Just take a look around the internet at all the haters who don't even think the Colts will make the playoffs this year. It's astounding how many people have lost faith in the franchise after a year riddled with injuries. They must not have considered how we still almost won the division (Read Here). I'm confident that the Colts still have a strong hold on the division, and even that we will make the Super Bowl. Don't believe me?? Here's 5 reasons why!
1) Healthy Luck = Healthy Chances
Looking back at last season, where we went 8-8 and didn't make the playoffs for the first time since Andrew Luck arrived, there is still reason to be positive. Luck is 3 for 3 on playoff appearances, not counting last year when he only played 7 of our 16 games. In his first three years, he led us to 11-5 records each season. That being said, I feel great about our chances of making the playoffs, even with the division rapidly improving. If Luck stays healthy (which he should behind a partially revamped line), who can't we beat??? Added to this the fact that Luck only played one game under new OC Rob Chudzinski (a win against the Super Bowl Champs), and you get a recipe for success!
Let's fly back a bit to mid-season last year. Sitting 3-5 after a devastating loss in OT to Carolina in a game we could have won, the front office decided to fire OC Pep Hamilton. This was quite a shocking move to make halfway through the year, with many people believing we were just giving up. Enter interim OC Rob Chudzinski. In his first week with the Colts, with a semi-healthy Luck and a game against the best defense in the NFL (and widely considered one of the best ever), every odd was stacked against him. What ended up happening was that we caught a glimpse of just how powerful the Colts offense could be. Luck threw for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 21 of 39 completed passes without an interception, while also having a passer rating of 98.4, his best of the season. Gore scrambled for 83 yards and a TD on 28 carries, and the ball was very well distributed, with 4 players over 3 receptions. Luck only got sacked once, showing the offensive line was improved under Chud's quick-moving scheme. After that huge win over the eventual Super Bowl Champions, Chud soared. Over the rest of the year, he lead the crippled Colts offense to a 5-3 record, 4-3 without Luck. And who can forget his preparation of Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley in the regular season finale against the Titans. With Chud's high-octane offense and a healthy Luck next year, the sky is the limit for this offense.
3) Finally, a Smart Draft by Irsay
Now I don't want to knock Irsay at all. He's a great man with good intentions. He's just not very good when it comes to drafts. This year feels different, though. Usually, with only 8 draft picks, Owners and GMs tend to get as many playmakers as possible. Many people have frowned upon the Colts getting 4 offensive linemen in the draft, as they aren't exactly "playmakers". When you stop watching the game and watch the line, though, that's when you begin to see the real "playmakers". Providing huge blocks, preventing sacks, running their hearts out down field to try to block anybody they can to extend the play, linemen make up the heart of big plays. While the ball carrier gets all the credit for making the play happen, the behemoth men up front quietly rejoin the huddle, hoping they can get the chance to make it happen again. Their pride comes from knowing how they set up a block to extend the run or stopped a pass rush to allow the quarter back to make the magic happen. That's why I think Irsay got the real "playmakers" in the draft. Kelly will be an immediate upgrade, while Clark has the potential to be a stud once fully developed. Haeg and Blythe also have potential to be good starters in a few years. Irsay did a great job this year, and with everyone saying that we need to protect Luck, I'm surprised how well he accomplished it. Great job, Irsay!!
4) Undrafted Pass Rushers (Oh, and a drafted one)
Going into the draft, many people saw pass rush as one of our top two positions of need. They were right, but they are overreacting to how we didn't get on until the last round. We still have a starting duo next year, and with the collective 200+ sacks between Cole and Mathis, the rookies will learn a ton this year. Don't forget that the rookie LB group accumulated a combined total of 33.5 sacks in the 2015 season (and thats only among 5 players). Plus, the recent story about the Colts Pass Rush for 2016 reveals that through the last 6 weeks of 2015, we led the league with 21 sacks! The other overlooked addition in the offseason is Hassan Ridgeway, who totaled 6 sacks in 2014, Add the Okine move to OLB with 5.5 CFL sacks and we have a young group with 45 sacks in one year of college or the CFL. We are going to get after the QB this year, as well as many years to follow.
5) Our Division
Yes, the AFC South made a huge statement in the offseason with some big name acquisitions. Yes, the division does look a whole lot better than past years on paper. What you have to remember about this is our last offseason. We made huge waves in free agency, leading many to believe we would be the best team in the NFL. And if you recall, everyone was saying we looked "so much better on paper!" Boy were they wrong. This is the AFC South, where nothing ever seems to go right for anyone. The division won't blow up like everyone is saying. The Jags aren't going to win 12 plus games just because of Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, and a much improved defense. Even with that, they only went 5-11 last year. They can't get that much better with a few players. The Texans went out to grab Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller in free agency, and rounded out some rough edges on offense in the draft. Yes, they have JJ Watt. But will this put them out of reach for a team with one of the most high-octane offenses in the NFL. Doubtfully. And the Titans are going to do well a few years from now, but currently, they aren't anywhere threatening. With Luck back healthy, a better line, and Chud, we should go back to sweeping the division easily.
Thanks for reading. This took me so long to write up so I hope you all enjoy! All you have to do now is believe! Here We Come, Super Bowl 51!!! GO BLUE!!!