The Colts enter the 2020 NFL season ready with a recharged offense. They finished with a 7-9 record and were 7-7-2 against the spread last season. They focused on improving their offense in the draft and free agency. The additions of quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., and running back Jonathan Taylor are sure to help Frank Reich’s Colts move on from the Andrew Luck era that ended abruptly before the beginning of the 2019 season.
Reich is confident that Rivers is the quarterback for his system in Indianapolis after the front office scouted current Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles and others. There is reason to believe that Reich wanted Rivers over all other available quarterbacks because the current Colts head coach was a former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers. By reconnecting Reich and Rivers, Colts general manager Chris Ballard could hit the jackpot, as the Colts have the talent to cover the over of nine wins this season.
Ballard has had a very successful offseason, as he continues to see the fruits of his labor. In addition to acquiring 2018 Pro Bowl DT DeForest Buckner, Ballard traded first-round picks from 2018 (QB Sam Darnold, No. 3 overall) and 2019 (DE Montez Sweat, No. 26 overall) for LG Quenton Nelson, RT Braden Smith, RB Jordan Wilkins, WR Michael Pittman Jr., and CB Rock Ya-Sin. It remains to be seen if Jacoby Brissett, Rivers, and 2020 fourth-round selection Jacob Eason prove to be the right combination at quarterback for the Colts. If Darnold continues to underachieve with the New York Jets and Sweat does not make a Pro Bowl, then Ballard will continue to look very intelligent with the trade.
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2020 Colts Draft Picks
Michael Pittman Jr., WR (USC)
Jonathan Taylor, RB (Wisconsin)
Julian Blackmon, S (Utah)
Jacob Eason, QB (Washington)
Danny Pinter, G (Ball State)
Robert Windsor, DT (Penn State)
Isaiah Rodgers, CB (Massachusetts)
Dezmon Patmon, WR (Washington State)
Jordan Glasgow, LB (Michigan)
Notable Other New Faces for the Colts
Philip Rivers, QB
Trey Burton, TE
Xavier Grimble, TE
DeForest Buckner, DT
Sheldon Day, DT
T.J. Carrie, CB
Xavier Rhodes, CB
Tavon Wilson, S
Notable Colts in New Places
Brian Hoyer, QB – New England Patriots
Jonathan Williams, RB – Detroit Lions
Devin Funchess, WR – Green Bay Packers (opted out of 2020 season)
Eric Ebron, TE – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pierre Desir, CB – New York Jets
Quincy Wilson, CB – New York Jets
Notable Colts on the Injury Report
Parris Campbell – questionable for Week 1 with a concussion
Trey Burton, TE – questionable for Week 1 with a calf injury
Jack Doyle, TE – questionable for Week 1 with a neck injury
Sheldon Day, DT – questionable for Week 1 with a knee injury
Colts Who Have Opted Out of 2020 NFL Season
Skai Moore, LB
Marvell Tell, CB
Rolan Milligan, S
Colts Offense Predictions
The Colts finished 30th in passing yards in 2019, and that is not surprising after Andrew Luck suddenly retired in late August. Brissett moved from the backup role to starting 15 games for the Colts in 2019. He started the same number of games in 2017 due to Luck’s shoulder injury. Brissett went 4-11 in 2017 but went on to register a record of 7-8 in 2019. He led the Colts to an average offensive season in terms of scoring, which is somewhat impressive after losing its franchise quarterback.
Previewing the Colts Quarterbacks: Will Jacob Eason Take Over in 2021?
With 38-year-old Rivers at the helm and 27-year-old Brissett possibly taking on a Taysom Hill-like role, the Colts could have a very unpredictable offense. Indianapolis will be sure to rise the ranks in terms of passing after Rivers led the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers to the sixth-most passing yards in the NFL. In 2019, Rivers threw for 1,673 more yards and five more touchdowns than Brissett. However, Brissett did have the upper hand with rushing, as he ran for four touchdowns and 228 yards. Rivers ran for fewer than 30 yards last season and has not scored a touchdown on the ground since 2011.
Rivers is getting closer to retirement, and therefore, the Colts have drafted their next quarterback. Prior to the 2020 draft, Ballard said he did not feel like Indianapolis had to draft a quarterback. Then, Jacob Eason fell to the Colts. The former Georgia and Washington standout was the No. 122 overall selection. In 2019, he finished with the fourth-most passing yards (3,132) and fifth-most touchdowns (23) in the Pac-12. If Rivers has a strong 2020 season, he may have one or two more years left in him. After Rivers is done, Eason will most likely take over as the man under center for the Colts.
The Colts have arguably the league’s best offensive line, which will be sure to help Rivers and company. LG Quenton Nelson leads this impressive group that includes LT Anthony Castonzo, C Ryan Kelly, RG Mark Glowinski, and RT Braden Smith. The offensive line will be a large part of the success of the Colts in 2020.
Colts Running Backs: Jonathan Taylor Could supersede Marlon Mack
Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who also was a quarterbacks coach for the Chargers, is excited to have a future Hall of Fame quarterback handing off and throwing to Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor. They are a tremendous tandem, which means that Mack will be sharing touches with Taylor. In 2019, Mack ran 247 times for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns. While Mack was not as involved in the passing game, running back and returner Nyheim Hines led the backs with 44 receptions for 320 yards. Mack is in an exciting situation heading into the upcoming season, as the Colts get ready to use the hot hand in their crowded backfield.
Taylor may vault to the top of the depth chart after having the fastest 40-yard dash of any running back at the 2020 NFL Combine. In college, Taylor was a tremendous runner, especially after contact. In all three of his collegiate seasons, he ranked in the top two in yards after contact. The 21-year-old running back break tackles very well, and he is the only collegiate player with multiple seasons of more than 60 double-digit runs in the last five years. He is just the third running back to win multiple Doak Walker Awards for the best running back in college football. Without an NFL preseason, the Colts now can surprise opponents with how they use their versatile weapons in the backfield.
Colts Wide Receivers: Can Michael Pittman Jr. Give the Colts the Perfect Deep Threat?
T.Y. Hilton is enthused about the possibility of remaining with the Colts for the rest of his NFL career, but he struggled in 2019 in part due to a calf injury. He had his lowest career receiving totals and his lowest number of first-down conversions. Hilton played just ten games last year, but he looks for a bounce-back 2020 season. A bright spot about his 2019 season was his career-high 66.2 percent catch rate. Besides, Hilton has not fumbled since 2017. As Hilton looks to improve, he gets a running mate with Michael Pittman Jr.
Pittman, the son of former NFL running back and Super Bowl champion Michael Pittman, should make an impact as a rookie with the Colts. The Indianapolis wide receiver led the Pac-12 in receptions, yards per reception, and receiving yards. If Pittman can fit in as a deep threat for Rivers, then there could be a potential 1,000-yard season coming from him. Mike Williams, Rivers’ deep threat last year in Los Angeles, had 1,001 receiving yards and led the league with more than 20 yards per reception.
Colts Tight Ends: How Many Weeks Will the Tight Ends Miss?
The Colts do not have the best tight ends, but they can be reliable safety blankets for Rivers. Unfortunately, both Jack Doyle (neck) and newly-signed Trey Burton (calf) are nursing injuries as the upcoming season nears. Mo Alie-Cox and former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble are battling for the No. 3 tight end role in Indianapolis. We will have to see who is healthy to start the season, but if Doyle and Burton miss the first couple of weeks, Rivers’ receiving corps will be somewhat depleted.
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Colts Defense Predictions
Can Deforest Buckner and Xavier Rhodes Bring the Colts Defense to the Top 10?
Just one month before the 2020 draft, the Colts made a splash, as they sent their No. 13 overall selection to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for DT DeForest Buckner. Ballard and company have a lot of confidence in the No. 7 overall pick from the 2016 draft, as Indianapolis signed him to a four-year, $84 million contract extension. Now, as the second-highest-paid defensive tackle, Buckner will look to bring the Colts defense into the NFL’s upper echelon.
The Colts were done adding to their defense before the draft. At the end of March, three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes signed a one-year deal with the Colts. With All-Pro additions like Buckner and Rhodes and rookie safety Julian Blackmon, Indianapolis has bolstered its defense around LB Darius Leonard.
Is Darius “Maniac” Leonard the Current and Future Leader of the Colts Defense?
Leonard has shown to be truly an on-the-field and off-the-field leader for the Colts. He has been one of the league’s best linebackers as he enters his third season in the NFL. He, along with Brissett, Hilton, Adam Vinatieri, and former Colts safety Clayton Geathers entered 2019 as the team captains. Although Leonard did not make a Pro Bowl in his rookie 2018 season, he was First-Team All-Pro and the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. A concussion forced Leonard to miss three games in 2019, but he finished with a Pro Bowl selection along with the fourth-most interceptions and fourth-most interception return yards in the NFL. He also is in elite company, as he is one of the top five players in NFL history with 284 combined tackles in his first two NFL seasons.
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Colts Special Teams Predictions
There is a kicking battle in Indianapolis, as the incumbent Chase McLaughlin (18 for 23 FG; 26 for 26 PAT) takes on rookie Rodrigo “Hot Rod” Blankenship went undrafted. Reich hopes his kicking improves in 2020. Last season, McLaughlin took over late in the season for Adam Vinatieri, who put up career-worst percentages in both field goal kicking (68 percent) and extra point kicking (79 percent).
Blankenship was a part of the 2017 SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs. In 2019, Hot Rod led all SEC kickers with 27 made field goals, as he won the Lou Groza Award for the best placekicker in college football. In addition to getting the award, he was an All-American and First Team All-SEC last year. Meanwhile, McLaughlin, who played with the Chargers, 49ers, and Colts in 2019, looks to get his job back for 2020.
Colts Head Coach Predictions
Frank Reich has the fifth-highest odds for the NFL Coach of the Year Award heading into 2020. However, Reich may be on the hot seat if the team underperforms to begin the season. Rivers and Reich will hope to lead the Colts to a bounce-back year, but if not, they both might not be with Indianapolis in 2021.
Reich, who has a Super Bowl championship under his belt (Super Bowl LII as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles), enters his third season with Indianapolis. He has a career head coaching record of 17-15 with the Colts and is back where it all started. Reich’s coaching career began in 2008 as the offensive coaching staff assistant for Indianapolis. He hopes to have a successful 2020 and stay with the Colts for the long term.
Colts Predictions for Week 1
In Week 1, the Colts will travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars. The teams have split the season series each of the last two years and four of the previous five seasons. In Week 11 last season, the Colts moved to 6-4 with a 33-13 victory over Nick Foles and the Jaguars. Then, the Colts were unfortunately out of playoff contention in Week 17 when they had a strong first half at Jacksonville. Mack ran for two touchdowns, but Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars shut out the Colts in the second half of the 38-20 Indianapolis loss.
On Sunday, September 13, 2020, the Colts travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars yet again at TIAA Bank Stadium. The Colts opened as a seven-point favorite and have moved to 7.5 in some books. With the Jaguars releasing Leonard Fournette and having to hand the keys to Minshew, we should be in for an exciting game.
Colts Predictions for 2020 Season
The 2020 over/under for the Colts is nine wins, and they should be above .500 this upcoming season. Unless Rivers gets injured early in the season, the offense is in good hands. With the addition of Pittman to the receiving corps and substantial depth at the running back position, Indianapolis is ready to have a well-balanced offense. The defense has new additions as well, and Indianapolis’s +2200 Super Bowl futures bet could provide some value.
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