NFL Pick: 2023 Indianapolis Colts Under 6.5 Wins (-106) at BetRivers
The Indianapolis Colts chose chaos in 2022, and if owner Jim Irsay has his way, they may experience some more in 2023. But the days of interim coach Jeff Saturday are behind them, and the Colts can try to move forward with rookie coach Shane Steichen.
There is also another new quarterback in town, 1st-round pick Anthony Richardson, but at least this time it is a rookie and not a washed-up veteran. But there is some doubt on how much Richardson will get to play with disgruntled running back Jonathan Taylor this season.
From the team that brought us a 33-point blown lead last year, the Colts have an over/under of 6.5 wins at the top online sportsbooks. Everyone in the AFC South is looking up at Jacksonville now, but can Steichen and Richardson put the team on a good path to competing again?
While the Colts seriously entertained hiring Jeff Saturday as the full-time coach, some common sense won out there. But what about their new quarterback, and can the defense be at least mediocre?
Colts Add Shane Steichen from Philadelphia
Offensive coaches are in high demand, and the Colts may have a good one in Shane Steichen. He spent the better part of a decade with the Chargers, coaching Philip Rivers before becoming the offensive coordinator in 2020 to help Justin Herbert set an NFL rookie record for touchdown passes thrown.
Steichen then went to the Eagles in 2021 to coordinate an offense with Jalen Hurts taking over in his first full year as a starter. Things were solid, and the team did make the playoffs. But after adding A.J. Brown in a draft day trade, Steichen saw the Eagles really take off in 2022. He had a great trio of receivers for Hurts, who also upped his game, and the Eagles found a way to make the quarterback sneak even more effective by pushing the quarterback from behind on it.
The Eagles even scored 35 points in the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs, the most points ever scored by a Super Bowl loser. While defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon also got a head coaching job with the Cardinals this year, and Kansas City coordinator took a high-profile job with the Commanders, Steichen was arguably the best prize out of the assistant coaches in that game.
Steichen’s history of developing two of the best young quarterbacks in the league right now (Herbert and Hurts) is a great look on his resume for his chances of developing Anthony Richardson in Indianapolis.
How Much Anthony Richardson with Jonathan Taylor Does Indy Get?
Matt Ryan was the final straw for the Colts signing veteran quarterbacks to take them to the promised land. Philip Rivers did a respectable job in 2020, but after Carson Wentz and Ryan the last two years, enough is enough. Go with someone young in the draft and see what happens.
With the No. 4 pick and Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud already off the board, the Colts made the best move they could and drafted Anthony Richardson from Florida. He only threw 393 passes in college and completed just 54.7% of them, so we are not talking about the polish of Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck here. Richardson is a raw passer, and even Steichen is going to have to ease him into things more than he had to with Herbert or Hurts.
But the athletic ability could be outstanding at this level. In the best-case scenario, think the running style of Lamar Jackson or Justin Fields for Richardson, who had 4 100-yard rushing games in college.
After watching Rivers, Wentz, and Ryan on their last legs, Richardson’s mobility will be a shock to the system. With the way the offensive line played last year, the Colts need someone who can escape and make things happen instead of getting sacked and coughing up the ball like Ryan did too often last year.
But one of the best things about Richardson’s mobility would be how it can help running back Jonathan Taylor, who disappointed in an injury-plagued year in 2022. There is proof that running quarterbacks can make the traditional run game better for an offense. The Colts do not have the deep receiving corps to expect Richardson to pass for many yards this year, so they will need to rely on the run, and Taylor would be a great asset for that as one of the league’s best backs.
The problem for Steichen, through no fault of his own, is that Taylor and owner Jim Irsay are engaging in a heated battle over the back’s contract situation. There have been disputed reports of injury, and both parties seem firm in their stances as we move into preseason games.
Chances are Taylor will cave and eventually show up to play the games that count, but the situation could get ugly enough to the point where Irsay allows Taylor to be traded to get what he can.
The Colts have Zack Moss and Kenyan Drake at running back, but Taylor getting back to 2020 form would be nice for Richardson’s progression this year.
Will the Defense Improve?
Despite a new head coach, the Colts are keeping defensive coordinator Gus Bradley after mixed results last year. The offense leading the league in turnovers and putting the defense in bad spots was problematic to say the least. The Colts had a respectable number of sacks (44), though they let Yannick Ngakoue go after he led the team with 9.5 sacks in his only season in Indianapolis.
But if the Colts can protect and control the ball better this year with a more run-based offense, then the defense could be fresher and get better performance after making some additions and getting key players back from injury:
- All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard only played in 3 games (74 defensive snaps) last year, so getting him back is obviously huge. He had a league-high 8 forced fumbles in 2021.
- Defensive end Kwity Paye, a 2021 1st-round pick, improved on his rookie year but still missed 5 games with injury.
- Corner Stephon Gilmore is gone, but the Colts used a high 2nd-round pick on JuJu Brents, who should be a Week 1 starter at corner.
- To make up for the loss of Ngakoue, the Colts signed edge rusher Samson Ebukam, who has started 61 games for the Rams and 49ers.
The Colts are unlikely to field a great defense in 2023, but better complimentary football between the offense and defense could do wonders for Bradley’s unit in Indianapolis.
2023 Schedule Analysis
The AFC South teams get favorable schedules just because they get to play each other and the NFC South, which is considered the weakest division this year. But after the Colts failed to get a win over Houston last year (0-1-1 record), it is hard to pencil them in for anything this year.
The Colts will have a shot at 2-to-3 wins from the division alone even if we sign off on a sweep at the hands of Jacksonville, a team that the Colts have not been able to win on the road at since 2014.
But when you combine a rookie quarterback who may be ineffective as a passer with a defense that may not be top 15 and a lack of depth at the skill positions, it does not feel like a team that is ready to win.
The Colts could very well improve to 6-11, but anything more so soon feels like wishful thinking. Take the under for your NFL ATS bets.
NFL Pick: 2023 Indianapolis Colts Under 6.5 Wins (-106) at BetRivers
2022 Recap: Colts Go Full Clown Show
Let the record show that the Colts were the preseason favorite to win the AFC South last year, and the Super Bowl odds had the Colts (+2240) sandwiched between the Bengals (+2080) and Eagles (+2440) if you can believe that.
The thought was Matt Ryan would have a good relationship with head coach Frank Reich, and he would enjoy having an adequate run game and defense for a change in a very winnable division.
The weak division part worked out, but nothing else did and it was clear in Week 1 that something was off when the Colts needed a 17-point rally in the fourth quarter just to get an overtime tie with Houston. But after a 24-0 loss in Jacksonville, the Colts upset the Chiefs in a 20-17 win to calm down the skeptics and fan base.
But even after Ryan led a few more comeback wins behind a poor line to get to 3-2-1, he became a scapegoat for the offensive struggles. The Colts benched Ryan for unknown backup Sam Ehlinger, and after that bombed miserably in a 26-3 loss to the Patriots, the Colts fired Reich with a 3-5-1 record.
Instead of promoting someone on the staff like defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to finish the season as interim coach, the Colts went outside the box and hired Jeff Saturday, who was Peyton Manning’s long-time center and was working in the media. He even tweeted about the Raiders looking horrible in a game at the end of October.
Two weeks later, Saturday was coaching against the Raiders despite not having any prior coaching experience in the NFL or college football. Many in the coaching ranks, including Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher, thought the hiring was amateur and embarrassing for the league. But thanks to reinstating Ryan as the starter and the Raiders being horrible at holding leads, the Colts ended up winning Saturday’s debut.
For 3 games and then 3 quarters against Dallas, it was hard to argue with what Saturday was getting out of his undermanned team. He pushed the Eagles to the brink of a loss, giving the 2022 Colts a hilarious footnote of being the only team to hold Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts under 20 points last year.
But in Dallas, the Colts let a competitive game get away from them in the 4th quarter, allowing the Cowboys to go on a 33-0 scoring run to win 54-19. The NFL had not seen a 33-0 scoring run in a 4th quarter since 1925.
A week later, the Colts did something that had never been done before. Somehow, this team went from getting outscored 33-0 in a quarter to taking a 33-0 lead into halftime in Minnesota. But the Vikings came back to win 39-36 in overtime, completing the largest comeback in NFL history at 33 points.
Ryan was benched as the scapegoat again, and he never played another game for the Colts. He is still unsigned in August, so incredibly the final game of his NFL career could be blowing a 33-0 lead after also being the quarterback on the team who blew a 28-3 lead in a Super Bowl with the 2016 Falcons. What a cursed quarterback.
The Colts were blown out the next two weeks, and then lost another close one to Houston to finish 4-12-1. But they would need a new coach, new quarterback, and maybe a brain swipe to forget how bad this season was.