Anyone who says Andrew Luck – and by extension the Indianapolis Colts as a whole – will have a let down in 2012 may just be in for a bit of a surprise.
It’s understandable why the majority of the media and blogosphere feel that way. The Colts absolutely overachieved last year, going 11-5 and making the playoffs with a rookie quarterback, a terrible offensive line, and a suspect defense. Indy also will not have the emotional boost they had when head coach Chuck Pagano left the team after the third game to get treatment for leukemia, and the man who replaced him on an interim basis (and led them to a 9-3 record in that span) now wears the big boy pants in Arizona.
So yes, there are some strikes against the Colts coming into the 2013 season. BUT…
That rookie quarterback set rookie records across the board and will be even better this year.
The front office spent “dollar dollar bills ya’ll” to improve that terrible offensive line.
And that suspect defense? There are tons of additions to shore up the deficiencies.
Will all of that equal a better season than they had last year? Probably not. But will they take the massive step back that I’ve been hearing and reading about everywhere? No. I’ll say it right here, right now, and as definitively as I possibly can. The 2013 iteration of the Indianapolis Colts will be a better team than they were in 2012. They are more talented, more experienced, hungrier. Will that translate into matching – or bettering – their 11-5 output last year? Maybe not.
Yes, I know it sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but I say that because of the schedule. In 2012, the Colts wound up with one of the easier schedules in the NFL. Yes, they beat the teams they were supposed to beat, but that also included some ugly losses (see New England and the New York Jets). Their schedule this season takes it up a notch, and they will be under the national spotlight far more than last year.
Look at the schedule beginning week 3 and lasting through week 9. You’ve got the 49ers in San Fran, Seattle at home, the Chargers in San Diego, Denver at home, and the Texans in Houston. That’s a brutal stretch of games, and the entire season will depend entirely on how the Colts handle it. If Luck and the Gang can manage to at least go .500 in those games (including the game in week 4 against Jacksonville), and things will still look bright for a second consecutive playoff appearance. If they don’t…
That being said, I still don’t see the big drop off being predicted by the national media. The team is young, talented, and hungry, and will fight the good fight in every single game.
Defense – The defense always seems to be the Achilles’ heel for the Colts. Last year was no different. Indy ranked 26th in total yards allowed and 21st in points allowed. The biggest area was the run defense, giving up 137.5 yards per game (good for 29th). Hence the offseason additions – first round draft pick Bjoern Werner, d-linemen Ricky Jean Francois and Aubrayo Franklin, and DBs Greg Toler and LaRon Landry among others. Can they mesh well enough to be the dominant force the so badly desire to be?
Offensive Line – 41 sacks surrendered in 2012. There’s really not much more you need to say about it. This absolutely has to get better to keep Andrew Luck upright and healthy.
Run game – This is kind of an extension of the offensive line. The line needs to block better to open up decent running lanes. But the Colts RBs also have to be better. They brought in Ahmad Bradshaw to be a bruiser, with Vick Ballard backing him up after a decent rookie season. Former 1st round draft pick Donald Brown gets bumped to 3rd string in what will likely be his last year in the horseshoe.
Schedule – See above. How will the Colts handle the tougher schedule will be the best indicator about how far the team has come. Or har far they have yet to go.
5 Best Games to Watch
5. Miami Dolphins (week 2) – A rematch from last year when Andrew Luck threw for a rookie record 433 yards. The Dolphins added a TON of defensive talent in the off season, so its going to be interesting to see how they try to keep him from duplicating that performance.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (week 14) – The Bengals are big favorites to make the playoffs again in 2013, either as a division winner or in the wild card. The have one of the better defenses in the NFL, and one of the best young quarterbacks in Andy Dalton.
3. Seattle Seahawks (week 5) - Russell Wilson vs. Andrew Luck is going to be a big storyline in this match-up.
2. San Francisco 49ers (week 3) - The first test of a brutal string of games comes against the Super Bowl runners-up.
1. Denver Broncos (week 7) - Do I really have to explain? Easily the biggest game for the Colts.
Game to Miss
Oakland Raiders – The Raiders are lumped into one big, steaming pile of bad with the Jets and the Jaguars. Home openers are always fun and exciting, but if you absolutely had to pick one game to tune out, this would be it.
My 5 Predictions for 2013
Andrew Luck – I’ve heard some speculate Andrew Luck as a dark horse MVP candidate. While he certainly has the talent and the supporting offensive cast to make that not entirely impossible, its not going to happen this year. Not when established legends like Peyton Manning are dropping 7-bombs on defending Super Bowl Champions. I will however predict a 4,500 yard, 30+ touchdown season, while limiting the interceptions to 15 or fewer.
T.Y. Hilton – If Luck hads the kind of season I am predicting he will be, Hilton could very well be the biggest recipient of that. I think Hilton has the ability – especially coming out of the slot – to put up a 90 – 100 catch season and over 1,200 yards.
Vick Ballard – I’m not sold on Bradshaw as the answer at RB, although he certainly has the history. I just think Ballard showed enough in the latter part of last season to earn the chance at the #1 spot. And that’s how I see the season playing out. Bradshaw will be good, but I think his injury history will bite back and Ballard will once again end the year on a high note.
Colts Defense – I don’t see huge improvements here, but if the Colts can at least get to the middle of the pack defensively, they can make a deep playoff run. I will say I expect Bjoern Werner to overtake Erik Walden at the starting OLB spot opposite Robert Mathis.
Final Record – Again, this will be a better team than we saw last year, but they still won’t win 11 games. I’ll give my Colts a 10-6 record, good for 2nd in the AFC South, with wildcard playoff win.
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