NFL Futures: Indianapolis Colts to Make the Playoffs? (2021)

Another year, another quarterback. This year marks the third-straight season that the Colts will start someone new under center, as they sent off some draft capital to the Eagles for signal-caller Carson Wentz.

Indianapolis bounced back from a disappointing 2019 with an 11-5 record last year. Two years ago, their future seemed dubious when former franchise quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retired weeks before the season started.

Since the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, Indy’s 2021 performance will depend on if Wentz can recapture his 2017 MVP-caliber form. To be fair, he did so with current Colts head coach Frank Reich serving as his offensive coordinator, so there is hope.

Because Reich is a quarterback whisperer, and since Wentz’s situation with his former team couldn’t have been any worse, I’m buying stock in the Colts this season.

Check out our consensus odds for all teams to make or miss the playoffs >>

Indianapolis Colts to Make the Playoffs | -182 at DK Sportsbook

Not only did Reich and the Colts recover from a lackluster 2019 by starting Philip Rivers, but they also trimmed most of the fat off Rivers’ production and got the most out of the veteran in his final season.

Rivers went from a 23/20 touchdown-to-interception rate and a 50.5 QBR in 2019 with the Chargers to a 24/11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 62.5 QBR in 2020.

Two major factors account for Rivers’ improvement, and they should carry over to the Wentz era in Indianapolis. First, Rivers got to play behind Indy’s awesome offensive line; second, he benefited from the schematic upgrade from Anthony Lynn to Reich.

For instance, Rivers took 15 fewer sacks in 2020 than in 2019, and his sack rate fell from 5.4% in 2019 to 3.4% last season. Also, Lynn was constantly on the hot seat in Los Angeles, and his team’s preparedness—or lack thereof—was a running joke amongst NFL gamblers and media pundits.

In Wentz’s case, just going from the much-maligned former head coach of the Eagles (Doug Pederson) to Reich should lead to an uptick in his production. Moreover, Philadelphia is a tough place to play, especially if you aren’t meeting the fans’ expectations. Wentz, a North Dakota native, should be more comfortable in Indianapolis.

Furthermore, I’d argue that the reunion of Reich and Wentz is less of a risk than the media indicates. The betting market agrees with me, hence the extra juice on this prop.

The Eagles’ offensive line was in tatters for years, and the help Wentz had around him was far below league-average. In 2019, Wentz finished as the first-ever NFL quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards without a wideout having 500 receiving yards.

Wentz just couldn’t carry the Eagles’ offense last season as he did in 2019, and almost any football situation for Wentz is an improvement over the toxic one he played in over the past couple of seasons.

The Colts have a top-10 offensive line — something Wentz hasn’t played behind since his amazing 2017 season — and Indy’s receiving corp is far better than Philly’s. The Colts also have a stacked backfield with three productive running backs.

Plus, we have another example of a coaching staff turning around a quarterback’s career within the Colts’ own division. If the Tennessee Titans can take Ryan Tannehill from a possible first-round bust to a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, the Colts and Reich can certainly do the same with Wentz.

And while most NFL insiders have been high on Reich’s coaching chops, Indy’s defense improved year over year last season, and it boasts playmakers on all three levels. Linebacker Darius Leonard is one of the most cerebral defenders in the NFL, PFF graded defensive tackle DeForest Buckner as the fifth-best defensive lineman last season, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes regained his shutdown form during his first season in Indianapolis.

Finally, and probably most importantly, the Colts have a cupcake schedule for a second consecutive season. Football Outsiders graded Indy’s 2020 schedule as the easiest in the NFL, and football analytics guru Warren Sharp projects the Colts to have the sixth-easiest schedule entering 2021.

Obviously, a team needs talent to win in the NFL, but eight of the teams with a top-10 easiest schedule made the playoffs last season. Strength of schedule goes a long way in dictating a team’s playoff chances.

Get a sign-up bonus up to $1,000 at DraftKings Sportsbook >>

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RadioPublic | Breaker | Castbox | Pocket Casts

Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our Sports Betting 101 Section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced sports betting strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.

Geoff Clark is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Geoff, check out his archive and follow him @Geoffery_Clark.

The post NFL Futures: Indianapolis Colts to Make the Playoffs? (2021) appeared first on BettingPros.