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NFL Betting Tip: The Best Ways to Buy Low on the Indianapolis Colts

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Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: Philip Rivers

The Colts were a chic Super Bowl pick last season before Andrew Luck’s retirement derailed their season. They started 5-2 but fell apart as the season went on, though they played in close games all year.

Things were supposed to be different in 2020. Philip Rivers was brought in to replace Luck and a trade for DeForest Buckner was supposed to rejuvenate the defense. For a second straight season, Indianapolis looked like a possible AFC sleeper.

Then the Colts had Week 1’s most shocking loss in Jacksonville and lost starting running back Marlon Mack for the season.

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Why should the Colts be good?

The Colts are a strong team with few holes. Even in a difficult 2019 season, their offense, defense and special teams all ranked near league average in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and all three units were top-12 in 2018.

Indianapolis has the best offensive line in football and returned all five starters, an added continuity boost. Philip Rivers tends to reflect the talent around him. With good weapons and a strong line, he should be in for a solid season.

The Colts also return their head coach Frank Reich and both coordinators. Reich and OC Nick Sirianni have worked with Rivers before so that should help the transition.

Though Mack is out for the year, the Colts drafted speedster Jonathan Taylor, who should be ready to step into a big role at RB. They also add Michael Pittman to T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell for a speedy, balanced set of receivers. This has the potential to be a top-10 offense.

The defense should also be good with Buckner and Darius Leonard leading the way. There’s also plenty of young talent scattered across the D.

And the special teams could make a huge leap forward. The Colts had a horrible season from Adam Vinatieri last season. They were 13.3 points worse than expectation on field goals and lost 11.7 hidden points on field position and opponent field goals. That’s 25 lost points! The Colts played in 11 one-score games. You think 25 more points might have helped?

Indianapolis also benefits from a soft schedule. The AFC South remains a weaker division with the Jaguars rebuilding and the Texans taking a step back. The Colts will also play four games against the NFC North, all winnable, and get games against the Jets, Raiders, Browns, and Bengals. They could be favored in 13 games this season.

Indianapolis has a good offense, a strong defense, excellent coaching, and talent all throughout the roster. So what went wrong in Week 1?

What happened in that Week 1 loss?

Don’t overreact to one game, and remember to look behind the numbers.

The Jaguars are not good, and this is a brutal loss to start the year. An easy Colts schedule is only easy if you beat teams like Jacksonville. Indianapolis should have beaten the Jags, though, and it would have if not for a handful of disastrous mistakes.

It all started out so well. The Colts got the opening kickoff and marched down the field in three minutes and seven plays, taking a 7-0 lead. After a quick defensive stop, Indy moved the ball quickly again with 18, 19, and 18-yard plays in succession before stalling and failing to convert on fourth down. That’s when the problems began.

The Colts failed to convert twice on fourth down — effectively a turnover — and Philip Rivers had two bad interceptions. The Colts also had five penalties for 80 yards and were an ugly 2-for-5 in the redzone. Fourth down and redzone conversion rates tend to be random and regress to the mean. The Colts made mistakes in Week 1 they’re unlikely to repeat every week.

But Gardner Minshew was 19-of-20 and the Colts allowed 27 points to the Jaguars!

Again, dig deeper. Indianapolis did allow a 9-play, 75-yard TD drive but otherwise it dominated. The Colts allowed only 221 yards all game, and Minshew completed 95% of his passes because he threw safe routes all game.

According to Next Gen Stats, Minshew ranked bottom two among all QBs in average intended air yards, air yards to the sticks and aggressiveness. He completed so many passes because they were easy harmless passes.

The Colts out-gained the Jaguars, 445 to 221 yards. They had 27 first downs to 17 for Jacksonville and ran 69 plays to just 47 from the Jaguars. The Colts were the vastly superior team. Play this game again 10 times, and Indianapolis probably wins eight of them. It happens; no need to overreact.

So how do we bet the Colts going forward?

The Colts opened the year as AFC South favorites, around +120 at most books, slightly ahead of the Titans. The Titans are favorites now, and this one loss from Indianapolis has nearly doubled their odds to +200 at DraftKings.

The Titans were not particularly impressive Monday in Denver despite the win, and the Texans got housed in Kansas City and play Baltimore and Pittsburgh next. Jacksonville and Tennessee play this week, so a Colts win in Week 2 already moves them into second place in the division.

The Jaguars still look like one of the worst teams in the league. The Texans have a brutal schedule and lack depth and defense. The Titans look like the toughest competition, but Ryan Tannehill showed serious signs of regression in Week 1.

On paper, the Colts are still clearly the best team in the division.

The Week 1 loss stings. That was as close to a sure win as it gets in 2020, so it’s a full game lost. But the the Titans and Texans are mediocre enough to lose a few bad ones too, and that’s why we’re getting the +200 odds.

If you like the Colts but also like one of those division foes, you can still play the over-8.5 wins at -125 at DraftKings. That barely moved despite the Week 1 loss, but it’s better than Indianapolis’s playoff odds. The division bet at +200 is definitely the best team play.

A few individual plays could also be advantageous.

If you think the Colts can finish something like 12-4 and contend for a top seed, Philip Rivers is going to get a lot of credit. The narrative is there with him replacing Andrew Luck and turning things around after this poor Week 1 start. Rivers is +8000 to win MVP at bet365, the same odds as Drew Lock, Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins. MVP goes to a quarterback on a great team. If you really love the Colts, Rivers is a decent play. His odds are far too long right now.

Jonathan Taylor is 12-1 to win Rookie of the Year. Credit: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images.

The better play might be Jonathan Taylor. With Mack out of the way, Taylor has a path to a huge rushing season behind that elite line. Mack averaged 4.5 YPC for Indianapolis the last two years. Taylor could see at least 250 carries if he stays healthy. At 4.5 YPC, he could hit 1,125 rushing yards, and a few long runs with his lightning speed could inflate the total in a hurry. He should have plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns and run out the clock too.

Taylor is +1200 at bet365 to win Rookie of the Year, a distant third behind Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow and Kansas City RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Burrow may put up impressive stats but is already 0-2 and likely to lose a lot, while CEH has upside but has to share opportunities with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and plenty of others.

Taylor should be near half those odds, and his +3300 odds (bet365) to lead the league in rushing are worth a sprinkle too.

If you play fantasy football, Jonathan Taylor looks like a possible league winner with Mack out. Go get him.

However you play it, make sure you grab a piece of the 2020 Colts. They’re being overlooked after an unfortunate Week 1 loss, but this is a really good team that still has a bright season ahead.

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