2018 win total: 6.5

2017 ATS record: 8-8

Optimist view

The only cause for optimism with this team is the possibility that QB Andrew Luck will return from the shoulder issues that have already kept him from throwing a football in public for more than 500 days. With Luck back behind center, the Colts are competitive. And, with former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich taking over as head coach, the offense could actually begin the long journey back to the level it operated at when Luck was healthy.

With Luck making the throws, WR T.Y. Hilton is an elite player. He averaged 81 catches and 1,250 yards per season in four years with Luck at QB (2013-16) but slipped to 57 catches and 966 yards in 2017. The addition of Eric Ebron (from the Lions) to pair with Jack Doyle gives the Colts one of the better TE rooms in the NFL. Last year those two combined for 133 receptions, 1,264 yards and eight touchdowns.

Pessimist view:

Luck’s bizarre rehab regimen has yet to include throwing a football, as far as anyone outside the team knows. That leads to skepticism about when, or if, he will ever return to peak form. He has made no throws of any kind with the team during spring and summer practices. Even if Luck returns “healthy” for training camp, he will have nearly two years of rust to knock off, he’ll be operating in a new scheme, and he will need to rebuild what was once exceptional arm strength.

Jacoby Brissett looked nothing like the long-term answer at quarterback last year, but in his defense, he was tossed into the starting lineup after being acquired from the Patriots a week before the start of the season. In addition to posting a mediocre 81.7 passer rating, Brissett was sacked an NFL-worst 52 times.

There’s a reason the defense hasn’t been mentioned yet -- it’s terrible. And it lost arguably its two best players from 2017 – DT Johnathan Hankins and CB Rashaan Melvin, along with once-great CB Vontae Davis.

On schedule:

For a team with a steep learning curve under a new head coach and staff, the Colts get no early concessions from the schedule-makers. Four of the first six games are on the road, including trips to play the Super Bowl 52 participants, the Patriots and the Eagles, Reich’s former team. The Colts play just one AFC South opponent in their first eight games, and they have their bye in Week Nine. After that they have three straight home games, starting with division foes Jacksonville and Tennessee.

Prediction: Under.

The Colts’ three straight 11-5 playoff teams from 2012-14 (Luck’s first three seasons) seem like a distant memory. Back-to-back 8-8 seasons followed that before last year’s 4-12 disaster. It looks like more of the same this year. Even if Luck returns, he’ll be playing behind an entirely rebuilt offensive line that allowed an NFL-worst 56 sacks in 2017, although the addition of first-round OG Quenton Nelson should help. But the departure of RB Frank Gore won’t help a run game that was poor even before he left.

Previous projected win total breakdowns

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers