According to Pro Football Focus (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are among the NFL teams given ‘contender’ status in its ‘Market Implied 2020 NFL Power Rankings’:
The Colts have quietly emerged as one of the favorites to lead the tier below the Chiefs and Ravens in the AFC. They have a 66.7% implied probability of making the playoffs, but our simulation finds significant disagreement with that price. They have the easiest schedule in the NFL according to our market-implied rating metric and are a touchdown favorite on the road in Week 1, which significantly boosts their rating in this exercise. Their Week 2 line would make them a pick ‘em on a neutral site against the fourth-ranked Vikings. This exercise highlights teams that appear overpriced by betting markets, and no team picks up more value in this exercise than the Colts.
Now, what exactly is a ‘Market Implied’ power ranking?
“Simple variables like score, venue and date of each game are the core of most rating systems — these are then input into a calculation to measure past performance. But utilizing historical point spread and total odds — instead of game score — shows how betting markets viewed each team pregame.”
“Because 2020 odds are currently available, we can build build market-implied power ratings based on the latest information for each team. By updating our offensive and defensive ratings using this approach, we get a useful look into how the betting market measures each team’s strength at the start of this season.”
The 2020 Colts have a few things going for them—at least on paper, beyond betting odds:
1) A Well-Balanced Roster: The Colts have talent on both sides of the football with a wealth of young talent that are complemented by a number of proven veterans. The Colts overall talent level should be even better with the arrivals of wily gunslinger Philip Rivers at quarterback and All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, as well as two highly touted rookie additions: wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor—who should both offer game-changing ability offensively.
Don’t forget that this was a 7-9 team last year that upset the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road and split the season series with the AFC runner-up Tennessee Titans.
Had it not been for their season-long kicking woes (among other team deficiencies and injuries), the Colts could’ve theoretically won a few more games—and made the playoffs.
2) A Smart Coaching Staff. This is a Colts team that is led by one of the better offensive minds in the game, Frank Reich, who reunites with Rivers, and puts his players in a position to succeed by exploiting matchups and scheming up openings. His offensive protege, OC Nick Sirianni, is a strong candidate for NFL head coaching openings soon, while so is DC Matt Eberflus on the other side of the football. Both are among the NFL’s top coordinators.
The Colts are generally well prepared and coached, as they were the NFL’s least penalized team in 2019—demonstrating smart football. After all, good teams don’t beat themselves.
3) The 2020 Colts have the NFL’s easiest projected strength of schedule. This is a byproduct of playing in the AFC South (where the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans are expected to be worse), as well as the Colts facing both the AFC North and NFC North in its out-of-divisional matchups this season.
4) The Colts are among the NFL teams traveling the least amount of total miles in 2020. It’s a squad that should be kept relatively fresh throughout the course of the season—because hey, everyone likes waking up and sleeping in their own comfortable bed—with very little jet lag generally speaking.
It’s because of these reasons (among others) that this year’s Colts have been a popular pick to be one of the rising contenders in the AFC. It’s been an encouraging offseason in Indy.