For the first time in 11 years, the Indianapolis Colts are coming off a losing season (2001: 6-10). For the first time in 11 years, the defense will be something other than Tony Dungy's Cover 2.
For the first time in 14 years, there will be no Peyton Manning. For the first time in 15 years, there is no Bill Polian. There is practically an entirely new coaching staff.
With all the change, Colts fans are left wondering what to expect in 2012. What would be a successful season? How do you even measure a successful season with this version of the Colts?
Andrew Luck Shows He Can Be A Big-Time Quarterback
Just as in 1998 when the future of the Colts was placed in the hands of a rookie, No. 1 pick Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck will have the future of the Colts placed in his hands this year. He must show that he can be the leader of this football team for the next 10 years.
He doesn't need to set the world on fire, but he does need to avoid rookie campaigns of former No. 1 picks like Tim Couch (2,447 yds, 15 TDs 17 INTs) and David Carr (2,592 yds. 9 TDs, 15 INTs). Think of the rookie years of Cam Newton (4,051 yds, 21 TDs 17 INTs), Sam Bradford (3,512 yds, 18 TDs, 15 INTs) and, yes, Peyton Manning (3,739 yds, 26 TDs, 28 INTs).
If Luck can throw for around 3,500 yards with close to 20 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions, as well as showing flashes of the brilliance we saw at Stanford with good command of the offense, it will be a successful year.
Defense Must Improve
The Colts will switch to the 3-4 defense this year. While no one should expect a year like the Houston Texans had last season, their first year running the 3-4, the defense should be expected to be better than last year's, which ranked 26th in the league.
New head coach Chuck Pagano presided over a dominating defense in Baltimore last season. The Colts defense doesn't have the talent of the Ravens, but they do still have former Pro Bowlers Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea.
At the end of the season, if the defense is ranked towards the middle of the league instead of towards the bottom, that will be a success.
Five to Six Wins
The Colts have very winnable home games against the Vikings, Jaguars, Titans, Browns and Dolphins. They also have the Texans at home the last game of the season where Houston may very well have their playoff position locked in. So, five to six wins is well within reach for this team.
Even if Andrew Luck shows he is the real deal and the defense improves, if the Colts don't win at least five or six games, then this season will be a disappointment. If these three things occur, it will be a successful season. Then we'll be back to talking about the playoffs as a measure of success in 2013.
Follow Brian on Twitter @coldy4goldy.
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