According to Pro Football Focus (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts have a best and worse case scenario ahead of the 2020 regular season.
If everything goes according to plan—particularly with new veteran starter Philip Rivers and the offense, the Colts have a 90th percentile outcome of finishing 11-5. However, if Rivers is indeed ‘cooked’ and their young secondary struggles, there is a 10th percentile outcome that the Colts could finish 5-11:
10th percentile outcome: 5-11
How they get there: Philip Rivers is no longer an above-average or even average NFL quarterback. I don’t think that’s the case, but I think there is evidence that points to his arm strength not being what it once was. The Colts aren’t able to overcome that on offense while the secondary struggles. Specifically, Xavier Rhodes doesn’t see any sort of career revival as one of the starting options outside after his 47.9 overall grade in 2019, and some of the young options in the Colts’ secondary (Rock Ya-Sin, Khari Willis and Marvel Tell III) don’t progress in their second seasons.
90th percentile outcome: 11-5
How they get there: People were behind the Colts as a contender in the AFC with Andrew Luck at quarterback last offseason for a reason. There is some talent on this roster, and in this case, the league’s best offensive line — which will provide the best protection Rivers has seen in a long time — has the 38-year old quarterback playing like it was 2018 again. He posted the fifth-highest passing grade in the NFL (87.4) that season. At receiver, the trio of T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. form a dynamic group capable of winning at all levels of the field, while rookie acquisition Jonathan Taylor runs wild behind Quenton Nelson and company.
Now, an 11-5 Colts team would have to feel pretty good for Colts fans after the team finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs last season—in the wake of Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement.
The Colts offseason has been headlined by the signing of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, the trade for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, and the drafting of two highly touted offensive rookies: Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor.
However, PFF is correct that the most critical question facing this year’s Colts is just how much 38 year old veteran starter Philip Rivers has left in the tank at starting quarterback.
Rivers had a down season last year with the Chargers—as he threw for just 23 touchdowns to 20 interceptions, but he’s just a year removed from throwing for 32 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in 2018.
By being reunited with Colts head coach Frank Reich, the hope is that by passing behind a strong Indy offensive line, throwing to solid receiving options, and leaning heavily on a power running game that Rivers can regain his prior Pro Bowl caliber form with the Bolts.
It looks much more likely than not that the Colts will be much improved from last season—as one of the top teams in the AFC, but the aspiring Super Bowl contender still has to prove it on the field this upcoming season.