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Is the Indianapolis Colts' AFC South Dominance Gone for Good?

Kyle J. Rodriguez@@coltsauth_kyleCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2015

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Nick Marshall #41 of the Jacksonville Jaguars breaks up a pass intended for  Donte Moncrief #10 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Sunday didn't mark the first time the Indianapolis Colts lost in Jacksonville, nor did it mark the first time the team has been blown out in Jacksonville. 

It did, however, mark the end of the team's 16-game AFC South win streak, and it might mark the end of the Colts' 14-year divisional dominance.

The Colts are currently 6-7, just one game ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars after their embarrassing 51-16 loss on Sunday, and half-a-game behind the Houston Texans, who face the New England Patriots on Sunday night. 

For 13 seasons, plus three games this year, the Colts have dominated the AFC South. Sure, there has been the odd year here and there where the team didn't win the division, but overall, the AFC South title has run through Indianapolis. The Colts had a winning season in 12 of those 13 seasons, with 2011 being the only down year for the franchise. 

The rest of the division combined for 12 winning seasons combined, with Tennessee leading the way with five winning seasons. 

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Colts lost against divisional AFC South foe for first time in 17 games, dating back to week 15 of 2012 season vs Texans.

The Colts have won nine of 13 possible division titles during that time and made the playoffs in 12 of those seasons. Take a look at the four seasons they didn't win the division: 

  • 2002: First year with Tony Dungy as head coach, finish 10-6, one game out of first place
  • 2008: Peyton Manning hurt to start the year, finish 12-4, one game out of first place
  • 2011: Manning misses entire season, prompts franchise overhaul, finish 2-14
  • 2012: Andrew Luck's rookie year, Colts surprise with 11-5 finish, one game out of first place

Quite frankly, even when the Colts haven't won the division, they've been good teams and have been the team to beat in the division. Sure, 2011 and 2012 don't exactly fit that narrative, but looking at the context it's understood why. 

In the past, the Colts' slip-ups have been flukes, natural down years for a stellar franchise balanced by quick retribution inside the division. 

Heck, they've even had down individual games, like the 44-17 loss in Jacksonville in 2006, which was followed by a playoff run and Super Bowl victory. 

But Sunday didn't feel like that game, and 2015 doesn't feel like 2002 or 2008. 

For one, the 2006 team was a legitimately good team that had a bad game. The loss to the Jaguars was a fluke impacted by injuries and much-needed coaching adjustments and wasn't indicative of what the team was as a whole. 

2006 Colts vs. 2015 Colts (Prior to Jaguars loss)
YearRecordPoint DifferentialDVOADVOA Rank
200610-2+74+18.1%8th
20156-6-46-12.8%24th
Football Outsiders

That team had started 13-0 the year before, started 9-0 that season and would start 9-0 the following year. That season showed that Indianapolis was a great team that could overcome a bad loss. 

This team? This is a bad team that would have to completely change its identity to have that kind of run. The Colts have been bad all year, but they have been bailed out by a few fluky wins against bad teams. If not for two missed field goals by Jacksonville in their first matchup and a horrible pick-six by Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter against Atlanta, the Colts would have lost two more games with Matt Hasselback at quarterback and would be sitting at 4-9 right now. 

Zak Keefer @zkeefer

This is the 7th time under Chuck Pagano the #Colts have lost by 29 points or more. Something that bothers the heck out of Jim Irsay.

This isn't a good team that had a fluky bad loss. This is a mediocre team that had a foreseeable bad loss. Even if they bounce back, even if Andrew Luck returns, there are far more holes in this team (and less positives) than the 2006 team had. 

This was supposed to be the Colts' "breakout" year as a Super Bowl contender, the year that preceded another Manning-like, pseudo-dynasty that lasted 15 more years with Andrew Luck at quarterback. 

Safe to say the target was missed on that prediction. 

Nate Dunlevy @NateDunlevy

Coaches that lose to Jags don't keep their jobs.

That doesn't mean that the Colts can't still return to a winning tradition. But it will require a serious change. 

The rest of the division, despite their records, has potential. Blake Bortles has thrown 30 touchdowns this season and has a trio of young offensive weapons around him. Marcus Mariota has put together one of the most impressive rookie quarterback seasons in recent memory. The Texans have a young, dynamic defensive core to build around and have won this season despite zero quarterback help.

The division has had promise in the past, of course, but the Colts have remained a step ahead because of one thing: stability. Quarterback stability. Coaching stability. Front office stability. 

That seems to be disappearing. 

Collin McCollough @cmccollo

Gus Bradley doing IND a huge favor by putting up 50+. This is what it's going to take to get Irsay to make moves.

The team fired its offensive coordinator earlier this season, and neither head coach Chuck Pagano nor general manager Ryan Grigson is looking probable to return next season. Luck has been hurt, but even before the injuries he was completely unstable to start the year, and the coaching staff's inability to develop Luck has been its biggest downfall. 

Luck gives the Colts plenty of opportunity to remain the top dogs in the AFC South. He is, even after this season, the quarterback with the most potential in the division. And, regardless of their play this year, there are other good pieces on the roster. 

But the Colts have a lot of work to do to establish themselves as a formidable, consistent division threat once again. Teams aren't afraid of you when you lose 51-16 to the Jaguars. 

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