The Indianapolis Colts are coming off of their second-straight 11-5 regular season. They also made it one round further this season than last as they were defeated by the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round in January, while losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round in the 2012 season.
Despite the improvements of 2013 and the team doing well even with key injuries, many experts aren’t putting the Colts among the top five contenders to represent the AFC in Glendale, Ariz. next February.
I think they’re making a mistake by leaving them out.
The Colts will likely be improved. They have Andrew Luck coming back for a third season. Look how much he’s improved in his first two.
Luck will have Reggie Wayne back to go along with receivers T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen and Da’Rick Rogers. Also factor in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen as tight end targets and he’s got a ton of weapons to throw to in 2014.
Then, Vick Ballard, who like Wayne and Allen missed a big chunk of the season, will return, as will Trent Richardson. Indianapolis has to make a decision on whether to bring back Donald Brown or Ahmad Bradshaw in the offseason to be the third-string back.
That’s three very good and talented backs that give Indianapolis a ton of depth at that position.
With that all said, it puts the Colts in great position to have one of the best teams as far as offensive skill players go in the entire NFL. The only thing they really need to improve upon on that side of the ball is the line.
We also have to think they will improve their 20th ranked defense dramatically in the offseason as they have over $30 million in cap room to play with.
Yes, the defense played well over the final month, but they gave up 44 and 43 points respectively in the playoffs. That has to be fixed and quickly.
It’s a safe bet Ryan Grigson will spend most of that $30-plus million on the defense. They need help in just about every position on that side of the ball.
Then, look at the schedule.
Indianapolis has a very favorable schedule as they should go at least 7-1 at home. The division will be weak again as they should wrap that up by early December.
I trust this front office, coaching staff and roster. Mix in new playmakers on both sides of the ball and it’s a shame most experts left them off as key Super Bowl contenders. If all goes right and the injury bug stays away, Indianapolis could and should represent the AFC in next year’s Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
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