According to ESPN NFL Prognosticator Mike Clay, the Indianapolis Colts are expected to rise in the AFC rankings—winning the AFC South at 10-6 and becoming the #3 seed in the AFC behind the Kansas City Chiefs (#1) and Baltimore Ravens (#2):
Now, it’s clear that Clay’s model likes the Colts offseason moves—or at least believes they’ve made significant improvements. The Colts would go from 7-9 to 10-6 in one offseason.
Here’s the Colts current positional grades via Clay:
The Colts’ biggest acquisitions were starting quarterback Philip Rivers in free agency, All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner via trade, and the selection of dynamic offensive rookies early on in the NFL Draft—namely wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor.
(Although, let’s not forget that re-signing veteran bookend Anthony Castonzo at left tackle was critical—and the signing of former All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes could prove to be a big one in time. Versatile tight end Trey Burton is worth mentioning as well among others).
The Colts are clearly hoping for more big play ability with Rivers under center—who’s not afraid to take chances and push the ball downfield. While it could lead to ultimately more turnovers, it will also theoretically lead to scoring more points.
That being said, the offense’s “meat and potatoes” will be a power running game behind a dominant offensive line that features both 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack and highly touted second round pick Taylor as a “1-2 punch”.
Meanwhile, the Colts defense has gotten a lot stronger in the trenches and in its interior pass rush with the addition of All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner—as general manager Chris Ballard has consistently said the “three technique really drives his defense”.
The Colts will hope that with Rivers’ veteran savviness behind center, a strong running game, and a stout defense that the franchise can make a similar deep playoff run like the Tennessee Titans this past season—who advanced all the way to the AFC Title Game.
For what it’s worth, the Colts upset last year’s Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, and split the divisional series with the Titans—the reigning top two teams in the AFC.
If not for field goal kicking woes, the Colts may have been able to sneak into the playoffs themselves, and the team isn’t as far as initially thought as it relates to AFC contention—especially with this year’s big projected offseason improvements.