In May and June, fans of every team in the NFL think their team is better than it really is.
One of the most instructive parts of writing the AFC South blog has been getting to know the fans from around the division. I've found them to be passionate and extremely defensive about their team.
This is a division with a chip on its shoulder.
It makes sense, after all. For most of its existence, three of the four clubs have gotten little to no national attention.
Then there's the Colts.
Colts fans are still reeling from the steaming pile of crap that was 2011 in Indianapolis. Peyton Manning, Bill Polian and just about everyone else anyone cared about is gone.
The city has largely been divided into two factions. The first group is bitter of the fact that Manning is gone. These fans are largely quiet and listless.
The other faction is loud, vociferous and triumphant. Most of them never liked the way the Colts were constructed and are pleased as punch that the team will be more "balanced", "defensive-centric" and focused on the running game.
These fans lobbied heavily for the head of Bill Polian and advocated the Colts dumping Peyton Manning. They see the way the offseason has unfolded as a victory of sorts.
This group tends to bullish on 2012. Many think that the offseason changes alone will bring eight or nine wins. In a recent poll, 21 percent of Colts fans expected such lofty returns.
Most of the irrationality is centered around the the defense. The expectation is that new head coach Chuck Pagano will come in and instantly give the Colts a passable defense.
Such an expectation is patently ridiculous.
The Colts simply don't have the players on defense to be a credible unit in 2012. They field one of the worst and most injury-prone secondaries in the league. They've made a few minor moves to shore things up, but players like Justin King simply aren't going to transform the unit into league average overnight.
The Colts don't quite have the right personnel up front either. Josh Chapman could be the answer at nose tackle, but he's coming off of an injury, and it's not realistic to expect incredible play from a fifth-round rookie.
This is a defense in transition. The team wisely focused on offense in the draft, and the defensive makeover will take time. They should be much improved in 2013, but there's absolutely no reason to expect that improvement this season. Adding mediocre players to bad defense won't change anything soon.
The Colts could improve on offense by a full touchdown a game and still only win five contests.
It's a mistake to expect more from a team than what it can realistically give. Instead of being thrilled with a five-win season, there will be fans that are crushed by it. They would do well to lower their expectations, so that they can see their team more objectively. Otherwise, they aren't being fair to the coaches and management who have always only taken the long view and never once promised quick fixes
This will be a good, interesting season in Indianapolis. It will not be a winning one.
So take off the blinders, Colts fans. The Indianapolis Colts are a four-win team with a bottom five defense.
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