After an NFL high nine consecutive playoff appearances, the Colts crashed and burned last year following QB Peyton Manning’s season ending neck surgery. They did face a tougher than average schedule, but a 2-14 SU, 6-10 ATS season can’t be blamed solely on a tough slate of opponents.
The Colts were outgained by 0.8 yards per play in 2011, fourth worst in the NFL. They had a -12 turnover margin and went 9-7 to the Under for the campaign.
The 2012 schedule tells you all you need to know about Indy’s rebuilding project. The Colts have been primetime mainstays for the last decade, with at least three or four Sunday or Monday Night national TV appearances every year. This year, the Colts play 15 of their 16 games at 1 PM Eastern time. The 16th game is a Thursday Night affair at lowly Jacksonville on the NFL network. The Colts are most assuredly NOT a ‘showcase’ team for the league this year.
The Colts have a first time head coach, Chuck Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator. Their new offensive coordinator is Bruce Arians, who developed some very effective downfield throwing schemes in his tenure at Pittsburgh. New defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was fired by the Chargers following his lone season on the job last year. Owner Jim Irsay fired six time NFL executive of the year Bill Polian and GM Chris Polian as well – both the front office and the coaching staff are starting with a clean slate.
Indy is in major rebuilding mode for 2012. They’ll be starting ultra-hyped rookie QB, Andrew Luck, remembering that even future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s first season wasn’t pretty as the Colts stumbled to a 3-13 campaign.
To make matters even worse for Luck, he’ll be playing behind a bottom tier offensive line. The OL has only one starter returning from last year, and the replacements are largely underwhelming castoffs that Indy brought in cheaply. Expect the Colts to run first this year, protecting their young QB with a steady ground game from Delone Carter and Donald Brown.
This team still has a number of playmaking receivers: Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Donny Avery and a trio of rookies, including TE Coby Fleener and explosive WR TY Hilton. Whether they’ll be able to get the ball in position to make plays is another question entirely.
The Colts are switching defensive schemes, installing a brand new hybrid 3-4 D that has virtually nothing in common with the Cover-2 they’ve been running since Tony Dungy became their head coach more than a decade ago. The Colts did bring in three free agents from Baltimore’s defense to help in the transition. But Indy’s cornerbacks – a group that allowed a woeful 103.9 QB rating to opposing quarterbacks last year – did not enjoy the benefits of any offseason upgrades on a team with literally dozens of holes to fill.
The Colts are lined at 5 or 5.5 wins, depending on the sportsbook; right on par with Jacksonville and Cleveland as the teams that are expected to be at the bottom of the AFC in 2012. We’ve seen recent money come in support of the Colts Over, after their solid showings through the first two weeks of preseason.