colts for the 2018 season. I asked them to provide their record prediction, their pick for a team MVP not named Andrew Luck, and a player they think could be the breakout candidate for this season. Here is what we came up with

Chris Blystone

Record: 10-6

Team MVP: T.Y. Hilton

Breakout Candidate: Darius Leonard

The choice for MVP is a no brainer to me. If I can’t choose Andrew Luck, the next most important guy on the Colts roster is T.Y. Hilton. If you look back over the last few years, almost nothing in the stat lines is a more accurate predictor of wins than T.Y. Hilton’s performance. If he has a big year in 2018, this team will win games.

As far as breakout players go, there are a lot of options on this young and unproven team. For me though, I have to go with rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard looks like the kind of guy who could quickly take the league by storm. He has flaws, sure, but as a young and raw player, he has already shown an ability to make plays and create excitement on a defense that desperately needs players to step up.

Brett Mock

Record: 9-7

Team MVP: Malik Hooker

Breakout Candidate: Marlon Mack

Andrew Luck will mask a lot of weaknesses. Throw in what should be a relatively easy schedule and I believe the Colts record will be higher than many are expecting. Second-year safety Malik Hooker was considered a steal with the Colts picked him in 2017. His early season ball-hawking as a rookie supported that claim. In only 20 snaps in preseason he showed his ball-hawkish ways again with an impressive pass breakup for what would have otherwise been a touchdown. This year, he shows out as one of the top safeties in the league.

There is a lot of concern surrounding the inexperience in the Colts backfield. Rightly so. However, Marlon Mack showed the ability to break big plays as a rookie behind a highly suspect offensive line. This year that line should be significantly improved and Mack will hopefully be completely healthy once he recovers from a hamstring injury. Quenton Nelson can pull and get to the edge and should offer Mack more big play opportunities this season.

Andrew Aziz

Record: 9-7

Team MVP: Malik Hooker

Breakout Candidate: Kemoko Turay

With a strong coaching staff, an improved offensive line and the return of the saviour, the Colts should be in line for a much improved season. The defense is young, but has very good potential and should take a step forward. While I expect the Colts to be slow out of the gates, they should get much stronger as the season goes Luck as Luck will get more and more comfortable in games. I expect a lot of close games and it should be a fun season to track.

Jared Malott

Record: 10-6 (4-2 in the AFC South)

Team MVP: Geathers or Hooker

Breakout Candidate: Chester Rogers/Eric Ebron

Safeties play a huge role the in the Tampa 2. Since Luck isn’t an option, the back end of this defense could potentially lead the league in turnovers.

Teams generally have a pretty good #1 cornerback (TY will get his, but...) and nearly every team struggles against big bodied tight ends. Rogers is the clear #2 and methinks teams will try to contain Jack Doyle as best they can. Thus…

Elliot Denton

Record: 7-9

Team MVP: Darius Leonard

Breakout Candidate: Quincy Wilson

The Colts under the leadership of Frank Reich will show an improvement from last season’s poor showing. As long as the Colts show progression, development and a clear sense of unity then that will be more important and indicative of a successful season than getting a winning record.

Darius Leonard. The Colts drafted their defensive leader of the future in the second round out of South Carolina. If the preseason show he put on was anything to go by then Leonard is the Colts’ building block and future star. Leonard has everything you want from a young linebacker and given the right coaching will develop into the Colts version of a Kuechly, Wagner or Telvin Smith.

I use the term breakout candidate loosely with Wilson as if not for previous coaching incompetence he would have already broken out last year. It seems that Wilson isn’t the best when it comes to practice, but when the lights come on for game day he is all business, and good business too. Wilson will take the next step in his development by locking down a starting cornerback role and excelling at it.

Stephen Reed

Record: 10-6

Team MVP: Malik Hooker

Breakout Candidate: Darius Leonard

The Colts play a relatively easy schedule with opponents from the AFC East, NFC East, the six games within the AFC South in addition to Oakland and Cincinnati. Three out of four games within each of the AFC and NFC East are winnable. Oakland under Gruden looks like a joke and the Bengals aren’t terrifying. If the Colts go 3-3 in the AFC South, they have a solid opportunity to end the season with double digit wins.

There are several options with this pick but I’ll go with Hooker. He changes the entire defense. QBs always have to know where he is. If he continues to progress and returns to pre-injury form, Hooker will be the team MVP.

Leonard is the ideal WLB in the 4-3 Tampa-2 system. He’s so fast and is always around the ball. This is all before you realize he doesn’t even know the defense yet! Once he gets a firm grasp on the playbook, he will be a star. Don’t sleep on Kemoko Turay either. He should be a pleasant surprise.

Matt Danely

Record: 9-7

Team MVP: Darius Leonard

Breakout Candidate: Chester Rogers

There is so much for the Colts to prove this season. A brand new defensive scheme, a new approach offensively, and so many new faces on both sides of the ball. They don’t have the toughest schedule this season, but they’ll win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t throughout the year.

Because of his role and due to what we’ve seen thus far, I’m going with Darius Leonard. He’ll potentially bring more of a pass rush, and could prove to be a game changer if he can continue to get into passing lanes and force some turnovers in the process.

Chester Rogers hasn’t been able to put a 16-game season together quite yet. He’s shown some flashes, and we know his work ethic is where it needs to be. With T.Y. Hilton getting a ton of attention this year, Rogers has a legitimate opportunity to get a ton of action as the second option, and if he can produce after the catch, a heavy workload could follow.

Chris Shepherd

Record: 11-5

Team MVP: Malik Hooker

Breakout Candidate: Eric Ebron

I am going to make my predictions from the perspective of a fan, so I’m going to be pretty optimistic, I will assume every 50/50 situation over the course of the year will break in the Colts favor. So with that in mind I will predict that the Colts will go 11-5 and the team MVP will be Malik Hooker.

So how about you? What are your predictions? Let us know in the comments.