Football picksJune 14, 2021

New Colts QB Hits Tier 3 Projections (for now)

Behind a sturdy offensive line, new Colts QB Carson Wentz reunites with former O-Co Frank Reich, looking to shake off an ugly 2020 season.

new colts QB carson wentz with frank reich

Wentz threw for 4,039 yards in 2019, setting a new NFL record for passing yards without a single wide receiver going over 500 yards

Carson Wentz, New Colts QB

When Philip Rivers retired after one season in Indianapolis, it left ownership with a difficult decision to make. Given the team’s depth, overall talent and potential, they weren’t going to wait long and by mid-February, general manager Chris Ballard announced a deal to reunite QB Carson Wentz with his former O-Co, Frank Reich.

Wentz is coming off an absolutely terrible year in Philadelphia. He ranked dead last in DVOA amongst QBs with more than 200 passes, and had a QBR of 49.6 which was 29th.

Let’s put it this way, the two QBs on either side of Wentz in QBR last season were Gardiner Minshew and Drew Lock. Need I say more?

On the upside, the new Colts QB had a great chemistry with Reich in 2017. Wentz started 13 games going 11-2, and he threw 33 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. Wentz set a career-high in yards per completion (12.4) and his QBR that year was 78.5, earning him a Pro Bowl nomination.

Unfortunately, Wentz was unable to finish that season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. Nick Foles took over, delivered the Eagles their first-ever Super Bowl title and started five games for Philly the next year, but Carson Wentz handled the greater workload with 11 starts from Week’s 3-14.

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2019 Rewind

This was a big year for Wentz. He played in all 16 regular season games as well as the Wild Card loss to Seattle. Although, he did suffer a concussion vs. the Hawks.

  • Wentz in 2019: 4,039 yards passing, 27 TDs, 7 INTs, 6.7 yards per attempt, 62.8 QBR
  • Wentz in 2020: 2,620 yards passing, 16 TDs, 15 INTs, 6.0 yards per attempt, 49.6 QBR

The new Colts QB is often tagged as being injury prone, perhaps unfairly. He’s only missed 12 of a possible 80 NFL starts due to injury (15%), and teammates will attest to his toughness. The fact of the matter is that the Eagles offensive line ranked first overall in terms of adjusted games lost to injury in 2020. When you combine that with a bullheaded QB that likes to extend plays and throw on the move, the inevitable outcome is not pleasant.

Time for an Adjustment

Developed by Football Outsiders, Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) accounts for injury report designations during the season, weighted to account for starters vs. backups. Each teams straight-up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) record from 2020 is also listed.

2020’s Highest No. of AGL to Injury: O-Line

  1. Eagles (57.1): 4-11-1 SU & 4-11-1 ATS
  2. Cowboys (46.4): 6-10 SU & 5-11 ATS
  3. Chiefs (40.4): 14-2 SU & 6-10 ATS
  4. Patriots (39.5): 7-9 SU & 7-9 ATS
  5. 49ers (31.9): 6-10 SU & 7-9 ATS

Philadelphia’s O-Line had an adjusted sack rate of 9.4%, second-highest behind the Texans. The Eagles allowed 65 sacks last year (most in the league), and Wentz bore the brunt 50 times.

  • By comparison, Indianapolis allowed 21 sacks in 2020, T-2nd fewest.

The Colts were notoriously one of the most-injured teams in the league when Andrew Luck was the starting QB. In 2020, Indy’s WR corps ranked sixth in adjusted games lost with 17.9 and their RBs ranked second (16.0), but the O-Line was tied for fourth-fewest with just 7.7 games lost.

2020’s Lowest No. of AGL to Injury: O-Line

  1. Bucs (4.6): 11-5 SU & 9-6-1 ATS
  2. Texans (5.0): 4-12 SU & 6-10 ATS  
  3. Falcons (5.7): 4-12 SU & 7-9 ATS
  4. Colts (7.7): 11-5 SU & 8-7-1 ATS
  5. Dolphins (7.8): 10-6 SU & 11-5 ATS

The combined record for teams with a banged up O-Line was 37-42-1 SU. More importantly for bettors, those teams posted a 29-50-1 ATS (37%). All five finished with a sub-500 record at the window. Teams with a healthy O-Line in 2020 went 41-37-1 ATS (52%). It’s not a mind-blowing stat on its own, but 52% is great deal better than 37% when paying 10 cents of juice.

Indianapolis Colts Odds

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2021 NFL Season Win Total Odds: 9.5 OV -160
Pre-draft Win Total Odds: 10 UN -135
2020 Record: 11-5
Average Wins 2018-20: 9.3
Odds to win the Division: -105 (T-1st)
Net Strength of Schedule: 3rd best

While shopping odds to win the AFC South, you can easily find sportsbooks giving a five- or 10-cent edge to either the Colts or Titans. When the Titans traded for Julio Jones, the books were hit with a burst of action and moved quickly to reduce their exposure. That’s already starting to settle down and barring injury, we can expect to see these two teams in a horse race to September that’ll determine who the public prefers.

Indy gets a couple of NFC West teams at home to start the season and Reich’s home record in non-conference games is 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS. Of the eight interconference games he played against teams with a winning record, he was 7-1 ATS regardless of site.

The Colts face a test in Week’s 3-5 as they travel to face the Titans, Dolphins and Ravens. The reward is a three-game home set vs. the Titans, Jets and Jaguars in Week’s 8-10.

Last year’s O-Co, Nick Sirianni, has moved onto the HC position at Philadelphia, so new Colts QB Wentz, meet new Colts O-Co Marcus Brady. After spending the past two seasons as Indy’s QB coach, Brady was promoted when Sirianni left. Reich will still call the plays but Brady will help design the gameplan and given his CFL experience and penchant for passing, this should be a full throttle offense.

Indianapolis Colts Trends

As noted above, Reich puts an emphasis on winning non-conference games. Along with the NFC West this year, he’ll take on Tampa Bay in a Week 12 home game.

  • Reich’s overall record vs. the NFC is 9-2-1 ATS, outscoring opponents 26.4 to 19.3.

Something to keep in mind for Week 11, when the Colts travel to Buffalo following a pair of winnable home games vs. the Jets and Jags:

  • Indy’s road record after back-to-back SU/ATS wins where they were favored is 15-8 ATS (65%).

The Colts new QB Wentz has not performed well against the league’s more disciplined teams.

  • Wentz is 7-16 ATS (30%) vs. teams that average fewer than 58 penalty yards per game.

He was 1-4 SU/ATS on the road in this spot last year and he’s also played UNDER six consecutive times when the refs kept their hankies off the field. The league average for penalty yards in 2020 was 46.5 and Wentz posted a 1-6-1 ATS record last year vs. teams whose average was below this mark.

Teams ranking Top 10 for discipline that Indy will face in 2021: Patriots, Texans (twice), Rams, and Dolphins.

Colts Bottom Line

Ryan Kelly centers this O-Line with a stable right side in RG Mark Glowinski and RT Braden Smith. Standout Quenton Nelson lines up at LG and the left tackle position was vacated when former first rounder Anthony Castonzo retired after 10 seasons. The Colts signed Eric Fisher (Chiefs) in free agency, but Fisher is recovering from an Achilles repair and may not be ready for Week 1. Sam Tevi is slated at LT until Fisher is cleared and overall, this group is poised for a Top 10 season.

The new Colts QB Wentz is grouped in the third tier with Joe Burrow, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones. Shaking off a bad season and getting back together with Reich offers a lot of potential, and if Wentz can stay on the field then winning nine games is realistic. With this schedule, the upside for 10 wins is there but Indy cannot get into a situation where they’re testing their depth chart at QB. Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger are a couple of great young talents but they’ll need more time and for the Colts, the winning has to come now.