The Indianapolis Colts have a storied history that dates back to 1960, when the team began play in Baltimore. Somehow placed in the NFL West, the team struggled until 1958 & ‘59, when HOF coach Weeb Ewbank and HOF QB Johnny Unitas defeated the New York Giants in back-to-back years to bring the franchise’s first two championships home to Baltimore.
Ewbank would be replaced with future HOF coach Don Shula in 1963, and in 1964 he and Unitas led the Colts again to the NFL title game, only to be shut out by the Cleveland Browns. Shula would coach the team for seven total seasons, appearing once more in a championship game – the legendary 16-7 shocking defeat to Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
Shula’s replacement, Don McCafferty, would get the team over the hump in 1970 and win Super Bowl V for the franchise’s third football championship. Even though the Colts changed coaches often in the ‘70s, they found success under Ted Marchibroda, who rattled off three division titles between 1975-77. They would lose all three divisional round games, however; two to Pittsburgh and one to Oakland.
The loss to Oakland cast Baltimore into six straight losing seasons. Then, in 1984, owner Bob Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis. Many former Colts players were dismayed by the move, including Unitas, who pledged his support to the expansion Baltimore Ravens when they were founded in 1996. Oddly enough, both teams fight over the franchise’s history. Unitas has a statue outside M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Indianapolis, on the other hand, has retired seven of the Baltimore Colts numbers, including Unitas’s.
Officially, the Ravens are an expansion franchise, and the Colts’ history includes Baltimore and Indianapolis. Branding-wise, this would make sense, as the team has employed a white-and-blue uniform since inception and the horseshoe as its emblem since 1979.
The move to Indianapolis did not invigorate the franchise, however. Aside from a lone division title in 1987 (and a playoff loss to Cleveland), the team suffered seventeen straight non-playoff seasons. The highlight, perhaps, was a trade for Los Angeles Rams superstar RB Eric Dickerson in 1987. Dickerson’s lone Colts’ playoff appearance would come in that ’87 season, and he would lead the league in rushing in 1988. But a bet on the Indianapolis Colts to win a game in the 1991 season would pay only once, as the team would finish 1-15, Dickerson’s last with the team.
The Colts would rehire Ted Marchibroda in 1992, who instantly made the Colts relevant again. Even though he would only reach the playoffs once – in his final season, a 20-16 defeat in the AFC Championship game in 1995, a game in which the Indianapolis Colts odds were -11 – his turnaround would set up years of success to come. The team drafted future HOF RB Marshall Faulk 2nd overall in 1994, HOF WR Marvin Harrison in 1996, and finally QB Peyton Manning in 1998. Faulk would ultimately depart for St. Louis, leading the Colts to draft his replacement, HOF RB Edgerrin James, in 4th overall in 1999. The seeds of sustained success had been planted. The Indianapolis Colts odds to succeed were high, and now was the time to put a bet on the Indianapolis Colts.
James led the league in rushing his first two seasons, in ’99 and 2000. Manning, meanwhile, blossomed after throwing a league-leading 28 interceptions his rookie season. He led the league in passing in 2000, but a bet on the Indianapolis Colts to advance would not have paid, as the team was upset by the Miami Dolphins in the wildcard round. However, no one could deny that the Indianapolis Colts odds of winning their first title since 1970 were high.
Ultimately, it was HOF coach Tony Dungy who put everything together. Dungy took over in 2002 and ran off a run of seven straight playoff appearances, five division titles, and one Super Bowl championship. That came in 2006, when a futures bet on the Indianapolis Colts would pay, as Manning and the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears, 29-17 to capture that elusive title.
With Manning under center, the Indianapolis Colts odds were never better. Throwing to the likes of Harrison, James, and Reggie Wayne, Manning won four MVP awards over the course of his career. In 2009, Manning again led the Colts back to the Super Bowl. A bet on the Indianapolis Colts would not pay, however, as Manning would be beaten by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. In 2011, Manning underwent spinal fusion surgery, and in his absence, a bet on the Indianapolis Colts was again ill advised – the team finished a league-worst 2-14.
That enabled the Colts grab the #1 pick in the 2012 draft, which they used to select Stanford QB Andrew Luck. With Manning due a $28 million salary and unsure whether he’d be able to compete, the team released him and moved forward with Luck. At the press conference, owner Jim Irsay stated that the Colts had retired Manning’s #18 jersey, effective immediately.
Luck would turn out to be a poor man’s Manning, and the Indianapolis Colts odds suffered because of it. He would post prolific numbers, but not have the postseason success he might’ve hoped. Luck led the Colts to only two division titles in seven years, and only as far as the conference championship game in 2014, a blowout loss to New England. Then, citing injuries and fatigue, Luck retired from the NFL following the 2018 season, leaving the Colts QB situation in flux.
Leading into the 2020 season, the Colts signed longtime Chargers QB Philip Rivers to call signals for the team. With the AFC South in flux, the Indianapolis Colts odds of retaking the division may be higher than most suspect.