Tomorrow the NFL regular season will come to an end and the playoff picture will finally be set. While odds list the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers as leading Super Bowl contenders, I believe the Indianapolis Colts are a dark horse (my one and only Colts pun) to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Entering Week 17, the Colts sit 10-5 atop the AFC South, hands down the worst division in football. There’s no denying that the Colts have had huge help from their divisional opponents. When the Jaguars, Titans and Texans have a combined 12 wins on the season, you have it pretty darn easy.
However, it has not just been the poor play of the AFC South that has the Colts holding the fourth seed in the playoff picture.
The Colts have impressive wins against some of the NFL’s best, including the Seahawks, Broncos, 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. Two of those wins came at Candlestick Park and Arrowhead Stadium, neither being a very comfortable place to visit. Both these wins have shown the Colts are not afraid to play on the road.
While the Colts defense has been suspect all season, they have performed well in their biggest wins. In last week’s game at Kansas City, the Colts forced four turnovers against a Chiefs offense with just 18 giveaways on the season.
It all starts up front with Robert Mathis. The veteran has 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles on the season. If the Colts can get him going, he will be a game changer.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Colts are just as unpredictable as they are on defense. We saw them put up 34 points on Seattle and then just a mere nine a week later against the Chargers.
Quarterback Andrew Luck has had a very solid season, throwing for 22 touchdowns and rushing for four. He knows how to take care of the football, throwing just nine interceptions this season.
We have seen how the Colts have rallied around head coach Chuck Pagano. Something special has definitely developed there, and Pagano has made the Colts relevant once again.
The Colts do not have the high-octane offense of the Broncos or the dominant defense of the Seahawks. The best thing the Colts have is the experience of beating the elite teams of the NFL.
If the playoffs began today, the Colts would host the Chiefs in the wild card round. A Colts win would most likely earn them a rematch against Denver in the divisional round. Does Peyton Manning in cold weather ring a bell?
Recent teams like the 2010 Green Bay Packers and 2011 New York Giants made magical runs in the playoffs. Sure, the Colts would need some Luck along the way (yes, my one and only Andrew Luck pun), but they could definitely string a few wins together.
Luck knows the drill. He’s had the playoff neck beard going since August. Could you imagine what that thing would look like a month from now? The last thing Luck wants is to disappoint his faithful neck beard fanbase.
Bottom line is: Don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching the Colts playing ball in February.