This wasn't supposed to be a playoff team.
The Indianapolis Colts were supposed to be rebuilding over the past two years. With Peyton Manning injured in 2011, the team went 2-14 without its star quarterback, making the Colts the worst team in the NFL. Manning's absence definitely hurt, but there were so many more holes.
That all changed after the team brought in Andrew Luck.
With an inspired team, the Colts rallied around Chuck Pagano in 2012 to go 11-5 and make the playoffs, despite being knocked out in the Wild Card Round against the Baltimore Ravens. But we all saw something special in the starting quarterback.
The 2013 campaign was completely different. Instead of rallying around their head coach, the Colts had to find momentum in other ways, even with star players going down. Players like Dwayne Allen, Donald Thomas, Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw and especially Reggie Wayne killed the the Colts' momentum, but somehow they kept on fighting.
Luck was the reason for that. When they were in a hole, Luck would usually find a way to pull them out of it. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Luck led four fourth-quarter comebacks in 2013 and already has 11 game-winning drives during his career, including the playoffs.
The loss to the New England Patriots did expose a lot of weaknesses. The defense couldn't stop the run, the offensive line couldn't protect Luck, the offense couldn't stay consistent and Luck himself made mistakes.
Despite all of that, the Colts' future is still bright as long as Luck is playing under center.
Although he made some questionable throws throughout the year, the improvement was still there. As you can see below, Luck's numbers in almost every category improved in his sophomore season.
|Andrew Luck Improvement|
His yards per attempt went down and his touchdowns didn't go up, which was mostly due to the new offensive scheme under Pep Hamilton. But what's more important is that Luck became a more accurate and reliable passer, cutting his interceptions in half during the regular season.
The 2013 season has to be considered a success. The Colts won the AFC South title along with a playoff game for the first time in the Luck era. Their young quarterback showed a lot of improvement and was able to lead the team to some memorable victories.
Even though Luck could lead this team, the Colts are still going to have to have a busy offseason. There are a ton of players who will be free agents, including Vontae Davis, Donald Brown, Antoine Bethea, Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee. Along with that, the Colts won't have a first-round pick in the NFL draft due to their trade with the Cleveland Browns for Trent Richardson.
But this team is trending in the right direction. They've gone to the playoffs for two straight years after being the worst team in the league, and they have a special player in Luck.
As long as the front office and coaching staff can keep building around Luck and the team can stay relatively healthy, this could be a dangerous team for a long time in the AFC.