What Do the Indianapolis Colts Have to Do to Become the Next Baltimore Ravens?
USA TODAY Sports
The confetti hasn't stopped falling from the Baltimore Ravens' victory in the Super Bowl, but 31 other teams are already gunning for them.
The Indianapolis Colts know better than most what they have to do to get to the level of play the Ravens reached. After all, Baltimore's super run began with a victory over the Colts. Indianapolis was competitive with the Ravens for a half before Baltimore pulled away.
So what will it take for the Colts to get to the Ravens' level?
Given the fact that Baltimore was hardly a great team, its victory gives hope to everyone in the NFL. The playoffs have become so random that even a mediocre squad can win it all if it just gets hot at the right time.
The following qualities led the Ravens to the title, and offer a road map for the Colts.
As far as Indy goes, this is check and check. The Ravens fielded their worst team in the last five years and won the Super Bowl. The reason is that by making the playoffs every single year, they gave themselves a chance for lightning to strike.
The Colts may have had major franchise upheaval last year, but there's every indication that stability is the name of the game in Indianapolis. Jim Irsay is patient and doesn't make knee-jerk hirings and firings.
Much like the Ravens, if Indy keeps making the playoffs, eventually they'll get the breaks and win it all.
The Colts and Ravens were similar in terms of offensive punch in 2012. Indy was much better on a yards per drive basis, but the Ravens edged them in points per drive. That was in part because they had better starting field position.
Of course, failing to put up points after long drives hurt the Colts all season. That was certainly the case in their playoff loss to Baltimore. Indianapolis moved the ball effectively all day, but numerous drives into Ravens territory failed to result in tallies on the board.
The one area the Ravens had a huge advantage over Indianapolis was in the run game. Baltimore averaged 4.3 yards a carry. That's more than a half-yard better than Indianapolis.
Both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are better backs than anyone the Colts have on the roster.
Flacco and Luck had similar sack rates, but Luck did throw eight more interceptions than Flacco. Again, much of that goes back to the lack of a viable running game. Luck had to carry more of a burden of the offense than Flacco did.
Overall, the Colts aren't too far off the Ravens in terms of offense. It's the other units that leave them lagging behind.
If the Colts don't have the worst defense in the NFL, they have one of the two or three worst.
Indianapolis wasn't good at anything defensively in 2012. It combined one of the league's worst secondaries with the worst run defense in the league.
Outside of Antoine Bethea, no one starting in the defensive backfield would start for a top-20 defense. Vontae Davis was the team's best corner, but only because the other corners were abjectly terrible.
If there's a bright side, the Ravens defense wasn't very good either. It was especially bad against the run. It gave up plenty of points in the postseason, but took home the trophy anyway.
Indianapolis should be able to significantly improve on defense, if only because it would not be possible for it to decline.
The Ravens ranked 19th in DVOA on defense, and that's a reasonable target for the Colts. What the Ravens did much better than Indy was force turnovers.
The Colts ranked 30th in the NFL with just 15 forced turnovers. Baltimore had 10 additional takeaways, good for 14th.
The Ravens were a mediocre defensive team, but mediocre is better than horrible.
The bar hasn't been set high for Indianapolis.
Long one of the worst units in the league, the Colts vaulted to 12th in total special teams DVOA. They have a ways to go to catch the Ravens, however, who had the best unit in the league.
The Ravens did everything better than Indy, except return punts.
Obviously, special teams played a major role in the Ravens' title run as Jacoby Jones' touchdown return helped give Baltimore just enough points to win.
Indianapolis has to get better play from Adam Vinatieri, who missed seven field goals in 2012. He's coming near the end of his career and needs a bounce-back season if he wants to be around past the 2013 season.
Special teams is often a function of overall roster depth, so if the Colts can improve the roster in general, they should see an uptick in their overall special teams play.
The 2012 Ravens have set a low bar for the rest of the NFL to follow. Any team can hope to post 10 wins and get hot and lucky and win it all.
The Colts don't have far to go to be a better team than Baltimore, but then again, no one else in the league does either.
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