PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 12: Indianapolis Colts

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The Colts were the surprise team of 2012, vaulting from 2-14 the previous season to 11-5 in the playoffs based on a combination of a new quarterback and some old-fashioned emotion.

Now that the strong feelings have subsided, and a new baseline of expectations has been set, it’s reasonable to wonder whether they’ll be able to continue to build, or will suffer the kind of regression to the mean so many teams that make big leaps find.

Quarterback Andrew Luck is a special player, and as long as he’s well, there’s a floor on how bad the Colts are going to get. But they overachieved by such a remarkable degree last season, that it seems almost impossible to replicate.

They strengthened the middle third of their roster with a bunch of free agent signings, but the offseason didn’t bring in many difference-makers.

They have many young parts other than Luck which will provide the base for years to come, but may not have done enough to help him yet.


It starts at the top, as Luck was as good as advertised as a rookie.

While his overall stats might not shine like others, he was also asked to much more, and with much less. The Colts didn’t put Luck into a comfortable spot, with a leaky line and an offense that asked him to move the ball downfield rather than making the safe, short throws.

He still excelled, and looked his best in late-game situations, when young players can often fold. He has a legitimate star in Reggie Wayne to throw to, a young deep threat in T.Y. Hilton and a pair of good tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

Now’s he’s going to have to build on that, and even what could be considered a problem may work out in his favor. Losing coordinator Bruce Arians and replacing him with Pep Hamilton will be a change in style, but Hamilton was Luck’s OC in college at Stanford, and will bring a system well-suited to his strengths and weaknesses.


One of Luck’s biggest problems last year was hardly his fault.

He took 41 sacks behind a makeshift offensive line that seemed like the last problem that General Manager Ryan Grigson got around to addressing.

They’ve at least added some new names there this year, signing right tackle Gosder Cherilus for more money than anyone thought he’d get, and then bringing in former Patriots guard Donald Thomas.

That’s still just a 40 percent turnover for a line that was pretty bad last year, which may not be enough to fix it.

They’re also not overwhelmed with options in the pass rush. Letting Dwight Freeney walk was reasonable given his age and the direction of the franchise, but they kind of have Robert Mathis and your guess is as good as mine to provide sacks.

Signing former Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden early in free agency was a bit of a head-scratcher. He’s not a bad player, and may well be able to set the edge and help the run defense, but he’s hardly worth the investment and urgency they put into him.

As with many young and rebuilding teams, special teams was kind of a hash last year, but a season to put parts together might lend some stability there, particularly in the return game.


The Colts spent, as the owner referred to it, “SERIOUS coin” this offseason, but they also bought a lot of bulk.

While some of the new additions could have an immediate impact (safety LaRon Landry, running Ahmad Bradshaw), many of the guys they brought in were more subtle tweaks to the roster.

Cornerback Greg Toler’s a solid addition to a secondary that needed help.

New quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is the right kind of voice to put in Luck’s ear at this stage in his career, a smart veteran who has made the transition from starter to backup.

But some of the moves just seem like they were made for the sake of making moves.

An upgrade at tackle was a necessity, but Cherilus got an awful lot of money ($34.5 million over five years), considering a market that went flat and some of the guys who are still available now.

They needed another outside weapon on offense, but Darrius Heyward-Bey has always provided more sizzle than steak. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois got a big contract for a guy who was always a backup.

The Colts needed to add depth to a young roster, and some of the guys they signed should provide that. But Grigson behaved like all that coin of Irsay’s was burning a hole in his pocket.

Camp Battles.

The sorting at defensive tackle will be interesting, as Jean-Francois and Fili Moala are likely battling for a starting job. But both are versatile enough to play end in Greg Manusky’s hybrid 3-4, and should have a role. The fact Jean-Francois has never been a full-time player makes Moala a necessity, even if he’s not starting.

They’re also looking at options at inside linebacker.

They brought in Kevin Sheppard in a trade with Buffalo, and he took a lot of offseason reps with the first defense while Pat Angerer was recovering from a foot surgery.

Angerer’s likely to win the job if he’s well, and should give them a solid pair along with Jerrell Freeman.


Though it sounds strange to say, the Colts are practically in the early stages of another coaching change.

While Chuck Pagano’s battle with cancer was the emotional lift for last year’s climb, much of that success happened when he was away from the team taking care of his health.

He set the tone in the offseason and established the program, and Arians did a masterful job of running things in his absence. Now it’s on Pagano to keep the progress going. Hamilton was an excellent hire, someone who was going to have his pick of NFL jobs at some point.

The Colts are still an at early stage in their growth as a franchise, and Pagano was respected around the league before last season.

He’s a good coach, but the job’s harder now. Going from good to great is much harder than going from terrible to good, and Pagano will have to adjust to that.

55 responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 12: Indianapolis Colts

  1. Looks like they will slip a bit. Last season is over and now teams have a better idea as to how to stop Luck.

    He was good late in game and will be a star. Project 9-7

  2. glad that the media is coming to terms with the inevtiable truth…
    the SAINTS are back and if you love your qb put him on the bench cuz were comin to collect!

    colts are a fluke luck shoulda been better too inaccurate
    rg3 is the better player
    afc south is embarassment

  3. Way to Low, 12 teams better than the COLTS!!! No fricken way. And the idiot that thinks rg3 and Kirk Cousins are better than Andy, well, he’s an idiot.

    Anyways, like I always say, if you don’t like the power rankings wait one week and they will change.
    The Colts will move right up the power rankings just like they did last year so no sweating it here.
    The Colts are the premiere franchise of the NFL, no doubts about it. Many teams would be content just to be half as good as Indy. Indy will set a new standard for perfection this year and trample the hopes and dreams of all you losers in these other cities. I can’t see a team out there that has more talent than the Colts. We definitely have the best Quarterback in the League, the most intelligent and strategic coach, the most outstanding ownership, and the director of player personal, well he’s just been brilliant with his draft picks. Well, I guess we will have to live with #12 until the season starts, if you think about it, the first part of our schedule is really easy, we get to play the Seahags and 69ers so that’s pretty much two automatic wins right there.. the second half of our schedule is super super easy, so I can easily see us being 16-0 or maybe even 15 and 1 should we have a bad game somewhere along the way.

  4. Hey remember last year when you said they would be 31st? then they finished 5th in the AFC? No? Oh, because I do.

  5. Hate to say it but I think this is too high. I like Andrew Luck, but I think the team won a bunch of fluky games last year and overall Luck would be the only reason you could rank them this high. Wayne is getting old but I’ll never count out an old HOF player, but the D-fense is average to poor overall. Running game the same.

  6. Colts at 12 over the Giants at 13?

    Let’s see.

    Eli > Luck
    Wilson & Brown > Bradshaw & Ballard
    Nicks, Cruz, Randle > Wayne, Hilton, Heyward-Bey
    JPP > Robert Mathis

    Looks like a case of the shiny new QB and the media darling storyline. Giants > Colts all day.

  7. @Colt’swincolt’sin

    to call Jim Irsay the best owner in the league is pretty funny. Doesn’t he take “selfie” pictures in the bathroom with his camera phone? An NFL owner behaving like a teen girl?????

  8. mjzaky… how’d the giants do in the playoffs last year with all those great players? oh, that’s right, THEY DIDN’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS LAST YEAR.

  9. To cash804 and 87hollywoodhorn:

    One: It is far too early in the careers of the 2nd year quarterbacks to establish who is the “best”. Rookie players have a lot to adjust to and it is next to impossible to predict a ceiling for any given rookie player.

    Two: If Kirk Cousins were a better player than Luck, why the hell wasn’t he drafter higher? Yes, sometimes mistakes are made, but no respected journalists, coaches, or league insiders talked about Cousins as being even comparable to Luck.

    Three: Both RG3 and Russell Wilson were drafted by teams who, at the start of the 2012 season, were significantly better than the Colts. Did you even read the above article? Luck had the most adversity of any of the rookie quarterbacks last year, and yet he still performed admirably. I guess you’re just too focused on being trolls for articles about other teams to be bothered with evidence.

    Yes, I am a huge Colts fan. Yes, I believe Luck will eventually prove to be a top 5 quarterback in this league. No, I won’t be making any guarantees or deliberately inciteful statements about Luck being the GOAT or better than RG3 or any other players.

  10. Jimfix,

    a) AFC is weak and Colts beat a bunch of cupcakes to inflate their record. They are a mediocre team with a potentially outstanding QB. Still not better than Eli right now though.

    b) Giants didn’t make the playoffs, you’re right. The offense fell apart without Bradshaw ever practicing, with injuries on the O-line, and Hakeem Nicks on 1 leg. Dropped off a bit from winning the Super Bowl to 8-8; I’ll take that in light of 2 championships in 4 years.

  11. I like the colts and last year was a great story for them for a number of reasons, but they will not be over .500 this year.

  12. Hard to tell if Grigson’s first draft was beginner’s “luck” or not. But you can’t argue with it. If year two’s free agency signings and his second draft class result in even greater improvement, you have to give him a lot of credit. Bill Polian was a hard act to follow.

  13. I’m curious to know what PFT readers think.

    True or false:

    Eli Manning, 2x Super Bowl MVP, is currently a better quarterback than Andrew Luck, 2nd year player, 54% completion rate 23 TDs 18 picks.

  14. but if you DO want to go there… luck’s stats in his ROOKIE year were better even than eli’s in his SECOND year (eli was awful his rookie year)

    LUCK: 4374 yds, 23 TDS, 18 Ints, 54% completions, 255 yds rushing, 5tds

    ELI (2nd yr): 3762 yds, 24TDS, 17 INTS, 52% completions, 80 yds rushing, 1 TD

    I’m not saying Luck is better than Eli NOW, but he certainly was better than Eli as a rookie and was slightly better than Eli even in his second year.

  15. I’m a big Colts fan, but they are ranked too high. While I was very happy with what they did last year, they overachieved.

    The Colts will probably have one of those strange years this season where they improve as a team yet their record won’t be as good as it was last year.

    I’m also a Bears fan and I forget where they were ranked on here, somewhere around 18th or so and it seemed a tad low to me.

    I’d put the Colts like 16th and the Bears like 13th if it were up to me.

    They both have a lot to prove this year.

  16. The Colts O-Line was bad last year but I think the talk is too exaggerated. It can’t be easy for a bad or even mediocre O-Line to protect a QB that holds onto the ball forever. How many of those 41 sacks last year were because Luck was looking for someone 50 yards down field? Guy has to learn to look for his check downs.
    I’m a Carolina fan, and I know exactly what the kind of emotions the Colts had going in the locker room last year can do for a team. The conditions of Sam Mills and Mark Fields were what drove the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003. That’s passed now and I really think we will see reality check in. The Colts really overspent for several free agents this year and I think it all probably looks better on paper but won’t transition to the field. Maybe I’m wrong and they do great this year, but I think 12 is way to high for this team. They are still a really young team and every other team in the league has tape on them now. Not only that but they probably have tons of Pep Hamilton/Luck tape from their days at Stanford to prepare with.
    Nevertheless I think they will be really interesting to watch this year. And on a side note, I think the Panthers were really shafted in this ranking system this year. 25 is just unreasonable. I see all your points but I think you completely discount the potential there is for them to excel.

  17. rex1979:

    Yep, he threw 18 picks. Happen to see any of them? Several were simply bad decisions, no doubt.

    However, when you are lucky to have 3 seconds tops before being destroyed by a defensive line, and when your O coordinator doesn’t believe in check down and outlet patterns, you’re going to throw picks.

  18. ColtsWinColtsWin!! says:
    Jul 19, 2013 9:38 AM

    “I can’t see a team out there that has more talent than the Colts.”


    You must be blind.

  19. Jimfix I would agree with you that Luck is better now than Eli was at the same stage in his career.

    Others, as you can tell by my heavily downvoted post, really believe Luck is better than Eli RIGHT NOW. Which I can only laugh at.

  20. Ryan,

    Arians does not utilize checkdowns in his offense. True, some of those sacks were on Luck for simply not throwing it away. But the BA offense pushes everything vertically down the field, so you have to wait for receivers to come open. There aren’t any checkdowns.

  21. I always thought power rankings at this stage of the season are based on the perceived strengths and weaknesses, what I can’t understand is why are the weaknesses dwarfing the colts’ strengths on this anaylsis and yet they get this very favorable ranking still. Nobody’s played any games obviously, but still the writer wants to rank teams that clearly have holes unfulfilled as better than alot of the teams that made strong efforts to fix their leaky areas. Analysis is pretty good, but the ranking he derives from this analysis is just incomprehensible. If you say well the colts went to the playoffs last year and that’s why we ranked them number 12, then shouldn’t the vikings get similar treatment? I am no vikings or colts fan, but I am pretty sure the vikings have a lot going for them as their arrow continues to point north, and with 3 first round picks this year, its hard to argue that they didn’t set themselves up to challenge Green Bay for NFC North winners this upcoming season. Likewise, the dolphins were very active in free agency and in the draft, so without playing a game this year, on paper, the dolphins would have to be ranked better than the steelers and cowboys, just my opinion.

  22. This one, IMO, is the most overrated so far. The C0lts snuck up on a lot of people, admirably rode a wave of emotion due to offield stuff and pulled out a lot of close games at the end. Eight of their 11 wins came against: Cleve, Tenn, Mia, Jax, Buff, Det, KC. They gave up 30pts more than they scored. Another words, they did it with mirrors. Luck had a great yr but lost his OC. Even though the new guy is familiar from Stanford, he favors a west coast style, completely different from Arians. Tenn and Jax should be a little better, and Houst should be good. I see a step back.

  23. Colts will have a similar record from last year, but end at 10-6 on the year. Tougher schedule than last year, but even with the upgrades from FA, they’ll have some struggles. Luck will continue to improve slowly as he gets older and should be a heck of a QB in the future.

  24. I don’t really get how the Colts are 12 and the Vikings are 16 when both did the same thing last year and both have questions whether they can return to the playoffs.

    Oh wait, the Andrew Luck love is strong here. Never mind.

  25. No. 12? Seriously?

    With this logic, if the Disabled Vets of America and the Girl Scouts of America were NFL teams, they’d be ranked No.’s 13 & 14, respectively…

  26. vadabing:

    I’m not hating on Luck, he is clearly good and probably going to be great. 4,000+ yrds passing doesn’t just happen.

    But the NFL is bottom line business and 18 ints and 40+ sacks is an aggregate failure from the QB, OC, and O-Line. Everyone is accountable.

    Who cares who’s “fault” it is? Facts are facts.

    The offensive turnovers/sacks will get better with his former Stanford OC Pep Hamilton in the mix.

  27. tedmurph says: Jul 19, 2013 11:36 AM

    Luck had a great yr but lost his OC. Even though the new guy is familiar from Stanford, he favors a west coast style.

    So it’s completely different than when Luck played for him? He was in it for 4 years…3 more years than with Ariens. Use your head.

  28. facetooth says: Jul 19, 2013 12:11 PM

    They should change Andrew Luck’s name to Andrew Huck because of all the terrible picks he throws

    What are you? 12?

  29. Yea I remember that game, they kept the ball out of the buttfumblers hands and ran Greene all fricken day. That was ugly but a big learning step for a young Andrew Luck, you’ll also remember that the Colts made the playoffs and the 28th (should be 32nd) ranked jests didn’t. BAZINGAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. I can’t believe NY is behind Indy. Indy fans need to come to terms that their team is what is its mostly aways been – a gun slinging machine.

    Your D is terrible, and for how good past offensive teams you had with Manning were, it was only during times that you made your D better than average that Colts did much.

    If you are trying to “control” the game with passing – you are in trouble.

  31. Eight of their 11 wins came against: Cleve, Tenn, Mia, Jax, Buff, Det, KC. They gave up 30pts more than they scored. Another words, they did it with mirrors.

    Completely agree with that statement!! I can only be but so impressed with the Colts 11-5 when you put in the proper perspective. Plus I watched them lose to the JETS and Luck looked pedestrian at best against a horrible Jets squad. I will give him credit for beating the Packers but I feel as if most of their success hinged off the emotional ties to Pagano. Putting them at #12 ahead of the Giants is plain out ridiculous. And no we didn’t make the playoffs but we also didn’t have a cupcake schedule like the Colts. Jeez ya got Tenn and Jax twice a year, if thats not a set up for a sweet season what is? Kinda like how the Pats get to play Buff, Jets, and Dolphins, thats like an automatic 6 Wins before the season even starts!!!LOL That’s why year after year they get to the playoffs but fall short when they have to play against the top competition. The Colts will take a big step backwards this season, mark my words…..

  32. crush22 says:
    Jul 19, 2013 2:05 PM
    facetooth says: Jul 19, 2013 12:11 PM

    They should change Andrew Luck’s name to Andrew Huck because of all the terrible picks he throws

    What are you? 12?


    Maybe it should be Andrew Huck Finn instead – because he belongs on a wooden raft floating down the Mississippi.

  33. Yeah crush, it is different. You think the Colts are gonna run the some offense that Stanford did? Hamilton was only on the staff for Luck’s last 2 yrs(that would be one more than Arians). You think it’s easy for a 2nd yr QB to be on his 2nd OC? New terminology, different protections, etc. How many QBs over the yrs have blamed that for failure(see MSanchez)? It ain’t as easy as it sounds. Part of what has made Brady and Manning so good is the continuity of their offenses.

  34. Did the Colts get a running game somewhere that doesn’t make their running backs a weakness?

  35. Both the Colts and Skins (lifelong fan of the latter) are at real risk of a backslide and are ranked too high in this poll. There is absolutely no way the Colts repeat 11 wins, though I think Luck is phenomenal and will reduce his mistakes this season. Skins amazing final 6 game run was 3/4 RGIII putting everything (including his body) on the line and 1/4 team adrenaline. I see them as every-week-competitive, but lucky to win 9 games in a brutal NFCE. Only hedge for Skins is that they lost more starters to injury than any team in the NFL last season; getting guys back, particularly Davis at TE and Orakpo could add a couple wins.

  36. bigblu73says:

    Kinda like how the Pats get to play Buff, Jets, and Dolphins, thats like an automatic 6 Wins before the season even starts!!!LOL That’s why year after year they get to the playoffs but fall short when they have to play against the top competition.


    Getting a little sick of those two fallacies. The Pats aren’t falling too short against top competetion when they’ve gone to 5 SBs in the last 12yrs, including 2 AFC champ gms and 1 SB in the last 2. Yeah, they haven’t won the big game in awhile but their still a force in the playoffs.

    The div is not good, although the jets have had their moments. The Pats also have the best rec OUTSIDE their div since 2007, playing a 1rst place sched every yr. They don’t just make the playoffs because of the div.

  37. Luck is the real deal, and to say IRG3 is better, is just foolish!! when all said and done, luck will have a better career than IRG3, and now the colts have a more complete team around him, they improved the o-line and the defense is more beefed up and they now have the proper players that play a 3-4D, and gave luck a few more weapons at his disposal, yes Luck had turnover last year, but he had the whole team on his back, he came back and won many games in his rookie year, not many QB’s can say that, the colts have a bright future and Luck is because of that!!, redskins fans are just mad that it took them forever to be relivent again, and the colts only had one down year in 20years

  38. Yeah crush, it is different. You think the Colts are gonna run the some offense that Stanford did? Hamilton was only on the staff for Luck’s last 2 yrs(that would be one more than Arians). You think it’s easy for a 2nd yr QB to be on his 2nd OC? New terminology, different protections, etc. How many QBs over the yrs have blamed that for failure(see MSanchez)? It ain’t as easy as it sounds. Part of what has made Brady and Manning so good is the continuity of their offenses

    u do know that Luck is use to peps terminology and offense, Luck flourished under peps offense and will do so in the pros, the colts are doing everything to make luck comfortable, bruce ariens offense was geared for downfield throws,and with the bad o-line, Luck was sacked and rushed alot, of course that would make any qb nervous in his rookie year, look at how many attempts luck had and IRG3 had, almost twice as much, so of course we will turn it over a lil more, IRG3 is all hype and commercials , but what has he achieved so far in the nfl? roty? who cares, Luck lost the heisman to him but those are just awards, luck is humble and know he can get better, IRG3 thinks hes great now, not!! keep him away from those hooters waitresses too

  39. The Colts should be ranked ahead of the Redskins, Washington didn’t have any picks this year how will they improve. Does RG3 come back 100% who knows? Colts on the other and have upgraded a lot because last year they were short on talent but lucky Andrew Luck that is.

  40. You people are funny

    The Colts didn’t “sneak up” on anyone. This is the NFL…each team game plans for the other for a week. They know exactly what they are getting into going into the game.

    Saying the Colts took advantage of a weak schedule is silly. Of all the playoff bound AFC teams last year…..the Colts had the best record against other playoff teams. They beat the Vikings, Packers, and Texans.

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