The 2019 NFL season is just a few weeks away, so Andy Benoit makes a few predictions for each NFL team. Today he considers the Indianapolis Colts, who finished 10–6 and finished second in the AFC South last year.
Andrew Luck wins his first MVP award. The almost-30-year-old remains one of football’s greatest quarterbacks late in the down, particularly from within the pocket. But his willingness to get the ball out quickly, which he discovered last year under Frank Reich, puts him on a whole other plane. Reich’s system is shrewdly built on multi-receiver route combinations, many of which stress both man and zone coverage.
Colts receivers become fantasy darlings. Reich’s scheme uses superstar T.Y. Hilton in ways that help the 183-pounder avoid press coverage. It also features vertical routes in the red zone, particularly out of trips formations. This helped Eric Ebron lead all tight ends with 13 touchdowns in 2018 and now aids speedy second-round Ohio State rookie Parris Campbell, as well as underachieving 6'4" ex-Panther Devin Funchess, whom the Colts surprisingly coveted in free agency.
Indy’s ground game stabilizes. Last year it was hit or miss, amassing over 155 yards in five different contests (including three 200-plus-yard outings) and under 70 yards in five others. But behind the continued growth of powerful, nimble interior blockers Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly, Indy continues to expand its rushing scheme, leading to steadier production from quick, agile backs Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus becomes one of 2020’s hottest head coaching candidates. In their first season under Eberflus, the Colts quietly allowed the fewest points in the NFL over the final 10 weeks. A big reason why was the increase in blitzes from the linebacker and slot, often in front of zone coverage (as opposed to the more common man-to-man). Those concepts continue to percolate, but the Colts are less dependent on them down the stretch this year, as ex-Chief Justin Houston and second-round rookie Ben Banogu provide the edge-rushing presence that Eberflus’s foundational zone concepts demand.
Kenny Moore, now the richest slot corner in history, looks underpaid. In nickel defense the undrafted third-year pro is a fervid blitzer and ace zone defender. And, thanks to long arms and unsuspected physicality, he’s also stout as an outside corner in base situations.
BOTTOM LINE: The Colts are strong in all the right places: quarterback, offensive line, linebacker, secondary and coaching. Anything short of a Super Bowl appearance will feel disappointing.
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