Colts are worth talking about as Super Bowl contenderBy Matt Verderame
The Indianapolis Colts made a tremendous run to finish last season. After starting 1-5, the Colts rallied to end the regular season at 10-6, earning a playoff berth on the final Sunday of the year. After smoking the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round, the Colts ultimately fell to the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs the following weekend.
Now, Indianapolis faces the task of not only repeating that success, but building upon it.
The Colts entered the offseason with the mot cap space of any team. General manager Chris Ballard was expected by many to go wild with the cash, spending lavishly to bring in help on both sides of the ball. Then free agency happened, and Ballard stood pat. The Colts just missed out on signing edge rusher Preston Smith, and were never really in on running back Le’Veon Bell despite expected interest.
In the end, Indianapolis walked away with wide receiver Devin Funchess on a one-year deal. Weeks later, the Chiefs released outside linebacker Justin Houston and Ballard, a former Kansas City hand, pounced on him to help the pass rush.
With the offseason largely in the rearview mirror, the Colts didn’t do quite as much as was expected. It’s no knock on Ballard, who might have looked at his young roster and felt good about moving forward as is. In the draft, Indianapolis added another pair of potentially high-impact players in cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and wide receiver Parris Campbell. Maybe both can blossom into immediate help.
Looking at the AFC South, it’s hard to make a case that the Colts aren’t the favorites. People in Houston will certainly scream about that assertion, but the Texans have done little to fix a team that is starting to show real issues. The offensive line is a sieve, and the only reinforcements came in rookie Tytus Howard and Max Scharping. Houston also has severe problems in the secondary, especially at cornerback. Johnathan Joseph is aging rapidly, Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson are gone and the addition of Bradley Roby isn’t keeping offensive coordinators awake at night.
All told, the Colts should be hosting at least one playoff game come January. With Andrew Luck at the helm and Frank Reich roaming the sidelines, Indianapolis could be good enough to take on the New England Patriots or Kansas City and finish the job this time around. A lot will depend on how quickly the draft class matures, whether Justin Houston can stay healthy and if a few other youngsters such as Marlon Mack and Malik Hooker take the next step.
Still, Indianapolis has to be considered the class of teams that, should things break right, be a real force in the Super Bowl conversation.