The 49ers and Colts are one of the NFL’s forgotten rivals because they played 34 of their 44 games before 1969 when the NFL merged with the AFL to form the modern version of the league today.
The Colts, who were still in Baltimore, dominated this series winning 24 of their first 32 games including a staggering 13-game win-streak from 1962 to 1968. San Francisco finally snapped the streak in 1969 and would win the next five games all the way to 1989.
These two streaks marked the two different eras in the NFL. In the pre-merger era, the Colts were one of the NFL’s top franchises winning a Super Bowl and losing no more than five games from 1964 to 1971. After the realignment, the Colts would move to AFC. The 49ers would become their own dynasty in the ’80s.
Since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts have once again controlled the series. They’ve won the last four games despite losing four of their first five meetings. The series’ overall record is 26-18 in favour of Baltimore/Indianapolis as San Francisco looks to end their losing skid.
San Francisco 49ers Recent History
Most fans remember the Niners during the Joe Montana and Steve Young days when they were the NFL’s team to beat. They won five Super Bowls (tied for second-most in the NFL) in 14 seasons from 1981 to 1994. Along the way, they had a dozen division championships and had double-digit wins in all but one season until 1999.
But before this golden era, San Francisco was a mediocre franchise. Save for a three-year playoffs stint in the early ’70s, the Niners only made two other playoff appearances. While they weren’t horrible, they barely made an impact and were one of the most forgettable franchises until the 1980’s.
At the turn of the century, the 49ers haven’t quite recaptured their glory years. They had a brief stint as Super Bowl contenders during the Jim Harbaugh era at the start of the 2010’s but are now back to rebuilding. With a new quarterback in town, hopes are high that great times are once again on the horizon.
Indianapolis Colts Recent History
Whether they were in Baltimore or Indianapolis, the Colts have had an excellent run as a franchise. They won back-to-back titles in the late ’50s then became a near-dynasty in the late ’60s and early ’70s becoming just the third team to post a 13-1 record in 1968 then winning their first Super Bowl in 1970.
The Colts stagnated during the ’80s even going winless in a lockout-shortened 1982 season and going 1-15 in 1991. But things would get much better following the 1998 seasons where they would draft Peyton Manning. The five-time MVP would lead the Colts to eight division championships, two Super Bowl appearances, and a Lombardi trophy.
Following Manning’s departure in 2011, the Colts would switch gears taking Andrew Luck and reclaiming their spot as division champions. Though they’ve fallen on difficult times again, a resurgence is coming as Luck gets healthier and the team improves.
San Francisco 49ers Outlook
The last time the 49ers were a good team, they had solid play at quarterback in the form of Alex Smith. Garoppolo has the potential to be twice the player Smith is but that remains to be seen. General manager John Lynch also invested heavily in the offseason to build around Jimmy G.
Lynch paid a fortune for running back Jerrick McKinnon then used a first-round pick to draft Mike McGlinchey, who will fill in for the departed Trent Brown. He also took wide receivers Dante Pettis and Richie James in the second and seventh rounds, respectively.
The Niners didn’t too much on defence outside of acquiring former Seahawk Richard Sherman. The 30-year-old has lost a step coming from an Achilles injury but he still has the playmaking ability the secondary sorely needs. San Francisco is looking solid but may still be a few steps away from contending.
Indianapolis Colts Outlook
As long as Luck can stay healthy and maintain his high-level of play, the Colts should be considered favourites to make the playoffs or even win the division. Luck carried the team to two division titles with little help and now he’ll have a better line protecting him and a decent defence.
There is still a lot of work to be done, however. The Colts still need for a running back to emerge. They need help everywhere on defence from their linebackers to their defensive line. They have a new offensive-minded coach in Frank Reich so the Colts could be in shootouts so they’ll be even more reliant on Luck.
Indianapolis has a relatively easy schedule in 2018. Outside the Patriots and Eagles, the Colts play teams they can beat. If Luck isn’t 100%, Jacoby Brissett is a decent backup. It all depends where the team sits come midseason.
Coach Reich has served under the likes of Tony Dungy and Doug Pederson and has a wealth of experience running elaborate offensive schemes. Hopefully, that rubs off as he takes a shot at leading a team for the first time. It may take a while and Luck may not be fully healthy.
The 49ers’ no-name defence won’t threaten the Colts too much but they are a more cohesive unit than the Colts’ offence right now, particularly since Indianapolis doesn’t really have a running back.
Garoppolo should see most of the action while CJ Beathard leads the second team. Beathard saw decent time in the NFL last season but couldn’t win a game though he will be against Brissett and the second team.
San Francisco has only won at the Lucas Oil Stadium once in the preseason. They’ll make that two after this game.