The Indianapolis Colts went 8-8 in 2015 after being favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50. As the 2016 season approaches, experts are counting out the Colts — but doing so may be rather foolish for a team that can still regain its prominence as one of the league’s best.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck can tell you firsthand just how frustrating the 2015 season was — not only for him, but an entire Colts team that looked so promising on paper before the start of the season.
Luck missed nine total games due to various injury during the season, and when he was healthy he never fully looked like the player that once led the league in touchdown passes just one year prior.
After missing out on the playoffs and giving up their AFC South division title to the Houston Texans, many people are predicting the Colts to do even worse than what they had done in 2015. Pro Football Focus unveiled their projections for the AFC on Friday and had the Colts at No. 13, with a 6-10 record in 2016:
"Indianapolis managed an 8-8 season in 2015, despite missing Andrew Luck for part of the year. However, due to their division, they were still in the mix near the end of the regular season. In reality, the Colts were probably worse than their record reflected. For this offseason, they lost more talent than they brought in. Their biggest addition was cornerback Patrick Robinson, who surrendered just 0.78 yards per coverage snap last year, sixth-best for cornerbacks. That doesn’t make up for the losses of Jerrell Freeman, Coby Fleener, and Dwight Lowery, though. While they get Luck back, he started 2015 with six straight games with a below-average PFF passer rating. They will again rely on Frank Gore at running back, who had his lowest yards per carry of his career in 2015, at 3.7. If Luck can be the player everyone expects him to be, the Colts can make a run at getting into the playoffs, but if he plays anywhere close to how he did in 2015, they don’t have the talent to make up for it."
One other thing that could be observed is how better the rest of the AFC South has become on paper through free agency and the draft — something that cannot be ignored.
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The Texans upgraded their offense when they signed quarterback Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72-million contract in free agency as well as bringing in running back Lamar Miller to be Arian Foster‘s replacement.
The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted cornerback Jalen Ramsey with the fourth selection and used their 2nd-round pick on linebacker Myles Jack — who can become one of the biggest steals of the draft if he returns to form coming off of injury. With the emergence of pro-bowl receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, and the Jaguars could give the Colts a run for their money this season.
The biggest splash that the Tennessee Titans made this offseason was the free agent acquisition of running back DeMarco Murray. Add the team’s selection of Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry with their 2nd-round pick, and the Titans could have a two-headed monster in the backfield that could give the Colts’ defense problems.
However, regular season success isn’t always defined in the offseason. Time and time again have we seen teams deemed Super Bowl champions on paper after what looked like a successful offseason, only to disappoint when it comes to on-field production — as was the case with the 2015 Colts.
Anything can happen between now and week one, but it would be just foolish to completely count out Luck and the Colts before we see the team take a snap in the regular season. Recall how many people had the Colts as the worst team in the league in 2012 coming off of a 2-14 season and a completely overhauled roster. That team was able to produce on the field and surprised many with an 11-5 record and playoff berth.
Anyone who wants to see how good Luck can truly be can take a peek at his numbers in 2014 when he not only lead the league with 40 touchdown passes, but lead the Colts to the AFC Championship game with not only a shaky defense, but a mediocre offensive line — which has already seen massive upgrades.
We can go ahead and crown certain teams with certain accomplishments or make our ‘way too early’ power rankings, but I’ll rather wait to make my season assessment until I see this team take action on the field.