Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has been expertly building his team since taking over in 2017. With a carefully managed cap and strong investments in the draft, he built a contender around Andrew Luck.
Of course, Luck shockingly retired before the 2019 season, and the Colts floundered. But after landing a new quarterback and spending a hefty chunk of the cap space, the Colts are back to having one of the 10 best Super Bowl odds.
He's no Peyton Manning, but Philip Rivers represents a massive upgrade at quarterback over Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer. Rivers is the only quarterback to eclipse 4,200 passing yards in each of the last seven years. He's still maintaining strong rate numbers as well, with a 66.0 percent completion rate and 7.8 yards per attempt, although his 20 interceptions were concerning.
Rivers may not be a long-term solution at quarterback, but he pulled open the Colts' championship window and makes them a viable contender. Trading a first-round pick for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and spending big on veterans such as Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Castonzo shows their commitment to winning now.
And even if things don't work out with Rivers, the Colts are still set up to win over the long-term. With dangerous offensive weapons Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr., and Parris Campbell added in the last two drafts, Indianapolis will continue to have cap flexibility for the near future.
In a tightly contested AFC South, can the Colts separate from the pack as playoff contenders? Athlon Sports asked several editors to share their predictions for just how Indianapolis' season will play out and what the team's record will be when all is said and done.
Indianapolis Colts Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The AFC South will be an entertaining battle between Houston, Indianapolis, and Tennessee at the top this season. The Colts are counting on big acquisitions on both sides of the ball to propel this team from 7-9 to division champ. Offensively, the arrival of Philip Rivers at quarterback should provide a boost, and the draft selections of Jonathan Taylor (RB) and Michael Pittman Jr. (WR) add firepower to a solid supporting cast that includes a standout offensive line. On defense, trading for tackle DeForest Buckner will help the trenches and add to a unit that finished seventh in the NFL against the run. Some concerns remain in the secondary, but adding a player like Buckner can help improve the entire operation. Assuming Rivers works out as planned, the Colts are a team that can win the AFC South and a game or two in the playoffs.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMark)
I can't wait to see what Philip Rivers now that he's been reunited with Frank Reich, his former Chargers quarterbacks coach, and is playing behind the best offensive line he has had in his career. This offense could be potent, especially if rookies Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. are able to make an immediate impact. My concerns with Indianapolis come on the other side of the ball, although adding DeForest Bucker was a wise move, and with the overall depth of this team. With an expanded playoff field, the Colts should make a strong push a spot and perhaps more, if all of the new pieces come together and the key ones stay healthy.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
I have faith that Philip Rivers still has another good year or two in him, and the Colts played better than their 7-9 record would indicate last year. The good news is that they'll benefit from their third-place finish with an easier schedule. DeForest Buckner should heavily upgrade the Colts' pass rush, which will make life easier on their mediocre secondary. Their rush defense was already impressive enough. This team has a high floor with such a talented offensive line, and Frank Reich is one of the league's most underrated offensive minds. Don't sleep on T.Y. Hilton as one of the more productive wide receivers in the AFC, either; now that the team has massively upgraded its skill position players, it'll be harder to focus on him.
(Top photo courtesy of colts.com)