The Indianapolis Colts fans do have a lot to hold their hats on at the end of the season. Yes, they got embarrassed to a mediocre New England Patriots team 43-22 in Gillette Stadium Saturday night. Yes, they made four unforced mistakes and due to lack of effort allowed six Patriots rushing touchdowns. Yes, they beat themselves and only have themselves to blame for why they’re not advancing to the AFC Championship Game next weekend.
But, this season was a success despite a disappointing playoff loss.
Reality is, they had no business being in at this point.
A team that lost the first two strings of running backs in the first month, their franchise wide receiver, a starting tight end and starting guard before the bye week mixed with mediocre defensive play with a second-year quarterback doesn’t typically win 11 games and make the second round of the playoffs.
The Colts beat all the best teams in the league this year despite all of that. They beat the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and swept the Kansas City Chiefs. Mix in the fact they were a perfect 6-0 against the AFC South and they have tons of momentum going into 2014.
Luck improved dramatically despite his playoff struggles too. He single-handily led this team to this point. Imagine where he will be next year with a healthy offensive line, Vick Ballard, Trent Richardson and either Donald Brown or Ahmad Bradshaw in the backfield. Throw in a healthy receiving group of Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen, Da’Rick Rogers, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and this is a dangerous team on the offensive side of the ball.
Yes, the defense needs help, but don’t you think that will be addressed in the offseason?
They will bring back Robert Mathis, who is coming off the best season of his career, and return some other key players, but they have the third most cap room available in the offseason. Mix that with another draft class and this team can be a Super Bowl caliber team next year.
They had the same record as they did last year and advanced one round further in the playoffs. They’re trending in the right direction.
The defense and injuries held this team back in 2013. With a team that’s gone 12-4 at home in two years and 10-2 against their division, they should have a banner year in ’14. Also factor in all three teams in the division are in rebuild mode and there’s no reason Indianapolis can’t improve on more wins and at least one round further next season.
Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past four seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru.