No more ‘Suck for Luck;’ it’s time for the Colts to rack up some wins in 2012 after netting a measly two last season. There are new faces in the three most positions in an NFL organization: quarterback (Andrew Luck), head coach (Chuck Pagano) and general manager (Ryan Grigson). Let’s scout each of the Colts’ 16 regular-season contests and offer up a prediction for each and every one before team owner Jim Irsay Tweets more trade speculation:
Week 1: at Bears
Skinny: Though 34-year-old Brian Urlacher isn’t the force of nature he was at 27, he still functions as the GPS for the Chicago D, which is why it’s imperative to Chicago that the five-time All-Pro selection plays Sunday after undergoing surgery on his left knee Aug. 14. Speaking of the Monsters of the Midway, they ranked 17th in the NFL in total defense last season and the squad’s other big names — Lance Briggs (32), Julius Peppers (32), Charles Tillman (31) — are in the twilight of their careers. The offense has playmakers at every skill position, however, with Jay Cutler at quarterback, Matt Forte in the backfield as well as Brandon Marshall and Devin Hester in the receiving corps.
Prediction: 34-21, Bears. Luck holds up his end of the deal, tossing a pair of touchdown passes and avoiding any turnovers. But it’s not nearly enough as defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s unit is torched by Cutler & Co., and Chicago pulls away in the second half.
Week 2: vs. Vikings
Skinny: Minnesota is already worse than the Colts on paper. Running back Adrian Peterson is coming off of a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee and his status is still unknown for the season opener. If AP is out when the Colts roll to town, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and the rest of the Colts’ QB hunters will be licking their collective chops going against a Vikings offense line that surrendered 49 sacks a year ago, tied for fifth-most in NFL. Anthony Castonzo and the rest of Indy’s O-line will have their hands full with a Vikes D-line that tied for the lead league in sacks (50) in 2011. Jared Allen (22) accounted for nearly half that total and fell a half sack short of tying Michael Strahan’s single-season record.
Prediction: 20-10, Colts. Allen makes life tough for Luck, but key turnovers by the Minnesota offense hand Indy short fields, and the blue-and-white acquires its first official victory in the post-Peyton Manning era.
Week 3: vs. Jaguars
Skinny: The bad news: the NFL’s reigning rushing leader, Maurice Jones-Drew, ended his holdout this past weekend and will see game action immediately. Bad news part two: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert trimmed his hair — out with the Ronnie Bass from “Remember the Titans” look, in with clean-cut Congressman appearance — and can’t possibly be any worse (51 percent completion percentage, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) than he was as a rookie. The good news: Colts QB Dan Orlovsky threw for 264 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 19-13 Indy loss in Week 17 last season. If Orlovsky, best known for running out his own end zone, can pick apart the Jaguar D, so can Luck.
Prediction: 27-17, Colts. In order to calculate Luck’s totals for this game, add a 100 yards and two touchdowns, subtract one interception from Orlovsky’s Week 17 totals. The Colts win back-to-back games for the first time since the franchise won four straight to end the 2010 regular season.