Indianapolis Colts: 4 Bold Predictions for 2012
The Indianapolis Colts ended the long and mostly prosperous Peyton Manning era in March, hoping that the new Andrew Luck era would mirror the success Manning brought to the table for the better part of 14 seasons in blue and white.
How will the Luck era begin? Will the Colts be a surprise playoff team and compete for the AFC South, or will they continue to struggle? Read on to find out.
Reggie Wayne Will Catch 80+ Passes for 1,000+ Yards and 5+ Touchdowns
Reggie Wayne's numbers took a horrible decline in 2011.
However, now that Andrew Luck is a Colt, his numbers should skyrocket.
In 2011, Wayne caught 36 less passes for two less touchdowns and 395 less passing yards than in 2010. He was almost forgotten when people talked about the Colts because of how badly Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky performed at quarterback (well, Orlovsky wasn't terrible).
With Luck, an accurate quarterback who will know where Wayne is, at the helm, Wayne's numbers should go up.
If Luck sees Wayne open, he'll set his feet and throw an accurate pass, just like he always does. Luck is very accurate and threw just 10 interceptions in 2011 (some of them occurred because of drops by Luck's receivers).
Since Luck is a much better, smarter quarterback, it's safe to say Wayne will catch at least five more passes for one more touchdown and 40 more passing yards in 2012.
And Wayne will enjoy his last few seasons with another great NFL quarterback.
Andrew Luck Will Throw for 3,500+ Yards, 25+ Touchdowns, and 15- Interceptions
Drew Brees may have thrown for 5,476 yards, but 3,500 yards is still an accomplishment.
Andrew Luck threw for 3,517 yards at Stanford in just 13 games, and while the NFL is harder, he should be able to break 3,500 yards. Luck will have good receivers and tight ends like Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener, which should make it easier.
Luck threw 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2011, and he was very accurate (he completed an astounding 71.3 percent of his passes). His throws translate well to the NFL, as he stands his ground in the pocket and delivers an accurate ball.
At Stanford, his receivers dropped some passes. In Indianapolis, I don't expect that to happen.
Luck should complete at least 60 percent of his passes, and because he knows how to read defenses and how to throw under pressure and on the run, he should be able to throw for a lot of passing yards and touchdowns and very few interceptions.
And on the way, the Colts will pick up some wins.
Coby Fleener Will Blossom into an Elite Tight End
Coby Fleener benefited from having Andrew Luck as his quarterback at Stanford. Now, he'll benefit from having Luck in Indianapolis.
Luck's top receiver/tight end was Indianapolis' second-round pick, and Fleener will be reunited with his college quarterback. Fleener has great hands and he knows how to get open, and Luck knows where he will be.
Because the two had great chemistry, they torched defenses while at Stanford.
Fleener has great hands, he is quick, he can block, he plays smart, and he is athletic. For a tight end, he is very fast and can jump very high to catch a pass. While he may be very athletic, he is also big at 6'6 and 244 pounds.
Like I've mentioned, Luck and Fleener have great chemistry. Having Fleener with him should help Luck adjust to the NFL, and having Luck with him should help Fleener adjust to the NFL.
Fleener should have no problem adjusting to the NFL. He can block NFL players, and he knows how to get open and how to catch any passes, especially high ones. He gets off the line of scrimmage quickly, so he can get open quickly and help Luck make a quick throw if pressure is coming
While he may not become a star in one season, Fleener's blocking, speed, athleticism, and hands will help him take the first step to becoming a star.
Indianapolis Will Make the Playoffs as a Wild Card
Most people are expecting the Colts to land in the cellar of the AFC, or maybe even the league.
However, I'm expecting Luck and the Colts to surprise everyone and make a splash early on in their dynasty.
The AFC isn't as strong as the NFC, and the Colts can definitely make the playoffs. I think New England, Denver, Baltimore, and Houston will win their divisions, and I think Cincinnati, Indianapolis, the New York Jets, Kansas City, and possibly San Diego or Oakland will contend for a Wild Card spot.
Here's why the Colts will secure one of the two spots...
Indianapolis starts the season against Chicago, Minnesota and Jacksonville. The only opponent that I think will contend in that group is Chicago, and they are definitely beatable (even though they play in Chicago).
The Colts' pass defense struggled in 2011, but Jay Cutler is prone to throwing interceptions. Chicago was great against the run, but they struggled mightily against the pass. Indianapolis' pass D should settle in against the Bears, Vikings and Jaguars, just like the offense.
Since Fleener and Luck are together, they should dominate from start to finish. Against a terrible pass defense like Chicago, Luck should be able to settle in to the NFL and prepare for the rest of the season, against tougher defenses.
Indianapolis may have trouble stopping the run, as they have some holes on the defensive line. However, their defense showed improvement at the end of the year, and I think the team will be fine on D.
While the team has a few holes on defense, their offense should play very well now and in the long run. They have dynamic receivers and tight ends like Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and LaVon Brazill coming in from the draft, and they have a strong, accurate quarterback who is very confident and ready to succeed in the NFL.
The offense will settle in early on. Even though the Jaguars have a good defense, the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Bears have below-average defenses, and the Colts play them early. Plus, they have a good running back in Vick Ballard.
Ballard is a good running back with a great work ethic, and he is patient and explodes through holes. He could play well as a secondary, short yardage back, as he fights for extra yardage but doesn't usually rack up huge yardage.
Sure, the team is young. Sure, more than half of the team is made up of new players. However, the team is full of talented, athletic, determined players who will do anything they can to help the Colts win.
And that's why the Colts are headed to the playoffs.