NO. 2: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
PFF’s No. 1 ranked preseason offensive line didn’t quite dominate from start to finish, but they ultimately boasted the third-best unit in both PFF team run-blocking grade and pressure rate. Throw in the reality that old man Philip Rivers is usually able to set this offense up for success in terms of pre-snap process, and you have an offense capable of moving the ball against just about anybody.
Rookie Jonathan Taylor has taken the league by storm over the final month of the season, but this success isn’t something that was consistent throughout the entire season. Overall, Taylor forced just nine missed tackles on rush attempts in Weeks 1-10; he racked up 34 broken tackles on carries in Weeks 11-17. A fairly soft season-ending schedule certainly helped matters; just realize the January-version of Taylor looks far different from what we saw during the first two and a half months of the season.
The Colts finished fourth in missed tackle rate, yards allowed after the catch per reception and yards allowed after contact per carry. Ball carriers seldom get more than expected against this defense, thanks in large part to regularly elite efforts from stud LB Darius Leonard (PFF’s No. 8 highest-graded linebacker) and prized offseason addition DT DeForest Buckner (No. 3 interior defender) alike.
The one key ingredient missing from this defense is the presence of a truly elite pass rusher. Overall, the Colts rank just 21st in pressure rate. Only the Seahawks (No. 25), Packers (No. 27) and Titans (No. 29) had a harder time consistently getting to opposing QBs among all 14 playoff teams.
Now, rest assured, this doesn’t mean the Colts are the second best team in the playoffs, but it at least helps support what we already know. That is, when the Colts are going well and right, they’re a well-balanced team offensively, who are also backed by a strong defense.
The lingering key concerns are can the Colts improve their 3rd quarter scoring and will their sometimes dominant defense put it together for two halves—instead of just one, with a lack of pass rush remaining a critical concern.
The red hot Buffalo Bills, who rank #11 here, present a very tough matchup and should still be considered a heavy favorite at home against the Colts. That being said, the Colts are a well-rounded team, who will present a difficult underdog for anyone to actually knock out.
Specifically, if the Colts can get rookie rushing star Jonathan Taylor and the ground game really going, Philip Rivers taking calculated shots through the air, and their defense playing up to its full potential again—featuring a stout run defense, it’s a recipe for success in cold, January weather football.
If nothing else, Horseshoe fans absolutely cannot wait until Saturday afternoon for this ‘complete’ Colts squad to truly show what it’s got—win or lose.