Carson Wentz will return to being a star QB as an Indianapolis Colt
By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)
The Indianapolis Colts are one of the teams with Super Bowl hopes heading into the 2021 NFL season. According to the Draft Kings Sports Book, they have the ninth best odds to win the Super Bowl this season and the fifth best odds to win the AFC Conference. After the Tampa Bay Bucs, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, who are clearly the top three most likely teams to win it all this year, the Colts are one of the teams in that second tier who can be real contenders this season. Here are some reasons why they are right in the mix.
According to the strength of schedule rankings based on team records from last season, the Colts have the ninth easiest schedule in the NFL heading into this upcoming year. They also play in an AFC South division that appears to be a two team race right now between the Colts and the Tennessee Titans. The Houston Texans are a mess right now while rebuilding and might not even have star quarterback Deshaun Watson this season, or at least for part of it, because of the off the field issues he is currently dealing with. The Jacksonville Jaguars are an improving team in the middle of their own rebuild but probably are not ready to really compete yet. All of these factors combined give the Colts a very favorable schedule situation this season with a relatively easier path to the NFL postseason as either a division winner or even a wild card.
The Colts are a well balanced team that do not have any real weaknesses. Last season, their offense ranked 10th in total yards, 9th in points scored, 11th in passing yards, and 11th in rushing yards. Their defense ranked 8th in yards allowed, 10th in points allowed, 5th in turnovers forced, and 12th in sacks. This shows that they were firmly in the top half of the league for almost all measures on both sides of the ball. They win in a wide variety of ways and have no real weak spot for an opposing team to expose.
They have a very solid roster that is talented at all of the position groups. They have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL lead by the best overall blocker in guard Quentin Nelson. Their stable of multiple running backs is lead by a young emerging star in Jonathan Taylor and they have many contributing wide receivers and tight ends that can spread the field. They are solid at all three levels on defense and even have a good special teams unit as well. Position for position on paper, they match up with any team in the league.
The Quarterback Situation
In theory, the Colts believe they made a major upgrade at quarterback this season by acquiring Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles to replace the now retired Philip Rivers. The Colts were already a playoff team last season, and came very close to upsetting the Bills, so if they did in fact improve at quarterback then they definitely increase their chances of a Super Bowl run greatly. Wentz has struggled in his last couple of years but he was playing at an MVP caliber level before his major injury.
The best version of Wentz was back in 2017 where he was a favorite to win MVP before going down with an injury. Through 11 games that season he threw for 3296 yards with 33 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions and a strong 78.5 QBR. That’s a big difference from his 2020 campaign where he eventually lost his starting job to Jalen Hurts. Last year across 12 games played he threw 2620 yards with just 16 touchdowns against an alarming 15 interceptions and a very disappointing 49.6 QBR.
In comparison, Rivers last season for the Colts played all 16 games while throwing for 4196 yards with 24 touchdowns against 11 interceptions and a 62.5 QBR. That’s definitely better than what Wentz was able to do for the Eagles last year but nowhere near as good as the 2017 Wentz. In Fact, Rivers has never in his very solid career had a season as good as Wentz was having in 2017. It’s that version of Wentz that the Colts believe they can revive this upcoming season and why they believe it is a huge upgrade at the quarterback position.
Interestingly, when Wentz was playing his best football it was under the offensive scheme of Frank Reich, who is now the head coach of the Colts. The belief of the organization, and the reason why they went out and got Wentz, is that pairing him back up with Reich will get him back on track. It is surely a gamble considering how far he has fallen off, but if they are right then the Colts instantly become a serious Super Bowl contender. After all, the Eagles team that won the Super Bowl was not as talented as this Colts team is now. The fate of the Colts this season is directly linked to what version of Wentz is playing quarterback.