The popular consensus in the media and around the league is that the Colts will struggle mightily and end up with a top-five selection when the 2013 NFL draft rolls around, but that may not be the case.
No, Peyton Manning is no longer the quarterback, and yes, the franchise quarterback is a rookie in Andrew Luck. That does not mean the Colts are going to have a horrible year, in fact it allows them to potentially shock teams on the way to victory.
While having a rookie quarterback start typically spells doom for an NFL team while he adapts to the league, that is not always the case—just ask the Cincinnati Bengals how Andy Dalton worked out last year.
There is a tiny difference between Luck and Dalton. Luck just happens to be the most heralded quarterback prospect to enter the league since Manning himself. He may struggle like most other rookie quarterbacks, but with his skill set it should not be a surprise to see a Cam Newton-esque season from him.
The offense surrounding Luck is not as horrible as advertised either. Donald Brown has shown to be a solid option at running back if the passing game is effective enough. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is back, and even at his age still has the ability to make big plays and provide consistency. Rookie T.Y. Hilton is a burner who can stretch the field and open things up for those around him.
At tight end Luck has two rookies on Colby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, two ridiculously athletic tight ends who can create mismatches on the field and be solid safety-nets for their fellow rookie quarterback.
The offensive line is a bit of a work in progress, but that is fine considering Luck is as talented throwing on the run as most quarterbacks in the league and has the ability to make plays with his feet if a play breaks down.
The defense is in a state of flux as a 3-4 is installed, but the benefits of the move could be huge. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are still there and get to wreak havoc from a standing start point at linebacker. Pat Angerer is developing into a solid player in the middle.
The jury is still out on the defensive line. Where the concern really lies could be in the secondary. Outside of free safety Antoine Bethea, there are not many highly talented players that can change the course of a game.
The Colts organization has also made a variety of good moves this offseason letting go of some beloved veterans who simply are not major contributors anymore. The name recognition may be gone, but the production will likely increase as will the quality of the product on the field.
Success for the Colts in 2012 may not be a playoff berth, but crazier things have happened. A more likely scenario is the Colts surprise the league on the way to a six- to eight-win season.
Said success largely hinges on Luck's ability to adapt to the pro game quickly, but he is one of the safest bets to enter the league in quite some time. His dynamic play-making ability will make those around him even better, and the suddenly youthful roster will grow together as the 2012 season progresses.
It is a popular opinion to put the Colts down as one of 2012's worst NFL teams, but that is a mistake. The Colts could be much, much better than advertised in 2012.