Is the bloom off the rose a little bit when it comes to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck? Financially, probably not. At some point soon and certainly before training camp begins, the Colts are expected to make Luck the highest-paid player in league history as he's in the final year of his rookie deal.
And the Luck from 2012-14 deserves that kind of money. But last year, Luck missed nine games due to rib, shoulder, kidney and abdominal injuries. And even when he was in there, Luck was having major problems with turnovers, committing 13 of them. To be fair, his offensive line was one of the worst in football and the Colts had no running game to speak of as free-agent addition Frank Gore was basically a bust. So was receiver Andre Johnson, and he was released.
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I would have easily bet you $500 that either Colts GM Ryan Grigson or Coach Chuck Pagano (whose contract was up) was going to be fired after Indy's disappointing 8-8 record in 2015 and second-place finish in the AFC South. There was talk all season that those two weren't on the same page. Plus, frankly, Grigson hasn't done a very good job building this team around Luck. But in a shocker, they are both back and with new extensions through 2019. Pagano's fate was supposedly sealed when the team dropped three in a row to open December on the way to the Colts missing the playoffs for just the third time since 1999. But you can hardly blame Pagano for not winning with Matt Hasselbeck as his quarterback, and I guess there's something to be said for continuity.
The Colts were 4-4 on the road last season, 4-4 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." They play four teams away from home this year that made the playoffs in 2015. The road schedule looks tougher than the home version. I predict Indy to go 3-5 on the road. It has a wins total of 9.5 on BetOnline for the season with both at -115. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 18 at Broncos (-5): Indianapolis is off its home opener against Detroit. Denver opens the 2016 season with the Kickoff Game at home against Carolina on a Thursday. Indianapolis' best win in 2015 was in Week 9 at home against Denver, 27-24. That would be Luck's final game of the year. He suffered a lacerated kidney and a partial tear of an abdominal muscle yet played the whole game. Luck threw two touchdown passes and set up Adam Vinatieri for a tiebreaking 55-yard field goal with 6:13 left. Key trend: Colts have covered four straight in Denver (including playoffs).
Oct. 4 at Jaguars (+3.5): This is in London, the Colts' first regular-season game overseas. That's a break that Indy doesn't have to go to humid Jacksonville in early October. By the way, Indy chose not to have its bye the week after this game, which is unusual. But it's up to the team. Indy is off a Week 3 home game vs. San Diego. Jacksonville is home to Baltimore the previous Sunday. Indianapolis was routed in Jacksonville last year, 51-16 in Week 14. That ended the Colts' 16-game winning streak inside their division, the longest such streak in NFL history. Hasselbeck started that game but had to leave due to injury and was replaced by Charlie Whitehurst. Key trend: Colts 6-4 ATS in past 10 meetings (any location) as at least a 3.5-point favorite.
Oct. 16 at Texans (-1.5): Sunday night game. Indy is home to Chicago the previous Sunday. Houston is in Minnesota. The Colts won 27-20 in Houston on a Thursday in Week 5 last season. Hasselbeck was the QB in that one with Luck out due to a shoulder problem and threw for 213 yards and two TDs, both to Johnson (really only his good game and coming against his former team). Gore rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown. Key trend: Colts have been a dog only three times in Houston, going 1-2 SU and ATS.
Oct. 23 at Titans (+3.5): Tennessee is off a Week 6 home game vs. Cleveland. We only got one meeting between Luck and Marcus Mariota last season, and it was Week 3 in Nashville with the Colts winning 35-33. Luck led a comeback from 27-14 down midway through the fourth quarter as Indy scored three offensive touchdowns -- two on Luck passes -- in the span of about four game minutes. Gore rushed for two scores. Luck has never lost to the Titans. Key trend: Colts 2-3 ATS as a road favorite of at least 3.5 points in series.
Nov. 6 at Packers (-6): This is ahead of the Colts' bye week. They are off a Week 8 home game vs. Kansas City. Green Bay is in Atlanta the previous Sunday. Green Bay-Indianapolis was one of the Super Bowl exact matchup betting favorites early last year when Patriots QB Tom Brady was still suspended. Luck beat Aaron Rodgers in their first meeting, 30-27 in Indianapolis in Luck's rookie year. The Colts haven't won at Lambeau since 1988. Key trend: Colts have won and covered three straight before bye week (any location).
Dec. 5 at Jets (-2): Monday night game. Indy hosts Pittsburgh on Thursday in Week 12. New York is off a huge Sunday night home game vs. New England. The Colts lost at home on a Monday night in Week 2 last year to the Jets, 20-7, their lowest-scoring game of the season. Luck tied his regular-season high with three picks and also lost a fumble. Luck was 5-of-18 (with three interceptions) on throws more than 10 yards downfield. Vinatieri missed a 29-yard field goal -- the first time he has missed one from shorter than 30 yards since 2007. Key trend: Colts 4-6 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Dec. 18 at Vikings (-4): At least the Colts don't have to face the Vikings outdoors this time of year, which would have been the case the past two seasons. Indy is off a big Week 14 home game vs. Houston. Minnesota is in Jacksonville the previous Sunday. The Colts have won four straight in the series, last at home in 2012. Key trend: Colts 4-2 ATS all-time at NFC North teams.
Dec. 24 at Raiders (-1): Oakland is off a game in San Diego in Week 15. Indianapolis has won four straight in this series, last in Week 1 of the 2013 season, 21-17 at home -- but the Raiders are leaps and bounds better than they were then. Terrelle Pryor was their starting QB that day. That's all that needs to be said. Key trend: Colts 7-3 ATS in past 10 at AFC West teams.
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