Welcome to The Big Take, where we comb through our drafts folders for the boldest, potentially irresponsible predictions. The ones we might feel confident enough to share in Slack but have real reservations airing in public. The ones that are more likely to be Old Takes Exposed fodder than an opportunity to beat our chests. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Leading us off today are two white-hot assessments of the upcoming NFL season.

 

The Indianapolis Colts Will Play in the AFC Championship Game

Frank Reich can coach. Having a different starting quarterback every single year has made establishing any continuity much harder. His hand-picked guy, Carson Wentz, turned out to be a mess on the field and lacked the leadership skills necessary, so once again it was back to the drawing board. Where the Indianapolis Colts found Matt Ryan. The steady, reliable, and somewhat limited veteran. Perhaps with him doing just enough to win on the strength of a defense that forced the second-most turnovers in 2021 and was ninth in opponents scoring. Perhaps a weak AFC South will provide plenty of opportunities for layup victories and the ability to prove they are worthy of being the favorites to win the division.

I'll go several steps further. Not only will the Colts win the group going away, they will benefit greatly from the AFC Central and AFC West cannibalizing each other. They will, somehow, emerge after 17 games with the second-best record in the conference and a shocking bye, then homefield advantage for the divisional round. Then they'll capitalize on the opportunity and gain entry into the AFC Championship Game before being buzzsawed to death by a more formidable, complete team capable of offensive explosion.

Are there some concerns? Yes. The Colts' passing defense was second-worst in all of football last season. Michael Pittman Jr., Paris Campbell and Alec Pierce lack seasoning. The top six wideouts on their current depth chart have combined for all of 148 NFL receptions. They'll have to greatly exceed expectations and produce immediately.

On the other hand, there's the security blanket named Jonathan Taylor in the backfield. Reich and Ryan may decide to increasingly build the whole offense out of the superstar. Making everyone else's job easier.

Also intriguing? A paper-thin schedule ranked 26th-hardest. Two free wins for the taking against both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. Throw in a split against the Tennessee Titans and the Colts would be 5-1 in the division. Very winnable home tests against the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders and Pittsburgh Steelers. Opportunities away from home against the New England Patriots and New York Giants. Beating up on poor competition isn't sexy but wins are wins.