If you have watched the Indianapolis Colts during the Chuck Pagano era then you should know that only one thing is certain; absolutely nothing is certain.
The Pagano led Colts have been wildly inconsistent game in and game out ever since Pagano took over in 2012. The Colts went from three straight post-season appearances and an AFC championship game in 2014 to two consecutive 8-8 seasons without a playoff appearance. New general manager Chris Ballard has the Colts headed in the right direction, but has he done enough for the Colts to win the AFC South in just his first year with the team?
As it stands right now the AFC South doesn’t have a clear favorite to run away with the division. Some expect the Houston Texans to repeat as division champs, although most will agree the division is still up for grabs. The Texans are obviously known for their strong defense led by J.J. Watt, but the offense has some question marks. Houston drafted Deshaun Watson in the first round, but Tom Savage has been named the starter as of now. Savage only has two career starts, and will likely have to rely on the defense to win games. The Texans will have a good chance to repeat next season, but the rest of the AFC South is right behind them.
The Tennessee Titans had the same record as the Texans last year at 9-7 but ultimately lost the tiebreaker. Tennessee had a strong off-season though and should be a very competitive team within the division next season behind offensive weapons Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray. They haven’t won the AFC South since 2008, but they will have a legitimate chance to end that drought next season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars may be the biggest long shot to win the division, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t have a chance next season. The Jaguars also had a solid off-season and are expected to take a step forward in 2017. The Jaguars will be looking to win their first division championship ever but will need much-improved play from quarterback Blake Bortles.
Then you have the Colts. A team surrounded by their fair share of question marks as well. The defense was one of the league’s worst in 2016, but the team enjoyed a nice defensive overhaul this off-season. The Colts could field as many as six new starters on defense, and newly acquired defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins is already calling it one of the best defenses in the AFC. That might be setting expectations a little too high though. Ever since the “defensive minded” Pagano took over as head coach the Colts have ranked 26th, 20th, 11th, 26th, and 30th in yards allowed.
The offense hasn’t been the most reliable either. A poor run game, a plethora of injuries, and a bad offensive line are just a few reasons why the offense is often left stagnant and unable to do very much. However, with Andrew Luck behind center, the Colts offense can also look like one of the league’s best at times. If the Colts want to compete for the AFC South championship the offense will need to be more consistent next season.
The Colts offseason, especially first round pick Malik Hooker, has many fans excited and anxious for the upcoming the season. The team is finally taking steps in the right direction thanks to new management, but will the Colts win the division in 2017 and make the playoffs? No.
My prediction is the Colts finish the season 9-7 and one game back in the division similar to last year. The team is much better than they were last year, but they just aren’t quite there yet. It will be a season full of ups and downs, but it will be exciting to see some new faces on the field. Colts fans will have something to cheer about at the end of the season though as another disappointing season will likely lead to the firing of Chuck Pagano.
If the Colts are somehow able to win the division, it will be thanks to Andrew Luck. It is a quarterback dominant league and Andrew Luck is right up there with the best of them. He can take over games at times, and if the Colts want to reclaim the division title they have been without for the past two seasons, then Andrew Luck is going to have to be at the very top of his game.
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