According to USA Today, the Indianapolis Colts are projected to finish 11-5 and win the AFC South in 2020—with the 3rd best overall record in the entire AFC:
Regarding the Colts specifically, USA Today’s Nate Davis writes:
Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Newcomers Philip Rivers, DeForest Buckner, Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor could reap the benefits of a soft opening given Indy will face just one 2019 playoff teams in the first eight weeks. With only one prime-time game currently on the schedule, Rivers and Co. could also fly under the radar for some time.
Now, USA Today isn’t alone in its prediction of a much improved Colts team that was just 7-9 a year ago—as a lot of talking heads and media outlets are prognosticating a similar leap.
To their credit, the Colts may have been a bit better than their actual record indicated last year, as the team upset the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road, while splitting the regular season series with the Tennessee Titans (the AFC’s runner-up).
With Jacoby Brissett as their new starter again, the Colts started out a red hot 5-2, but the wheels quickly began to come off soon thereafter—as Indianapolis lost 7 of its final 9 games.
That being said, the 9-7 Titans made the AFC Title Game as an AFC wild card, and the Colts narrowly lost a few games arguably because of kicker Adam Vinatieri’s season-long struggles—including Week 1 (at Chargers), Week 9 (at Steelers), and at least the ability to send a Week 10 (Miami) contest to a potential overtime.
There’s little doubt the Colts have made major improvements this offseason.
It’s included the trading of the 13th overall pick for San Francisco 49ers All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, the signing of veteran free agent Philip Rivers, and the drafting of two top offensive rookies: wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor among other key moves.
The hope is that with an improved passing game led by Rivers—which includes the ability to throw downfield and create big plays, and a power running game with last year’s 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack and the rookie Taylor—both being featured behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, that the Colts will score a lot more points next season.
On defense, Buckner should help provide a much needed interior pass rush, which will not only lead to more sacks, but take pressure off of the Colts linebackers and cornerbacks to simply make more plays (and theoretically, also less available time to get potentially beat in coverage).
The Colts’ schedule also starts out very soft—as they only play 1 playoff team from last year in their first 7 games, so it’s important that they gain some half-season momentum as their 2020 campaign quickly picks up starting Week 9 at home against the Baltimore Ravens.
Overall, while fans should temper their expectations a bit, there is real reason for optimism that the Colts could be a possible playoff team again in 2020—as potentially one of the most improved teams in all of football.