As the NFL season approaches, odds makers and bettors are getting excited. So excited that they're already thinking the Colts will be the favorites in the AFC this season. Are they right about that? Find out here!
Indianapolis' Status as AFC Betting Co-Favorites
One thing that's interesting to me as an outside observer of football is the construction of the progression narrative. A quarterback that's bad in year one must get better in year two. If a quarterback shows no improvement after his first year, he's regressing. We as football fans love our narratives.
And I think one place we're getting ahead of ourselves is in anointing the Indianapolis Colts as AFC favorites this season. I can understand why we're doing it. When you look at bringing in a Hall of Fame receiver in Andre Johnson, a Hall of Fame –caliber back (Frank Gore) to replace the bumbling Trent Richardson, these are the things that make you project improvement. That make you think this is the year that Andrew Luck fully arrives on the scene in a statistical sense, rather than just a preternatural being that wins close games.
I don't have a problem with thinking the Colts are going to go far in the playoffs. I don't even have a problem with believing that they should be second on the board. But there are a few reasons why the Colts should not be favored over New England, even with homefield.
1) There's Reason to Doubt that Indianapolis' Offense Will be as Effective as it is Prolific.
Andrew Luck nearly threw for 5,000 yards last season. He probably could have had T.Y. Hilton not missed some of the stretch run and the rest of his receivers were more than competent. I don't have any problem with believing that the talent around him got a boost. Especially if first-round pick Phillip Dorsett can be a bigger factor than I think he can be.
But Luck has not proven to be efficient yet. Per Football Outsiders DVOA metric – which basically spits out the percentage points a quarterback was better than a hypothetical league-average one – Luck was only 9.2% better last season, which ranked him 11th among all quarterbacks. Behind Joe Flacco and the supposedly washed up Drew Brees. That's Luck's best season to date in the metric.
That's not to say that Luck won't improve, or that the skill position players won't help him out. It's just that I think in our rush to say that Luck is the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers as the best young quarterback in the NFL, he hasn't statistically produced that output yet.
2) Recent History Suggests that the Colts Simply Won't Adjust.
In the last three games the Colts have played the Patriots, the Pats have run for 657 yards. The Colts spent an entire offseason accumulating front seven pieces in 2014 to try to stop the Patriots from doing this again: defensive lineman Arthur Jones, middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. And they still got stomped both times they played.
I'm not saying that Chuck Pagano should give you the vibe that he can't adjust, but Bill Belichick is so far in his head that he's digging up repressed memories. There are a lot of times where statistics will tell us – pure regression and what not – that something can't keep happening. But until the Colts actually stop a Pats running attack led by mildly competent backs, I'm not going to believe they can.