Last week, NFL analyst Dave Dameshek made the Indianapolis Colts his favorite to finish the regular season with the best record in the AFC and secure the top playoff seed. I can see where he’s coming from; his argument is largely based on strength of schedule. The usual suspects, like the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, seem to have more difficult games ahead of them, though until the season actually starts, it’s hard to tell who will rise to the occasion. Meanwhile, the experts are already giving the Colts six division wins. The level of agreement on this is sincerely disconcerting, and I want to throw my body in front of this bullet now before things get out of hand.
Remember, last year the Colts had the habit of playing to the level of their opposition if the opposition was good. They beat both Super Bowl contenders (the Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks), but they imploded against the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. They beat the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs (twice), but struggled against the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins. As much as I would love for the Colts to have the best record in the AFC and home games throughout the playoffs, I think it’s too soon for that.
This is a team that operates better from a place of deficit. It would be lovely to change that and start taking command and keeping it like the Colts teams of last decade. It might even be the next logical step in the team’s development, but it’s hardly a guarantee. I would argue that being favored early in the season might be the worst thing that could happen to them, especially after watching the Indiana Pacers this spring.
In Andrew Luck‘s first season, league experts predicted that the Colts would earn the No. 1 pick in the draft a second year in the row, but instead they went to the playoffs. Last year, predictions weren’t that different, dubbing the team “fool’s gold” and the like. This year, analysts are over-correcting. I believe the Colts will make the playoffs, and I believe they’ll probably win ten games again. But to set them up as the favorite for the top AFC playoff seed is just asking for disappointment. Let that be the goal next year; if it happens this year, let it be a happy surprise.