The rule is that we’re not allowed to react to single-game outcomes in NFL preseason because they aren’t predictive of future success or failure, because the games are meaningless, and because the schemes are vanilla.
“Only an idiot,” we’re told, “would draw conclusions from a single preseason game.”
And yet, it’s tempting, isn’t it? Andrew Luck looked pretty strong in his NFL debut, leading the Colts to three touchdown-scoring drives in four possessions before exiting the game in the second quarter. The Colts led 21-3 at the half and extended the lead to 35 by the end of the game.
Despite Luck’s promise, the Colts’ expectations are low. Oddsmakers list their season win total at 5, their divisional odds at 33-to-1, their odds of making the playoffs at 10-1, and their Super Bowl odds at 140-1.
In other words: The Colts are expected to stink.
Predictably, newspaper columnists and radio talk show hosts don’t agree. Not after Luck’s debut performance on Sunday. Some are already exploring the possibility that Luck could lead the Colts to the playoffs in his first season, while others see the potential for a “historic beginning.”
“I can see him throwing for 4,000 yards,” NFL Network commentator Mark Kriegel said Monday. “I know we get carried away based on one preseason game, but I can see it happen.”
So, let’s get carried away for a moment. Is it possible that the aforementioned futures odds carry some value? It’s hard to say for sure, but we don’t think the Colts making the playoffs would be as unlikely as people are making it out to be.
For the following reasons:
- The Colts play in the weak AFC South. Twenty-five percent of their games will come against the Jaguars and Titans, and non-divisional home games against the Vikings, Browns, Dolphins and Bills are all winnable. Indianapolis will be favored in five—and possibly six—of its home games.
- Are the Colts worse on paper than last year’s Bengals? Before the 2011 season, some people—we won’t name names—predicted Cincinnati to finish winless. Then, Andy Dalton became the fourth rookie QB in four years to lead a team to the playoffs in his first try.
- Are the Colts really as bad as we think? They lost their franchise QB, quit on their idiot coach and clearly wanted the season to end by mid-October. Competence at quarterback can help them turn things around quicker than expected.
- Two AFC divisions, the North and West, appear to be three-team races. If teams in those divisions beat up on each other, there’s a decent chance that an 8-8 or 9-7 team could make the playoffs. Are the Colts capable of getting to at least .500?
- The Colts don’t have to play the Texans until Weeks 15 and 17.
Also, don’t forget, change in the NFL is inevitable.
Before Luck’s first preseason game, there were plenty of reasons to expect the Colts to rebound in 2012. But unquestionably, given his talent and what we saw on Sunday, the argument certainly seems to have been strengthened—even if only a little bit.