2018 NFL Over-Under Win Totals: Andrew Luck holds the key to Colts success or failure
Everything hinges on the unknown involving Andrew Luck's shoulder situation
Fun fact: it has been 42 years since Andrew Luck last threw a normal-sized football. Just kidding, it only feels that way, with the Colts franchise quarterback presenting us with the biggest enigma of the offseason in terms of whether or not he will return to his division-winning form, the type of franchise quarterback who can drag a bad roster deep into the playoffs.
He might come back to his full form. Maybe he won't. Maybe he has a spaghetti noodle attached to his right shoulder now and will be completely fried, like a pitcher dealing with Tommy John back in the day. That would be incredibly depressing but it's certainly on the table insofar as the full range of outcomes are concerned.
As for the rest of the roster and the full offseason, let's take a moment and applaud Chris Ballard for doing an excellent all-around job in what was not an easy year. For starters, Ballard answers to Jim Irsay, a man who does not seem like he would be the simplest, most consistent boss to work for. Ballard is cleaning up a nasty mess left by a previous regime, he's not working with much and he routinely has to answer questions about Luck's arm without having any real answers.
The latest rumors have Luck being "real close" to throwing a football, but that could be mid-summer optimism. We'll reserve judgment until we see him throwing in a Colts uniform at a league-sanctioned practice.
Elsewhere, the Colts did a really nice job upgrading in the draft, trading down from No. 3 to No. 6, getting a bunch of picks from the Jets, and still landing stud offensive lineman Quenton Nelson. They would add Braden Smith and a slew of defensive players in the second round, along with Nyheim Hines in the fourth.
Not to mention, Ballard managed to negotiate a disastrous about face from would-be coach Josh McDaniels by recovering and securing the services of Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. It might be an upgrade.
Despite the smart moves, Vegas is bearish on this team,.
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Early Schedule Analysis
This is the schedule of a last-place team, and it's still not easy. The Colts get the Bengals in Week 1 but then travel to the Redskins and Eagles before hosting the Texans in Week 4. Tell me Luck is ready to play and I'm encouraged at the idea of 2-2. The Patriots (road), Jets (road), Bills and Raiders (road) could give the Colts some serious juice to the season if they come into the stretch at .500. A Week 9 bye gives way to major division games and a trio of home games against the Jaguars, Titans and Dolphins. The Colts then play the Jags and Texans on the road, before closing out against the Cowboys (home), Giants (home) and Titans (road).
Why They'll Go Over
Luck is healthy. And if he is indeed healthy, this over/under will move up pretty dramatically. I'd expect a healthy Luck in training camp would result in a similar move to what we saw last year only in reverse, with the number climbing up to about 9 because of his impact on the offense. I'm extremely excited about what kind of offense Reich implements with this team -- it should feature a lot of RPOs and college concepts -- and I think people are sleeping on what Jacoby Brissett can do for the Colts when he has a full offseason working in the offense. T.Y. Hilton could be a sleeper for a big bounceback in this scheme. I like the combo of Hines/Marlon Mack/Jordan Wilkins and would highly suggest drafting Hines in any sort of PPR fantasy setup. New defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus doesn't have a history in the role and is fighting an uphill battle with his roster, which might be a better than you think group of blue collar guys who overachieve. If that happens, Luck plays and the offense is above average, I can see this team hanging around .500. No one will be expecting it to happen.
Why They'll Go Under
Because Luck isn't healthy and Brissett doesn't translate to the new offense. The Colts were 29th in offensive DVOA last year and didn't exactly have the DNA of a team capable of closing out games. Reich's staff should be an upgrade over anything Chuck Pagano was trotting out there, but Reich's also doing this for the first time as well. I dig the combo of the running backs in Indianapolis, but there might not be a big enough "feature" back to operate effectively if the passing game lacks punch. The Colts might just be not good in 2018, even if they appear to be building out the roster the right way.
I'm the guy who went blowtorch on the Colts for massacring the Luck situation, but I'm actually kind of bullish on this team. The AFC South looks obvious, but Indy could be a problem for people, playing under Reich with Luck healthy again. I'll gamble that he plays 16 games and have them flirt with .500.
VERDICT: OVER (6.5)
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