In my opinion, the 2012 Indianapolis Colts are in a way both the easiest and the hardest team to preview for the upcoming season.
I say easiest because we obviously know the Colts are going to stink in 2012 after plummeting to a 2-14 record last season without the injured Peyton Manning taking a snap – and Indy being woefully unprepared with a legitimate backup (Kerry Collins? Curtis Painter? Was Art Schlicther not available?). Thanks to Manning, perhaps the most indispensible player in NFL history to a single franchise, the Colts had won at least 10 games and reached the playoffs every season but one from 1999-2010 and got to two Super Bowls with one title.
100% bonus up to $500
at GT Bets
The Colts purged the entire franchise this offseason, starting with jettisoning Manning. The front office is new, the coaching staff new. About the only holdovers are that the Irsay family still owns the team, it still plays in Indianapolis and it’s still nicknamed the “Colts.”
I say the Colts could be the hardest team to preview in 2012 because I don’t think the Colts themselves know what they have as no franchise has had so much turnover, with Indy going from one of the league’s oldest to youngest. Joining Manning out of town were the likes of running back Joseph Addai, tight end Dallas Clark, receiver Pierre Garcon, center Jeff Saturday and linebacker Gary Brackett.
The new coach is Chuck Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator. It’s the first head coaching job for Pagano, who had been a career assistant in the NFL and college football. Pagano only led the Baltimore defense for one season, so it was a bit of a curious decision. But Indy is hoping it struck gold like the Tampa Bay Bucs once did in hiring another former defensive coordinator with no head coaching experience: Tony Dungy. Of course, Dungy eventually won the Super Bowl with the Colts in the 2006 season.
The one positive from finishing 2-14 was getting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft – which Indy almost coughed away by winning in Weeks 15 and 16 last year – and taking quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford. Most scouts agree that Luck is the best quarterback prospect since Manning left Tennessee. Luck seems to have it all: smarts, toughness, arm strength, mobility. He will start from Day 1, no question. If you are wondering what Manning did in his 1998 rookie year with Indy: 326-for-575 passing (career-low 56.7 percent), 3,739 yards (career low), 26 touchdowns (tie career low) and 28 interceptions (career high).
Donald Brown will be the featured back. The former UConn star rushed for 645 yards on 134 carries (solid 4.8 yards per carry) and five scores. Shockingly, the Colts were able to convince receiver Reggie Wayne to re-sign this offseason even though several contenders wanted him. Austin Collie is solid opposite Wayne. But look for Luck’s top targets to be rookie tight ends Coby Fleener (second round, Luck’s Stanford teammate) and Dwayne Allen (third round). That the Colts took the two best tight ends in the draft with so many other needs should tell you that they will be a huge part of the offense – i.e., short, conservative passes.
Indianapolis is switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this season. There were rumors all offseason that the Colts wanted to trade future Hall of Fame defensive end Dwight Freeney and his huge contract, but he’s still in Indianapolis as is fellow stud end Robert Mathis. Freeney has recorded a franchise-record 102½ sacks and forced the most fumbles (43) in the league since 2002. Mathis is second in franchise history with 83½ sacks.
Only they aren’t ends any longer. Both are listed as outside linebacker in the new scheme. They will have to get used to occasionally dropping in pass coverage now. Still, because more teams are using three- and four-receiver sets, Freeney and Mathis are likely to line up at end more than 50 percent of the time. Think of how the Ravens use Terrell Suggs. This will be Freeney’s last season as a Colt almost assuredly. He’ll count $19 million against the cap on the final year of his deal.
Meanwhile, perhaps the defensive switch will light a fire under DE/OLB Jerry Hughes, a first-round pick in 2010. Hughes has just 15 tackles and one sack in 24 games, and he’s been a non-factor on special teams as well. The secondary is a huge question mark with the only sure thing likely being Jerraud Powers, who had 51 tackles and two picks last year but has had trouble staying healthy. This unit could be left on an island often with the new attacking defensive scheme. Pagano brought safety Tom Zbikowski from the Ravens to help out back there, but he’s more of a run-stopper.
2012 Indianapolis Colts Schedule Analysis
The Colts are right in the middle-of-the-pack (No. 14) in terms of strength of schedule this year with an opponents’ 2011 winning percentage of .500. Indy faces seven teams that had a winning record a year ago.
Don’t laugh, but the Colts could match their win total from last season by Week 3. A loss at Chicago in Week 1 seems certain, but the Colts then host the lousy Vikings and Jaguars. Now tell me, wouldn’t you take Luck over Christian Ponder (Vikes) and Blaine Gabbert (Jags)? Of course, Minnesota has Adrian Peterson (if healthy) and Jacksonville Maurice Jones-Drew (assuming he doesn’t hold out).
Following the Week 4 bye, there are probably four realistic wins on the schedule: Week 7 vs. Cleveland, Week 9 vs. Miami, Week 10 at Jacksonville and Week 12 vs. Buffalo – although I think the Bills will be much improved. Maybe Week 14 vs. Tennessee. And you never know what could happen in Week 17 vs. Houston as the Texans may have their playoff seeding locked and squat to play for.
2012 Indianapolis Colts NFL Futures Odds
On 5Dimes, the Colts’ “over/under” wins total is set at 5.5, with the under a -185 favorite. To win the South Division, Indy is the +3000 long shot. To win the AFC, the Colts are +6000 and to play in the conference title game +2200. A Super Bowl title pays off at a nice +20000. Why not take a Colts-Vikings Super Bowl matchup? That nets you a cool +720000. For Week 1 NFL odds, Indy is an 11-point dog at Chicago.
2012 Indianapolis Colts Predictions
The Colts went 3-13 in Manning’s year, but that team had way more talent on offense with Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison and a few very good linemen. Luck has none of that. The defense actually might be a tick better this year with the new scheme.
Obviously, the Super Bowl, AFC and division odds are ridiculous. I would take the under 5.5 wins – I could see five at the most but more than likely a 4-12 season.
Doc’s Sports is offering $60 worth of member’s picks absolutely free – no obligation, no sales people – you don’t even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any handicapper and any sport on Doc’s Sports Advisory Board list of expert sports handicappers. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today.