All things considered, the Indianapolis Colts pulled off a miracle season in 2012. With a rookie quarterback, a head coach undergoing treatment for leukemia and having only managed two wins the season before, the Colts ground out enough wins to make the playoffs and to make believers in Andrew Luck out of a lot of people.
So in rolls 2013, and now expectations for the Colts are bound to be high, but with good reason. The biggest piece of the 2012 puzzle that is now missing is former offensive coordinator-turned interim head coach, Bruce Arians. And while the loss of Arians will be tough to get past, new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton should be able to deliver.
Like all teams, the Colts lost some free agents–most notably DE Dwight Freeney and CB Jerraud Powers–but they also picked up a lot of new talent, such as CB Greg Toler and S LaRon Landry. The core of this talented team stayed mostly intact, and the Colts have been one of the better teams at finding talent in the draft, so things will only get better.
What all this means that with a Jacksonville Jaguars team that is nowhere near competitive, and a Tennessee Titans team that will again probably struggle in 2013, the AFC South will most likely come down to (again) the Colts and the Houston Texans. Last year, Houston got off to an incredibly hot start, but fizzled at the season’s end, while the Colts came on ChuckStrong as each week passed.
The emotional push of head coach Chuck Pagano‘s absence for his leukemia treatments (hopefully) won’t play a factor this year, but that was only a small part of the Colts’ success last season.
Andrew Luck will grow and mature in his second season, and much like his predecessor Peyton Manning, will get better with each mistake made. The rest of the team will follow, and if the Colts find themselves a breakout running back in the draft, then theoretically they could run away with the division by the time week 12 rolls around.
The Texans look like a team on the decline, and their play at the end of the season and into the playoffs was deflating for a number of reasons. The Colts can capitalize on that with their own positive attitude and never say die mentality.
Just two seasons removed from Peyton Manning and his magic, the Colts should be favorites once again in the AFC South.