As of this writing, DraftKings Sportsbook predicts a Colts loss in their season opener at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. A 3.5-point line is rather friendly, given that the Jags are preseason favorites to win the division.
Of course, making any prediction at this point in the offseason is purely a dart throw. Things could shift if the Colts’ offense is clicking in the preseason.
Indianapolis’ primary issues were on the offensive side of the ball in 2022. The offensive line was a total disaster. Matt Pryor didn’t work out. Ryan Kelly and Quenton Nelson weren’t close to performing at peak levels. Rookie Bernhard Raimann had to survive a trial by fire. Above all, Chris Ballard severely misjudged the impact of losing his two veteran right guards.
Now, Bernhard Raimann has put on some weight and will look to build on the growth he displayed near the end of the season. Pryor won’t be in the rotation. Will Fries held his own at right guard as the season progressed and should benefit from the experience. The Colts also drafted two promising swing linemen in Blake Freeland and Jake Witt, and stole undrafted Alabama guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. All rookies will push for snaps.
Jonathan Taylor was dinged up for much of the season and should return to full steam. Rookie Josh Downs is an explosive, shifty slot option who will add a dimension to a receiving corps heavily focused on height and the ability to win jump balls.
Of course, nothing could be more impactful than early progress for the quarterback position. Anthony Richardson is considered a boom-or-bust prospect. If he comes anywhere close to reaching his ceiling or shows signs of early progress in new head coach Shane Steichen’s system, he could give any opponents trouble much faster than anticipated.
On defense, overcoming the losses of Stephone Gilmore and Bobby Okereke stand out as the most significant question mark. At least one of those can be answered if Darius Leonard can manage to overcome his nagging injuries and return close to his Pro Bowl form. The other will rely heavily on a leap from special teams ace Dallis Flowers or one of three drafted rookies to start their NFL career strong.
On the positive side, DeForest Buckner is still the heart of the defensive line, and Chris Ballard has brought in pieces through free agency and the draft to bolster the rotation. Samson Ebukam is a well-rounded defensive end who will be a big plus to the run defense. Adetomiwa Adebawore is a lottery ticket with incredible athletic measurables who will likely play in a hybrid three-tech role early in his career.
Returning players include Dayo Odeyingbo, who showed signs of becoming a disruptive force inside and out. Kwity Paye and Tyquan Lewis were both productive at times during the season. Grover Stewart was one of the best one-tech defensive tackles in the NFL last season and demanded double teams from almost every opponent.
Unheralded changes that will also make a difference include the return of Rigoberto Sanchez as the punter and the signing of Matt Gay as the team’s kicker. These special teams upgrades will impact games.
Will that be enough to overcome the 3.5-point spread DraftKings has placed on the game? Time will tell.