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Today: The Indianapolis Colts
Last Year: 11-5 (1st place in AFC South, lost in Divisional Round of playoffs)
The Indianapolis Colts are the perfect example of the year-by-year fluctuations and extreme turnarounds that the NFL offers to its fans. After all, it was just in 2011 that the Colts were in the middle of a season that saw them finish with two wins. But, in 2012, the Colts qualified for the postseason after finishing with 11 wins. Last season also saw the Colts finish with 11 wins before losing to the Patriots in the Divisional Round of the postseason. (Side note: the Colts’ come-from-behind win against the Chiefs in the Wild Card game was unreal.)
That’s not to say the Colts’ season in 2013 was flawless by any means. Not only did the team disappoint against the Patriots in the postseason, they also traded away a first-round draft pick for a running back who averaged 2.9 yards per carry.
And the offensive line was a mess. The Colts featured seven different starting offensive line combinations in 2013. The interior of the line — the weakness on the offense — was dreadful and is still a question mark heading into the 2014 season.
Let’s focus on the positives, though. The team has Andrew Luck at quarterback, an emerging wide-receiver star in T.Y. Hilton, a healthy Reggie Wayne returning, a capable pass-catching tight end in Coby Fleener, and a high-quality, young cornerback in Vontae Davis.
And, the best news for the Colts? They play in the AFC South:
Last Year’s Stud: Andrew Luck
He’s good, but he’s not quite as good as everybody seems to think or everybody thought he would be coming out of Stanford. Yes, he’s got the prototypical NFL body and NFL arm, and he’s led the Colts to consecutive 11-5 seasons, but, when looking at the stats, he falls more into the middle of the league. Luckily, Neil Paine over at 538 published an article yesterday that dives into this. You should read this.
Still, Luck is a very good quarterback in the league. Last season, Luck completed 60 percent of his passes, racked up 23 touchdowns, and only tossed nine picks.
Runner-up: T.Y. Hilton
Last Year’s Surprise: Donald Brown
No, he didn’t put up that great of numbers — he finished the season with 537 rushing yards. But, Brown was the best runner on the team last season. And, for the first time in his career, he averaged north of five yards per carry.
Runner-up: Coby Fleener
Last Year’s Disappointment: Trent Richardson
In mid-September, the Colts sent a first-round pick to the Browns in return for Trent Richardson’s service. Richardson would finish the season with these stats:
- 458 rushing yards
- 2.9 yards per carry
- 3 rushing touchdowns
- 32.7 rushing yards per game
Runner-up: The offensive line
The Colts’ offensive line needs some work. Unfortunately, because of the Trent Richardson trade, the team didn’t possess a first-round pick in the draft. Indianapolis snagged Jack Mewhort in the second round. Mewhort played in nearly every spot on the offensive line at Ohio State. He’s huge, strong, and demonstrates solid technique.
I’m not sold on the idea of him solidfying the offensive line in Indianapolis. He lacks speed and is susceptible to powerful bull rushes. He’s also not tremendous at blocking in space, which can be a key function of guards, as they are expected to execute pulls on running plays.
Other notable pick: Donte Moncrief
This Year’s Stud: Andrew Luck
The passing game is still going to be the focal point of the offense. And, it’s worth nothing that he’s only entering his third season, so improvements should still be coming from Luck.
Runner-up: Reggie Wayne
This Year’s Surprise: Trent Richardson
Do I think he’s worth a first-round pick? No. But, will he be better than 2.9 yards per carry? He has to be, right?
Runner-up: Donte Moncrief
This Year’s Disappointment: Jack Mewhort
The Colts struggled at running the ball last season, and I don’t think Mewhort is going to be a quality blocker in space, when he’s up against faster, quicker linebackers.
Runner-up: The offensive line
Draft early: Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne
Good value in the middle rounds: Coby Fleener
Don’t draft: Trent Richardson, the defense
What Vegas Is Saying (LVH Sports Book): 9.5 wins
What We’re Saying: 9-7 (1st place in AFC South)
Why the regression? Despite winning 11 games last season, the stats don’t seem to indicate the Colts were really as a good as most 11-win teams. Their point differential, +55, was the second worst in the league among division winners. The Chiefs also finished with 11 wins, but racked up a +125 point differential. Same with the Bengals. And the Saints’ point differential was +110 and they also won 11 games.
The Colts benefit from playing in the AFC South, a division that isn’t exactly bustling with playoff teams. I’m high on the Texans for a bounce back year, but still maintain the Jags are a bottom-dwelling team — especially with a raw Blake Bortles at quarterback. The Titans won seven games last season, and still remain a question mark.
Because of this, the Colts should still own the division, though Houston might give them a run for it. But, as far as talking about them as a Super Bowl contender; I just don’t see it. The defense, while not giving up many points last season, gave up a lot of yards.
Not to mention the Trent Richardson trade sorta screwed the team. Its first pick wasn’t until the 59th overall selection. 59! Hell, the Browns had selected an entire offense to surround Johnny Football by that point.
If there’s one way to screw your team, it’s to not spend draft picks wisely. Or to trade them away for players that kinda suck.
I like Andrew Luck. I like T.Y. Hilton. I like Reggie Wayne. I like Vontae Davis. I just think this is a solid football team and nothing more. Again, the good news is that they play in the AFC South. I think nine wins is enough to win the division. But are they good enough to beat the Patriots or Broncos in the postseason? Probably not.
[genericon icon=twitter] Follow Sean Wagner-McGough on Twitter @seanjwagner