Why the Indianapolis Colts Will Be a Super Bowl Contender in 2014

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Why the Indianapolis Colts Will Be a Super Bowl Contender in 2014
USA Today

It seems like everyone has forgotten about the Indianapolis Colts. Have people forgotten the Colts have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons under head coach Chuck Pagano?

If you listen to analysts on TV or radio or read 2014 predictions like the ones at CBS Sports, the Super Bowl XLIX contenders are all the usual suspects.

In the AFC, it is either the Denver Broncos or the New England Patriots. In the NFC, most analysts have one of the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers or the New Orleans Saints.

While all those teams are contenders to play in the Super Bowl in February, the Colts should be mentioned among those five teams. Last season, Indianapolis statistically had one of the best offenses in the NFL, and it has made improvements to its defense.

The Colts have all the key ingredients to reach the Super Bowl, and it all starts with their quarterback Andrew Luck.

Andrew Luck's Stats In His First Two Seasons
Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Comp. %
2012 4,374 23 18 54.1
2013 3,822 23 9 60.2

ESPN

All Luck has done during his first two seasons is arguably become one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. He has thrown 23 touchdowns in both of his seasons in the league, but last year he cut down on the number of turnovers and raised his completion percentage.

As a rookie in 2012, Luck threw 18 interceptions and had a 54.1 completion percentage. In 2013, Luck threw only nine interceptions and finished with a percentage of 60.2. Luck also raised his quarterback rating from 76.5 to 87.0.

The Colts offense doesn’t just have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but they also have a trio of receivers led by future Hall of Famer Reggie Wayne. The six-time Pro Bowler is back for his 14th season after he tore his ACL in the seventh game of 2013.

Indianapolis will also have T.Y. Hilton and new Colt Hakeem Nicks to complement Wayne. In Wayne’s absence, Hilton caught 82 balls for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns last season. In 2013 for the New York Giants, Nicks had 56 catches for 896 yards.

Not only do the Colts have a solid receiving core, but they also have two good young tight ends in Cody Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Fleener had 52 receptions for 608 yards and four touchdowns last season. Allen caught 45 balls in 2012 returns after playing in only one game in 2013 after a hip injury.

Writers like Michael Marot of the Associated Press have questioned the Colts' running game, but Dan Harron has had a good preseason.

The former Ohio State Buckeye has rushed for 104 yards on 18 carries, including a 43-yard run against the Saints Saturday night. If starter Trent Richardson continues to struggle, expect Harron to get more carries as the season goes along.

There are a lot of questions about the Colts defense, but the team has made some acquisitions to improve their 30th ranked defense from a season ago.

Coming over from the Ravens is defensive end Arthur Jones. The Colts signed Jones to a five-year, $33 million contract after having a combined 100 tackles and 8.5 sacks the last two seasons. Jones' presence and play should improve the Colts' rush defense, which finished 27th last season.

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson signed with the Colts last offseason after playing eight seasons for the Cleveland Browns. He will play on the inside as Robert Mathis, who led the NFL in sacks with 19.5 in 2013, will patrol the outside.

The biggest question for the Colts is in the secondary, as the team finished 31st in passing yards allowed.

ESPN.com reporter Mike Wells believes free safety LaRon Landry needs to be the leader of the defense. Before Landry had an ankle injury, which cost him four games last season, he was among the league leaders in tackles. If Landry remains healthy throughout the season, the Colts secondary should be better in his second year in the defense.

Despite starting the season off against Denver and the Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks, the Colts have a favorable schedule. After Week 2, the Colts play only two playoff teams from a year ago (the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots).

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With their comparatively soft schedule, it is not out of the question to think the Colts could finish the year with the best record in the AFC.  

With their offense and improvements on defense, the Colts should be considered a serious Super Bowl contender.

They would more than likely have to defeat either the Broncos or the Patriots in the AFC playoffs to reach the Super Bowl, but it is a realistic possibility. The Broncos and the Patriots are probably the consensus favorites in the AFC, but history has shown us that means absolutely nothing. 

 

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