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2018 Review: 10-6 (2nd in AFC South)
The Colt went into the 2018 off season looking for a new coach after letting go of Chuck Pagano who had some successful years with the team. In reality Pagano suffered from a shitty GM in Ryan Grigson who was one of the worst to ever run an NFL team, Grigson didn’t help Pagano at all. Even so second year GM Chris Ballard decided that Pagano time was up and searched for a new coach.
Originally, the Colts wanted to hire Josh McDaniels, the OC from the Patriots, but he backed out at the last minute even after hiring coaches. I’ll say it, it was a dick move, but I think Colts fans are happy with the way things worked out. Ballard had to work quickly and found his new coach in Eagles OC Frank Reich. Reich played in the NFL for four different teams as a QB, and coached in the NFL since 2008. His first few gigs were actually with the Indianapolis Colts from 2008-2011 so this was a bit of a homecoming for him. Reich was the OC for the Chargers from 2014-2015, and the Eagles OC from 2016-2017 helping develop a young Carson Wentz, and lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl with backup QB Nick Foles. It was a match made in heaven for Reich to come in a further Andrew Lucks career.
The season didn’t start off so hot for the Colts though. They were 1-5 after six weeks, although they did play teams tough. The only big loss was a 14 pointer on Thursday Night at New England. However, after Week 6 the Colts won 9 of their last 10 including the Week 17 Sunday Night game against the Titans to earn a Wild Card spot. During the winning streak the offense exploded under Reich and Luck, the Colts scored over 23 points in ever game besides an odd shutout loss at the Jaguars in Week 13. In the first five weeks, they had scored 23 or less three times.
One of the biggest reasons the Colts made the run they did was because they had a defense led by rookie LB Darius Leonard, and only gave up 21.5 PPG which was 10th in the league. As I said they struggled to get after the QB, recording only 38 sacks on the year but they were one of the leaders in the league in 26 takeaways. The Colts had seven games where they held teams to 20 points or less, including five which were under 10 points or less, and shutout the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15.
Darrius Leonard came out of nowhere and won rookie of the year and was named a First Team All-Pro recording 163 tackles, 12 TFL, 8 QB hits, 7 Sacks, 2 INTs, and forced four fumbles. He was a fucking stud and the steal of the draft as a second round pick by Chris Ballard. Even with a top 10 scoring defense the Colts had no Pro Bowlers, which shows just how solid and deep they were on that side of the ball. It also shows where they could improve in 2019 however, specifically the pass rush. Nobody on their team had double digit sacks an the most QB hits one guy got on their team was 13. You’d like to both of those number be much higher.
On offense, Andrew Luck was finally healthy for a full year and led the Colts to 27.1 PPG which was 5th in the league. Luck threw for 4,593 YDS, 39 TDs, 15 INTs, and also ran for 148 yards. He threw the ball to TY Hilton mainly, who in 14 games had 76 catches for 1,270 YDS and 6 TDs. TY also just killed the Texans like he always does. The Colts also got remarkable production from TE Eric Ebron, a guys Chris Ballard brought in from Detroit who didn’t live up to expectation. Well with Luck throwing him the ball and only starting 8 games (played in all 16), Ebron caught 66 balls for 750 YDS and 13 TDs. The receiving dropped off after that for the Colts, no other player on their team had more than 500 yards.
The Colts also got consistent production from RB Marlon Mack, at least when he was playing. Mack missed four games but still ran for 908 yards on 195 carries with 9 TDs and caught another 17 balls for 103 yards and 1 TD. The Colts also find a very solid third down back in Nyheim Hines, who ran for 314 YDS and 2 TDs while catching 63 passes for 425 YDS and 2 TDs.
A big reason for the offensive success was due to the offensive line. The OL was a problem for the Colts in the past with Andrew Luck who was among the league leaders in getting sacked. The Colts invested in that OL by drafting Quenton Nelson 6th overall from Notre Dame and by the end of 2018 you could make the argument he’s the best Guard in the league. The OL gave up just 18 sacks all year, compared to their division rival Houston Texans who gave up 62 – that is an insane gap. The Colts ended up having the 3rd ranked OL in 2018 according to PFF.
The Colts earned the #6 seed in the playoffs and got to travel to Houston to take on the Texans. Colts were a hot pick to pull the upset and they did, beating Houston pretty handily 21-7.
The following week in the Divisional Round they got a tougher match-up with the Kansas City Chiefs. Although they lost 31-13, the game felt much closer. Indianapolis was playing with the Chiefs but just made too many mistakes throughout the game. They committed 10 penalties, went 0-9 on third down, kept making mental mistakes, and when they had the chance to close the gap Andrew Luck fumbled the ball. Vinatieri missed an XP, and he missed a FG that could have made the game much more interesting, it was really a what if game for the Colts.
What it showed is that this team can play with best and isn’t far away. The Colts in 2018 got some star performances, but they were just solid everywhere.
Key Off Season Acquisitions
DE Justin Houston (2 years, $24 Million)
The Colts had a ton of money to spend in the off season but didn’t do much with it. They did wait a long time to sign Houston though who comes over from Kansas City. The Colts defense was surprisingly great in 2018 but they could use some pass rushing help and even with Houston’s age, he’ll be a huge help for the Colts in that department.
WR Devin Funchess (1 Year, $10 Million)
Colts really didn’t have any WRs outside of TY Hilton. They’re taking a shot on Funchess whose always had a lot of talent coming out of Michigan but didn’t live up to those WR1 expectations in Carolina. Maybe him being a WR2/WR3 they can really get the best out of him. $10 million for one year is still a lot to pay for a WR2 but the Colts have the money to spend.
Round 2 Pick #34: CB Rock Ya-Sin
Colts a very well rounded team so they could have gone anywhere with this pick, and they decided to add depth to their CB room. Ya-Sin was one of the top CB prospects in the draft even with only one year of FBS football experience. He stands a 6’0″ with a 4.51 40 yard dash. The good thing with this pick for the Colts, is Ya-Sin will be the 3rd or 4th CB on the field so he can sit back and develop for them.
Round 2 Pick #49: OLB Ben Banogu
Banogu is 6’3″ 250 LBS from TCU and although he was drafted with the LB title he’ll be an edge rusher for the Colts. He was projected to be a 4th-5th round pick so this was a “reach” for the Colts. Banogu transferred to TCU and had 49 tackles, 16.5 TFL, and 8.5 sacks in 2017 and was First Team All-Big 12, in 2018 he had 57 tackles, 18 TFL, and 8.5 sacks against and was First Team All-Big 12 again. Just like Houston the Colts want him to add to their pass rush, and just like Ya-Sin he won’t start and will be able to develop and learn from Houston.
Round 2 Pick #59: WR Parris Campbell
As we mentioned with Funchess the Colts need WR depth. T.Y. Hilton can do it all, Funchess is a big bodied possession receiver, so the Colts got Campbell who is a burner. I really think he is going to excel with Andrew Luck QB. The WR class in 2018 wasn’t top heavy but it was deep. Campbell has the potential to be the best of the bunch.
Key Off Season Departures
The Colts did not have any major off season losses from their 2018 team.
The Colts are a very popular pick to make a jump in the AFC, win their division, and have a shot at a Super Bowl appearance. Overall their roster is solid up and down, and there’s almost no position you can look to and say its a weakness. The Colts just don’t have that star power like other other teams do, especially on defense.
On paper the Colts addressed what they needed most which was all around depth, pass rushing, and more play-makers at WR. In the draft the Colts addressed all those things, they took a CB in Rock Ya-Sin that helps with their depth there, and also drafted a pass rusher and WR in the second round. From there they drafted depth, and depth on the defense adding two LBs, a S, another CB, a DE, and then added to the OL depth at the end of the draft.
In free agency they also brought in two guys that can make immediate impacts. Justin Houston is going to be the best pass rusher this team has, even at his age, in week 1. They also grabbed WR depth with Devin Funchess who can become another big target for Andrew Luck.
Also at WR, they added speedster Parris Campbell in the draft and they get back WR Deon Cain from Clemson who the Colts drafted in 2018 but missed the season due to injury. Cain has apparently flashed in training camp and the team is very excited about him. On offense, the WR group is the only one that is really shaky and could hold the team back.
It is the offense that will determine how well this team does, and mainly Andrew Luck. We don’t like to talk injuries during these previews but we have to with Luck. Currently Luck is dealing with an ankle injury and the Colts are not telling anybody how severe, or how minimal the injury is. Luck has had a history of injuries during his career and if he misses a significant amount of time then this team can say goodbye to any Super Bowl hopes. They have Jacoby Brissett as a backup who is very good, in fact Frank Reich thinks he’s a starting QB in the NFL but Brissett isn’t Luck. Andrew Luck needs to be healthy for the majority of the year for the Colts to get back to the playoffs. They play in a tough division, and as you’ll see in the schedule breakdown they have to play the AFC West and the NFC South this year.
The AFC South plays the AFC West and NFC South this year. The Colts finished second in the South so they also draw the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Colts get only three prime-time games this year. The first of which comes at home in Week 5 on Sunday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, then in Week 12 on Thursday Night Football they play at the Houston Texans and finally on Monday Night Football in Week 15 they play at the New Orleans Saints. They do have a few of those lat afternoon games, at the Chargers, vs the Broncos, and vs the Dolphins but only the Chargers game in Week 1 stands out as what could be the main late game. So barring any flex changes, the Colts are not in prime-time as much as I thought they’d be.
Their division games are very spread out, they play the Texans in Weeks 7 & 10, the Titans in Weeks 2 & 13, and the Jaguars in Weeks 11 & 17.
They get an earlier bye week coming during Week 6, but the real intrigue of their schedule comes in the last 6 weeks where they play four of those games on the road. Starting with that Thursday Night Game at Houston, they also have to play at the Bucs, at the Saints, and at the Jags to finish the season. Because of that road heavy end, from Weeks 7 to 11 they only play one away game at Pittsburgh, which isn’t that far of a trek.
Fantasy Player You Want
I really like Marlon Mack, especially if he can stay healthy. The Colts have a great OL and also want to protect Luck, which means running the ball a lot. I also see Mack catching more balls than he did last year.
Fantasy Player to Avoid
I’m gonna say Devin Funchess. Funchess might have a few games where he catches a TD or two but I think its going to be hard for him to get over 100 yards receiving. The Colts have so many weapons that it’ll be hard for him to be productive from a fantasy standpoint even though he’ll probably be the WR2 on the depth chart.
This all revolves around Andrew Luck’s health. Brissett can lead them to contending for the playoffs but not much more. If Luck is healthy and plays all 16 games, I can see this team winning 12 of them.
Even with Brissett at QB, or Luck going in and out of the lineup I see this team winning at least 6 games. The NFC South is a tough division, and they also play in a very competitive division themselves.