NFL Analysis: Indianapolis Hopes Magic Ride Continues In 2013

Would it be a bad pun to say the Indianapolis Colts had a lot of Luck in the 2012 NFL season? Yeah, it most certainly would, but it would also be accurate.

This Colts’ team, by almost any statistical measurement, was not very good last year. But with the arrival of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, and backed by a load of inspiration from head coach Chuck Pagano’s courageous fight with leukemia, Indianapolis won 11 games and made the playoffs.

Indianapolis was in the lower half of the NFL in almost every stat of note, but the most egregious was their dead-last finish in completion percentage and second-to-last place showing in yards allowed per rush.

Luck only completed 54 percent of his throws last year. He’s got a great downfield arm and might be the rare quarterback in today’s game who takes a lower percentage in exchange for some bigger plays. In either case, significant improvement is needed. Indy was still 17th in yards-per-pass, and Luck’s 18 interceptions were too many.

The good news is that a second-year quarterback is a virtual lock to improve and Luck showed a lot of intangible qualities in leading Indianapolis to some come-from-behind wins. I also like his skill position cast. Vick Ballard and Donald Brown are good young backs, certainly good enough to at least keep defenses honest.

The same goes for receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener—they aren’t elite players, but defenses can’t get too comfortable locking in on Reggie Wayne, the wideout who’s still outstanding at age 34.

It’s the rest of the team I’m not sure about, particularly that run defense. This is a 3-4 defense with a couple lineman on the wrong side of age 30, as is Robert Mathis, the former defensive end who made a nice transition to outside linebacker when Pagano changed the scheme.

Indy’s idea of an upgrade was to bring in Erik Walden from Green Bay at the other outside ‘backer spot. Walden was last seen futilely chasing Colin Kaepernick around in a second-round playoff loss at San Francisco. The best hopes for Indianapolis’ defensive improvement is the season-long health of linebacker Pat Angerer, a good run defender who’s 2012 was marred by constant nagging injuries.

Las Vegas has kept expectations under control for the Colts in 2013, and their Over/Under win prop is set at 8.5, so the question is simply “Will they have another winning season?” I think this is a good number, because in spite of all my doubts about the defense, Luck is the kind of quarterback that can at least get you to 9-7.

But if I have to choose…and according to the self-imposed rules in this NFL analysis, I do, then I’ll go under. I think 8-8 or 7-9 is a little more likely and I can’t see the Colts getting any higher than nine wins. That’s just not enough maneuvering room to justify the Over. 

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