Colts fans be wary, you are by no means guaranteed a playoff spot this season. However, there is not an immediate need to panic.
The Colts bring an explosive passing offense when healthy, and a running game that has the potential to get better.
Led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts will look to prove critics wrong this season.
Let's see why the Indianapolis Colts should still be favored.
Health is one of the biggest questions with this Indianapolis Colts offense.
Indianapolis suffered a major loss early in the 2010 season when Dallas Clark went down to injury. While he has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL over the past years, he is also crucial to the Colts' success.
Another important receiving option went down in December in Austin Collie. After a brutal hit by Darryl Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Collie was placed on the IR due to his second concussion.
Collie is a valuable receiver, who at times can be the second or third option for the Colts. He can line up from the slot and be effective with short drop-passes from Manning. He should bounce back well from the concussion and continue improving.
Anthony Gonzalez is really the only questionable receiver when it comes to health.
Gonzalez was named a starter at the beginning of 2010, but eventually ended up on the dreaded IR after playing just two separated games. While showing a lot of potential in his first two seasons in the NFL, Gonzalez has matched that with two injury-filled campaigns.
Consider anything you get from him a bonus.
However, a combination of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon should be dangerous.
Does anyone remember Bob Sanders' two Pro Bowl years in Indianapolis?
If so, you most likely also remember the four years Sanders didn't finish due to injury.
Don't get me wrong, injuries happen. The only problem is when it occurs too much it gets annoying for everyone.
Sanders was a hard-hitting safety who was a legitimate threat in the passing game. However, injuries will most likely have taken a serious toll out of the 30-year-old.
Not re-signing Sanders allows the Colts to either develop one of their younger safeties or sign a mid-tier replacement.
Do you know that team that everyone considers a sleeper every year? Well, this is pretty much the Houston Texans over the past few years.
"Matt Schaub is a dangerous quarterback."
"Andre Johnson is the best receiver in football."
"The Texans defense is showing improvements."
"Arian Foster is a top three running back in the NFL."
We've heard plenty of reasons why we should believe in these Texans, but year after year they still fall short.
No matter how great the offense has the potential to be, the defense still holds them down.
They put together the NFL's worst passing defense in 2010, giving up 268 yards a game. In 2011, the Texans will face a tough schedule against some offensively talented teams, so don't look for them to improve that number this year.
Don't get me wrong, Indianapolis still has plenty of work to do on their defensive attack.
However, they gave up 24 points a game compared to Houston's 27. While that doesn't seem like a huge margin, think about it this way: that's a difference of 48 points throughout a 16-game season.
Enjoy your exciting offense Houston, but it's your sub-par defense that will have you watching the playoffs from home once again.
For the first time in NFL history, the city of Indianapolis will hold the Super Bowl.
That being said, could it be possible that the Colts could defend their home field on the biggest stage of all?
I'm not saying they will go THAT far, but it does add a little motivation for Manning and the Colts.
Speaking of Manning...
Throughout Peyton Manning's 13-year career, he has never missed a regular season game due to injury. His toughness and determination should never be questioned, however, it's understandable for fans to be concerned.
Rest easy though fans, while Manning could miss a few games, he should come back in Pro Bowl form.
If the Indianapolis Colts want to make a playoff run, Manning's performance will dictate if that happens or not. The good thing about that, is Manning is one of the NFL greats.
After becoming the richest quarterback in the NFL this offseason, Manning should come out and prove his worth of such a big contract at an older age.
No question his prime years are over, but Manning has had five consecutive years of over 4,000 yards. Maybe even more impressive than that is the fact that he has never thrown for less than 25 touchdowns.
Manning's turnovers have went up over the past few years, but so have his passing attempts. In fact, last year Manning threw a league-leading 679 passes while leading the Colts to the playoffs.
Don't forget, Manning is still one of the three best quarterbacks in the NFL. While entering the season at age 35, that shouldn't be an immediate factor in a career low year.
No question about it, Manning has some Pro Bowl-caliber years left in him. The Colts should not panic anytime soon.
Sure, the Colts have some holes. Especially the defense.
However, they still have one of the most productive duos of defensive ends in the NFL. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis should combine for around 20 sacks to give the defense a little extra push.
The secondary is a concern, but they are still young. This year they will look to get better after a bad season in 2010.
As for the running game, Joseph Addai is a threat for 1,000 yards if he plays a full season. He could watch his production go down if Donald Brown shows significant improvements this year.
Also, watch out for Mike Hart. He's not the biggest back in the league, but he's a solid No. 2 option who doesn't put the ball on the ground.
The Texans will provide a fight for the AFC South, but Indianapolis should have enough to secure a playoff spot.
Jacksonville will not be a .500 team in 2011. While Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the better running backs in the NFL, he isn't enough to propel the Jaguars to playoff contention. The Jags still have a questionable defense and could have a quarterback battle midway through the season.
Same scenario for the Titans—bad defense, great running back and the potential for a quarterback battle. Plus, they spent most of their offseason trading Vince Young and dealing with a Chris Johnson holdout.
Will the Colts make the Super Bowl? I won't go that far.
But I have complete confidence in saying they will stride into playoff football.
Like my article? Disagree? Leave a comment and let's discuss. Thanks for reading!