Indianapolis Colts 2020 season preview: Colts trying to keep pressure off Philip Rivers

Are the Colts Super Bowl contenders with Rivers at QB? (2:13)

Stephen A. Smith doesn't see the Colts as Super Bowl contenders due to Philip Rivers' lack of mobility. (2:13)

The Indianapolis Colts are ranked No. 14 in ESPN's Football Power Index ahead of the 2020 NFL season. With no preseason games this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, Week 1 is the first time we'll see new acquisitions and rookies for every team. Week 1 also will give us the first NFL games since Super Bowl LIV in February.

Here's everything you need to know about the Colts heading into the season, from the big question to answer and the toughest stretch on their schedule to a bold prediction and potential breakout fantasy football stars.

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

The big question: How well can they protect Philip Rivers?

It's no secret that the Colts have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. They were the only team to have the same group start all 16 games last season. The issue is the depth behind the starters. The loss of Joe Haeg and Josh Andrews, two key backups last season, in free agency hasn't been talked about much because the starting group is that good. The Colts can't afford to suffer any key injuries to any of their starters because it'll have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team. Philip Rivers was sacked at least 30 times in a season in nine of the past 10 years with the Chargers, and a solid line would give him more time to throw. The Colts plan to rely on their running game this season and have good depth there, led by Marlon Mack, who topped 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career last season. -- Mike Wells

How the pandemic has most affected the Colts

The Colts weren't hit as hard as other teams as key players decided to play. Starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo flirted with the idea of opting out, but the only players who did were second-year cornerback Marvell Tell, safety Rolan Milligan and linebacker Skai Moore. All three also were likely going to make a bigger impact on special teams than on defense. The Colts will have 25% capacity for home games at Lucas Oil Stadium this season. They had two training camp practices at the stadium to prepare to play in that type of environment. "We have to bring our own energy," linebacker Darius Leonard said. "No matter where you're at, bring the juice. No matter if I make a play or my teammates make a play, we have to be able to celebrate together. One guy makes a play, as long as your teammates are celebrating, that's how the juice is formed. We have to continue to do that with fans or without fans." -- Wells

Football Power Index projections for the Colts

Overall ranking: 14
Offensive ranking: 18
Defensive ranking: 9
Special teams ranking: 22

Total wins: 8.7
AFC South title chances: 41.4%
Chances to make playoffs: 59.2%
Super Bowl chances: 1.8%
2021 draft pick: No. 20

Inside the Colts' schedule

FPI's strength of schedule rank: 32

Toughest stretch: The Colts have a four-game stretch in November when they face the Ravens, Packers and Titans twice. That means the Colts will be facing reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and Ravens and the two teams that lost in the conference championship games last season. This stretch will likely determine where Indianapolis finishes in the AFC South, especially with the Titans expected to be right in the thick of things in the division race.

Over or under 8.7 wins? It would be surprising if the Colts didn't win at least nine games. They won seven games with a depleted receivers group and with the 30th-ranked passing offense in the NFL last season. The Colts upgraded the quarterback position with the addition of Rivers, used their first two draft picks on offense and made a splash by trading away the No. 13 pick to acquire defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who has 19.5 sacks in the past two seasons to go with a returning nucleus that features guard Quenton Nelson, Leonard and receiver T.Y. Hilton. The Colts should be in the mix for first place in the AFC South. -- Wells

Bold prediction for 2020: Rivers will have a career high in completion percentage

He'll be able to do it because he's playing behind the best offensive line he's had in his 17-year NFL career and the Colts aren't relying on Rivers to carry them strictly with his right arm. Coach Frank Reich has made running the ball a premium. The Colts were seventh in the league in rushing in 2019 and they added back-to-back 2,000-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor in the draft to go with Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. Defenses might be forced to stack the box to stop the run, which will set up the passing game perfectly for Rivers, whose career high in completion percentage is 69.5, set in 2013. -- Wells

Breakout fantasy star: Parris Campbell, WR

The Colts had high hopes for Campbell after selecting him in the second round of the 2019 draft, but the Ohio State product's rookie season was derailed by injury. The team's offseason signing of Rivers figures to improve an unproductive passing game and Campbell is expected to be one of the veteran quarterback's top targets. Campbell, who ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the 2019 combine, will be busy out of the slot, as well as helping with the occasional carry and return. Grab him with one of your final picks. -- Mike Clay

ADP for the top players:

The view from Vegas

Super Bowl odds: 25-1 (opened 30-1)
Over/under: 9
Playoff odds: Yes -170, No +150

The Colts finished third in the AFC South last season at 7-9, but are currently the favorites to win the division this year. Don't get too excited, though. They're only sixth-favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LV, behind the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Patriots and Bills. -- ESPN Chalk staff

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill as of Sept. 1.

Where the Colts landed in NFL Rank

Speed reads before Week 1