It was the feel-good story of the 2012 NFL season.
And it was also one of the greatest turnarounds in league history.
From "Chuckstrong" to finishing strong, the Indianapolis Colts went from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 en route to a wild card berth this past season.
Now head coach Chuck Pagano, healthy after last year's battle with leukemia, is hoping his club is ready to push the two-time defending division champion Houston Texans for the top spot in the AFC South. Or at the very least, Pagano and company hope to make it back to the postseason.
And the Indianapolis Colts will make it to the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 seasons…
If: Quarterback Andrew Luck can improve on his overall game. While the 2012 first overall pick did throw for a NFL rookie record 4,374 yards, as well as 23 scores, Luck had no luck hanging onto the football in the form of 23 turnovers, including 18 interceptions. But to his credit, the resilient rookie signal-caller brought his team from behind on numerous occasions, be it partially his fault or due to the team's struggles on defense.
And: General manager Ryan Grigson can have the same success in the 2013 NFL draft as he did in 2012. Besides Luck, the Colts' executive added (via the draft) tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill and running back Vick Ballard, who led the team in rushing. Those six rookies scored 22 of the team's 40 touchdowns this past season--led by Hilton (8) and Luck (5).
But: If the aforementioned Indianapolis defense doesn't make some strides after a shaky 2012, it won't matter how many points Luck and company put on the board. Last season, the Colts gave up more points (387) than they scored (357) despite winning 11 games. Greg Manusky's unit ranked 26th in total yards allowed and only three teams in the league gave up more yards on the ground. And these Colts managed only 15 takeaways in 16 regular-season games.
So what do you think? It's been feast or famine for this franchise dating back to 1997 as the Colts have either won 10 or more games or lost 10 or more games in 16 straight seasons. But is it time for a little more feasting or will these new-look Colts fail to make a second straight trip to the postseason?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Indianapolis Colts
- Chuck Pagano
- Andrew Luck