If you held a draft of every current player in the NFL right now, my guess is that Andrew Luck goes No. 1 overall because of how good he is currently (NFL-high 11 fourth quarter/overtime game-winning drives since entering the league), and the long future ahead of him. Look showed his rookie season was far from a fluke in leading the Colts to 11 wins last season, including victories over arguably the three-best teams in the league: Seattle, Denver and San Francisco. Luck also got the first of what are likely to be many playoff wins, leading an incredible come-from-behind 45-44 victory over visiting Kansas City in the wild-card round. The Colts were down 38-10 in the third quarter but won it on Luck's 64-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with a little more than four minutes remaining. It was the second-largest comeback win in NFL postseason history. Luck was brilliant in the game, throwing for 443 yards and four scores. He even recovered a fumble for a TD. Luck was a bit more mortal the next week, throwing for 331 yards but also four interceptions in a loss at New England.
Luck's completion percentage rose six points last year from his rookie season and he cut his interceptions from 18 to 9 in the regular season. That's all the more impressive considering he lost No. 1 receiver Reggie Wayne to a season-ending win over Denver and the Colts running game was subpar. Running back Vick Ballard was lost for the year in Week 1, so GM Ryan Grigson made a bold trade soon after in sending a 2014 first-round pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson. Right now that looks like a bad deal for the Colts as Richardson averaged a scant 2.9 yards per carry. Ballard will push him for time this season.
Key Offseason Moves
Indianapolis was flush with salary cap room this offseason yet wasn't crazy aggressive. It signed former Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who had 141 tackles last season, and Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, who had 53 tackles and four sacks. To get Luck some help, the Colts took a one-year flier on former Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks. He had big years in 2010 and 2011 but foot and knee injuries slowed him the past two. The club re-signed players like starting cornerback Vontae Davis, excellent punter Pat McAfee and kicker Adam Vinatieri. The most significant losses were safety Antoine Bethea, running back Donald Brown (team-leading 537 yards rushing) and offensive linemen Jeffery Linkenbach and Samson Setele.
2014 Schedule (all
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Week 2: Monday, Sept. 15, Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Thursday, Oct. 9, at Houston, 8:25 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.
Week 9: Monday, Nov. 3, at NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, New England, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, at Dallas, 4:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Indianapolis has a schedule that ranks as the easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .430. It has just four games against playoff teams.
The season starts with a bang: a trip to Denver and rematch with Peyton Manning. The AFC champion Broncos opened as 7.5-point favorites on NFL odds. The Colts handed Denver its first loss of last season in Week 7, 39-33, when Manning made his return to Indianapolis. Manning threw for 386 yards and three scores, but had two turnovers, was harassed all night (four sacks, the most for him in a game since 2007), and really was outplayed by Luck, who had four total touchdowns and no turnovers. The Colts have not won a road opener in eight years.
If the Colts can get through the first two weeks at 1-1, they would probably take that right now and go on a long winning streak with just one more matchup against a playoff team until after their bye week. Indianapolis routed Jacksonville twice last year, while also sweeping Tennessee (both were close), and Houston. One of the Colts' worst games in 2013 was a 42-28 defeat in Cincinnati so there's a chance for home payback there. Ditto against the Patriots after that playoff loss in New England.
After that Patriots game, it's all teams who finished .500 or worse last season. We get to see Luck against the guy chosen right after him in the 2012 draft, Robert Griffin III, in Week 13. Luck finished second to RGIII for that season's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. They won't play each other again for four more years unless one is traded (no chance of Luck being dealt) or it's in the Super Bowl.
Free NFL picks: 'Over' 9 wins. Is it fortunate or unfortunate that all of Indianapolis' toughest games, outside of the season opener, are at home? This certainly influences which NFL pick will win. No road game other than at Denver looks too daunting. At worst, 10-6 should be doable.