Welcome to the 10th ever edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race in the Perspective of Chase’, an almost daily article about your favorite NFL team. For some reason, I seemed to be obsessed with the AFC South while doing these articles, so let’s do the Indianapolis Colts. We’ve talked about teams who may possibly have a quarterback holding them back from major success, teams like New Orleans , Miami and Tennessee. Is Matt Ryan and the Colts adding on to that list? And also, can Jonathan Taylor sustain anywhere close to what he was doing in 2021 this season? Lets, get into this!
Before we do I would like to let you know that we are doing something very similar to this on the Cool Sports Newsletter for the NBA if you want to check that out.
The Indianapolis Colts have had a rocky road since 4x Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck, retired after his 6th season at just 29 years old. They’ve now had starting quarterbacks that include Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz, which are players that are between mediocre and serviceable. But now Indianapolis has slightly upgraded at quarterback, adding former MVP Matt Ryan. But did they need the upgrade?
In 2021, Indianapolis was playing terrible football to start the season. They started off the year 1-4, one of those loses being a blown 19 point lead late in the 3rd quarter against Baltimore. But things got better. They won eight of their next ten games, putting them at a 9-6 record, needing just one win to clinch the playoffs. That should have been easy, considering they were playing an inconsistent Raiders team in Week 17 and the worst record Jaguars in Week 18. However, they lost both games, including a blowout loss to Jacksonville, which allowed Pittsburgh to receive that last 7th seed, a seed Indianapolis had received with Philip Rivers in 2020.
The positive out of last season was Jonathan Taylor. The 2nd year running back led the NFL in rushing attempts (332), rushing yards (1811), rushing touchdowns (18), longest rush (83 yards), rushing yards per game (106.5), yards from scrimmage (2171) and total rushing and receiving touchdowns (20), which easily put him on 1st team All Pro. Now, Carson Wentz didn’t have a bad season (27 touchdowns to 7 interceptions), but was also very inconsistent. However, he also didn’t have a lot of receiving weapons to work with. 2nd year receiver Michael Pittman Jr. was his #1 receiver, catching nearly 1100 yards and 6 touchdowns. And he, while a good receiver, isn’t a WR1 type guy. Another issue is that their #2 receiver (in receiving yards) was Zach Paschal with 384 receiving yards (followed by Taylor with 360) and they lost Paschal this offseason. Now Parris Campbell (162 receiving yards in 2021) and rookie Alec Pierce are their 2nd best wide receivers, as Taylor is probably their #2 receiver 🤣.
Going into the offseason, Indianapolis was looking to upgrade at quarterback. However, I don’t think it was as necessary as others were saying. If Wentz had a #1 type guy, he could have thrown for 30+ touchdowns. Nothing different than if Ryan had those receivers, like when he threw for 38 touchdowns in 2016 with Julio Jones. They should have gone after a wide receiver in the market. And while Ryan is an upgrade at quarterback, it would have been more valuable if they picked up a receiver in the market to give Jonathan Taylor even more running opportunities. But on a positive note, Indianapolis biggest weakness (pass defense) was improved drastically by picking up Stephon Gilmore. While he is past his defensive player of the year days in 2019, he still is a very good cornerback when healthy and will elevate this defense, who now has him, DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard. And for those of you who don’t know Shaquille Leonard, he is Darius Leonard but is now going by his middle name.
The Colts were pretty quiet in the draft. As I mentioned they selected WR Alec Pierce out of Cincinnati in the 2nd round. But that pretty much it. They didn’t really do much else in the offseason as well. So the team you saw last year, looks very similar to the team you’re seeing this year. And last year’s team didn’t make the playoffs. And this was before the Chargers got Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. This is before the Broncos got Russell Wilson. This is before the Browns got Deshaun Watson. This is before the Ravens were healthy. This was before the Dolphins got Tyreek Hill. They’re now in a much more competitive AFC. And it’s going to be hard for them to contend.
However, they do have one of the best running backs in all of football in Jonathan Taylor. How will he play? Well, I expect another amazing year from him. He will probably not lead the NFL in those categories we mentioned earlier now that Derrick Henry is going to be healthy, since he was on pace to lead the league in rushing yards (1990), rushing touchdowns (21), rushing yards per game (117.1), total yards of scrimmage (2318) and rushing and receiving touchdowns (21) this season if he didn’t get hurt. However, Taylor will still put up over 1300 rushing yards if not more up to around 1600. I do think they will have more confidence throwing the football with Matt Ryan than they did Carson Wentz (considering it’s one more year of development for Michael Pittman Jr.) which will make Taylor’s stats look worse than last season. But with Quenton Nelson still in Indianapolis, that offensive line will give Taylor all of the opportunities for him to succeed.
Taylor will succeed. And he will lead the Colts to some victories. But at the end of the day, this team just isn’t good enough to make the playoffs. An easier division with Jacksonville and Houston will help them get some wins (3-1 is their floor in those four games against those two teams). But overall, they can compete with the Broncos of the world, when they couldn’t compete in an easier conference last year. Indianapolis will be stuck in the 7-9 win range, which will not be good enough to make the playoffs. But as usual, with Ryan at quarterback, Taylor still running the ball better every carry and a loaded defense with Kwity Paye still developing, they will be competitive, even if it’s not good enough for a playoff berth!
My prediction: Indianapolis excels in their division, but no where else, winning around 8-9 games and short of the playoffs!
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