The Indianapolis Colts wasted another year of brilliance from quarterback Andrew Luck, failing to reach the playoffs for the second season on the spin.
The Colts endured a miserable campaign in 2015 as Luck suffered a number of injuries to leave the club short of the playoffs with an 8-8 term.
Although their quarterback remained healthy in the 2016 season, he was not able to guide his team to the playoffs due to the lack of talent around him on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
As a result of their failure, general manager Ryan Grigson – of deflategate fame – was fired from his position and replaced by Chris Ballard from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Head coach Chuck Pagano is on last chance saloon and will need to have a strong campaign in 2017 to remain in his position for the future.
We’ll now take a look back at the last campaign to see what went wrong for the Colts and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the post-season.
In their opener against the Detroit Lions, the Colts quickly fell behind to Jim Caldwell’s men. Only for Luck to lead them back to parity in the second half, leaving the match evenly poised at 28-28.
The visitors took the game away from Pagano’s side late in the fourth quarter, securing a narrow victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Next on the schedule was a tough test at the home of the defending Super Bowl champions – the Denver Broncos. The Colts had recorded a fine win in the divisional round of the 2014 playoffs over the Broncos, but couldn’t muster a similar display, losing 34-20 to Gary Kubiak’s side.
Indianapolis secured their first win of the term by capitalising on the San Diego Chargers’ propensity to collapse late in matches, with TY Hilton scoring a late touchdown to get them off the mark.
However, their defensive issues returned in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley, which would turn out to be a damaging defeat, although the Colts were able to bounce back the following week, with Luck leading another comeback to overcome the Chicago Bears on the road.
Pagano’s men had the opportunity to get back to .500 in the season and were well on their way against the Houston Texans, holding a 23-9 lead in the fourth quarter. However, they allowed two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game before the visitors won the game in overtime.
Their inconsistent form prevented a surge for a playoff place, defeating the Tennessee Titans in comfortable fashion, but then they were outplayed from start to finish by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The perplexing nature of their season continued as the Colts faced the Green Bay Packers on the road, and managed to prevail over Aaron Rodgers and company.
The Colts came out of their bye week and took control of the AFC South by defeating the Titans, with Adam Vinatieri sending a field goal through the posts in the fourth quarter.
However, their win came at a cost as Andrew Luck suffered a concussion and was forced into protocol ahead of their clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 27-year-old was deemed unfit to play Mike Tomlin’s men, leaving Scott Tolzien to lead the Colts at quarterback.
Unfortunately for Pagano’s men Tolzien struggled immensely and failed to get out of his own way with a number of errors, allowing the Steelers to claim a comfortable win on the road.
Luck returned against the New York Jets and was outstanding as he carved their secondary apart with a number of throws to tight end Dwayne Allen. Allen caught three touchdowns, while Donte Moncrief snagged another as the quarterback enjoyed one of the best displays of his career in a thumping 41-10 win at MetLife Stadium.
However, the fatal blow in their playoff bid came at NRG Stadium as the Texans secured their second victory of the term over the Colts. Luck threw a fourth-quarter touchdown to Hilton to bring his side into the contest, but a late Nick Novak field goal iced the game.
Indianapolis put in another outstanding performance against an NFC North outfit, blowing the Minnesota Vikings out on the road, with Luck and running back Frank Gore enjoying fine outings.
The Oakland Raiders ensured there was no drama late in the season as they secured a vital win in their playoff surge over the Colts at the Coliseum, although Pagano’s men ended the campaign on a high note edging out the Jaguars on home soil to finish 8-8.
The ambitious side of the Colts should be looking to add a defensive monster in the middle of their defense. Dont’a Hightower would be a huge signing for Pagano’s men, but the New England Patriots are unlikely to allow their star man to test free agency. However, should he become available on the market the club at least have to make him an offer, and they have the cap space to so.
Grigson tried and failed to add sufficient offensive line help for Luck, although last year’s first-round draft pick Ryan Kelly performed well at center in 2016. TJ Lang could be an interesting option as he could be allowed to leave the Packers, and would add quality and a veteran presence in the line.
The Colts will have a void in their pass-rush department with Robert Mathis retiring, while Trent Cole will likely not return. The draft could be the best place to address this need with a number of players available at the number 14 spot, including Tim Williams out of Alabama. Nick Perry, Datone Jones and John Simon could also be options should they go through the free-agent route.
Jamaal Charles could be available should the Chiefs choose to let him leave the club due to his high-salary cap number. Given Ballard’s history with the AFC West outfit and the Colts need for a younger back than Gore – it might make sense for the 29-year-old to join Luck in the backfield.
The Colts have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and that automatically puts them in position to compete for the Super Bowl in the 2017 season.
The change at general manager might see an influx of new talent at Lucas Oil Stadium and enough to challenge the Patriots, Broncos and Steelers at the top of the conference.
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Indianapolis Colts To Win AFC Conference
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- Chuck Pagano
- Indianapolis Colts