The Indianapolis Colts are set to kick off the 2022 regular season, facing their divisional rival, the Houston Texans, on the road this upcoming weekend. There’s a lot of optimistic expectations for the Colts, including making the playoffs and even winning the division.
With that being said, here are five bold predictions for the Colts during this latest yearly campaign:
5. Matt Ryan Will Pass For At Least 30 Touchdowns
The Colts brought in former NFL MVP and longtime Atlanta Falcons veteran quarterback Matt Ryan to finally provide some much needed leadership and stability at the league’s most important position again.
While Indianapolis will still be heavily dependent on Jonathan Taylor and the ground game, Ryan will accomplish what no Colts starting quarterback has done since after Andrew Luck abruptly retired following the 2018 NFL season, and pass for at least 30 touchdowns.
If you think about some of the passing reads that departed former starter Carson Wentz simply missed in his progressions or because of inaccurate throws, who still finished with 27 passing touchdowns this past season for Indianapolis, this isn’t that far-fetched at all.
Is it bold though? Matt Ryan may be 37 years old but still has enough left in the tank to pull it off for the Colts.
4. Colts Will Have Two First-Career NFL Pro Bowlers
While the majority of the Colts’ usual suspects may continue to make the Pro Bowl: Jonathan Taylor, Shaquille Leonard, Quenton Nelson, DeForest Buckner, Kenny Moore II, Ryan Kelly, and Luke Rhodes key among them, it will be a year of firsts for a pair of other Colts standouts.
My prediction is that both starting right tackle Braden Smith and wideout Michael Pittman Jr. will be Pro Bowlers for the first time in each’s career. Smith has been deserving of such a nod for at least a few years and is starting to garner greater national recognition for his rock solid play as the Colts’ right bookend. Meanwhile, Pittman Jr. should greatly benefit from the improved timing, accuracy, and ball placement of the veteran quarterback Ryan—who’s shown a career-long fondness of finding his #1 wideout early and often in games.
3. Yannick Ngakoue Will Have Double Digit Sacks
The Colts will have a pass rusher obtain double digit sacks for the first time since 2019 (when Justin Houston achieved the feat), as acquired speed edge Yannick Ngakoue will once again flourish in new Indy defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme as the ‘LEO’.
Nkagoue is not only a natural in Bradley’s scheme, but he should benefit from a Colts defensive line that also features All-Pro/Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner and emerging 2nd-year edge Kwity Paye—freeing him up for some one-on-one pass rushing opportunities along the outside (not to mention Grover Stewart is a big man in the middle).
2. Colts Will Become the NFL’s Consensus Top Defense
There’s a lot to like about this Indianapolis defense—as long as Shaquille Leonard eventually comes back fully healthy. There’s a new scheme transition which should allow for less provided coverage cushion along the outside to wideouts, an improved pass rush, and a better/more talented secondary.
Of course, the main culprits for what figures to be an upgraded and more talented Colts defense are the big-time offseason additions of both former NFL DPOY Stephon Gilmore and ex-Pro Bowler Yannick Ngakoue—now being deployed in Bradley’s evolved ‘Cover 3’ scheme and consistently making plays.
Gilmore may not be what he once was with the New England Patriots, but he’s still one of the league’s best cornerbacks featuring veteran savviness, smarts, and ball skills. As noted, Ngakoue is a notorious double-digit sack producer and should be once again off the edge in his debut season with Indianapolis.
However, there’s also anticipated growth from the Colts’ youngsters here.
Not just of young players such as Kwity Paye, Bobby Okereke, Julian Blackmon, Isaiah Rodgers, and perhaps Dayo Odeyingbo, but also new rookies such as safety Nick Cross at starting safety.
Retired safety Khari Willis was solid and consistent for the Colts, but Cross should bring a much more dynamic safety with his speed, athleticism, range, and ballhawking to pair with the equally talented Blackmon on the backend. Indy’s new rookie safety already impressed in training camp and preseason for the Colts—and his best is still yet to come.
If this defense stays healthy, this has the makings of a Top 5 unit and arguably the league’s best when the dust finally settles—and ‘The Maniac’ (with 12 total takeaways last season) has punched another football out.
1. Colts Will Not Only Reclaim the AFC South, But Make the AFC Title Game in a Deep Playoff Run
The Colts will snap their AFC South crown drought and win the division for the first time since 2014 (as once the last divisional team to do so, which is a sad streak that needs to be finally put of out of its misery).
However, the Colts’ fearless freight train doesn’t quite derail there, as featuring NFL First-Team All-Pro Jonathan Taylor and its power running game; Matt Ryan’s improved leadership, accuracy, and decision-making in the passing game—all while backed by an elite NFL defense, Indianapolis makes a deep AFC playoff push as the conference’s new dark horse.
The Colts appear in the AFC Title Game on the road (at Buffalo), but fall just a little short to new league MVP Josh Allen, in their Super Bowl aspirations. The franchise is set up for even more success in 2023 though with a lot of momentum, confidence, and playoff experience to build off of going forward.
*Bonus- Honorable Mention
Jonathan Taylor Wins NFL Offensive Player of the Year
This isn’t so much of a bold prediction, as Jonathan Taylor was at one point, a bona fide NFL MVP candidate—at running back (for an award almost always given annually to quarterbacks) after a monstrous campaign during 2021—which speaks to his insane production.
Taylor achieved the ‘Triple Crown’ on the ground, leading the league in rush yards (1,811), carries (332), and rushing touchdowns (18), while still averaging 5.5 yards per carry (best for 8th most) despite a heavy, heavy workload.
However, while it’s an individual award, Taylor’s chances nose-dived for not just NFL MVP honors, but also NFL Offensive Player of the Year, following the Colts shocking late season collapse—although through no fault of JT’s own high-level play.
Taylor finished second in NFL OPOY votes to reigning Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp, who was well deserving, but that won’t happen again in 2022. Even with slightly less of a robust workload (as the Colts look to feature Nyheim Hines and the passing game more), Taylor finishes what he started last season and wins NFL OPOY honors as the league’s unstoppable offensive force.