Can the Colts, who are currently the long shots in the Super Bowl odds board, mastermind a second straight NFL odds upset in the playoffs when they descend on the New England Patriots on Sunday?
Winning Conference Odds: AFC +130 vs. NFC -150
The Indianapolis Colts are the long shots of the Championship round, at +800 NFL odds they are the largest priced team to win the Super Bowl XLIX. That's not surprising given the Colts are led by third-year quarterback Andrew Luck, who's through to his first AFC Championship game and boasts a 3-2 SU record in the playoffs. A mark he improved behind two straight wins in this year's playoffs. As well, the Colts entered the playoffs as one of the long shots in various NFL Power Ranking schemes. (See Table 1).
Colts Bidding For First Title Of the Andrew Luck Era
Ever since Andrew Luck took over the reins from Peyton Manning and quietly went about his business rewriting the franchise record books in his rookies season and onwards, a Super Bowl title seemed to be a matter of time only. As Luck sits on the brink of an AFC Championship title game, the obvious question begging an answer is whether NOW is the time?
Historical Trends stand against the Colts: they are 2-13 SU in their last 15 games when playing the New England Patriots on the road. Andrew Luck himself is winless against the Patriots in three tries, going 0-3 SU since 2012, including a 42-20 rout in Indy in week 11 NFL betting of this season all while installed as the 3-point home favourites. On the previous occasions, both at Foxboro, the Colts lost 43-22 (7.5-point road pups with a total of 51.5-point) and 59-24 (10-point road pups with a total 54-point total).
Table 1: SBR ADJUSTED POWER RANKINGS AT A GLANCE
Divisional Round Betting Recap and Odds
The Indianapolis Colts are the only wildcard team to advance into the Championship round this season. As the fourth seeds, defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the wildcard round, which was largely to be expected. Where they really punched above their weight class was in the Divisional Round. Beating the Denver Broncos was the first signature win in the postseason for Andrew Luck, a coming of age win that only raises the bar for the Colts hopeful. As far as his performance goes, it was solid (See Table 2). Not spectacular. But it didn't need to be when the Colts' defense raised its level. He showed a lot of poise and maturity as he went 27-of-34 for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He had two interceptions but the Denver Broncos failed to convert on those meaningfully, allowing the Colts to skip to the rather surprising and shockingly easy win.
Table 2: Offensive Stats/Performance for Quarterbacks
AFC Championship Game Preview and Odds
Indianapolis Colts have a date with the New England Patriots, Andrew Luck's kryptonite to date. The Colts are riding the momentum of two straight wins in the playoffs, but the NFL odds are nevertheless stacked against them across the board. They are the decided underdogs at +230 to mastermind the upset at the Foxboro and the 7-to 6.5-point underdogs against the spread (NFL odds vary from sportsbook to sportsbook).
It's the first-ever AFC Championship game for Andrew Luck. In his first season, he took the Colts into the playoffs only to be one and done. In his second season, he led the Colts to the Divisional Round behind an upset over the Kansas City Chiefs only to fall to the Denver Broncos. This season, he's gone one better to reach the AFC Championship game and improve to 3-2 in the playoffs. Whether he can go one better at the expense of Tom Brady and the Patriots remains to be seen. If the NFL odds were any indication, they have their work cut out for them. According to NFL betting circles, a significant chunk are buying what they are selling, shading the Colts as the underdogs to pull off the gauntlet throwing win. (See Table 3).
Table 3: Consensus Bets Midweek
NFL Betting Verdict
To date, Andrew Luck hasn't had a good game against the Patriots, certainly not a win. He's 0-3 SU which includes blowout losses of 20-plus margins both home and away. What's more, he's thrown 8 interceptions over the course of those three games, which is one interception short of three per game. Clearly, he's yet to rip apart a Bill Belichick defense and outplay and outscore a Tom Brady offense. Two things he's certainly going to have to do if he hopes to deliver a win for the Colts in the AFC Championship game.
Problem is Luck can't do it alone. On the quarterback front, Colts fans have a lot to look forward to as they are headed in the right direction with Luck. The balance of the team however pales in comparison to the rest of the field in every aspect (See Table 1) and across all pertinent rankings. Undoubtedly, they are a rung or two down the ladder from the Patriots or, for that matter, the NFC field should they actually pull off the unthinkable and reach the ultimate round.
A Super Bowl win looks to be still a season or two away based on the sum total of their parts. What's more, there's no previous evidence in their head-to-head with the Patriots to suggest Luck and Company are ready to make such a leap, which makes the somewhat bullish NFL betting trends on the Colts rather surprising. No matter the NFL trends, they are still the long shot NFL pick.