Aug 19, 2012; Pittsburgh , PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) is congratulated by running back Vick Ballard (33) after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of the game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 Indianapolis Colts: perennial winners or perennial losers?

Many predictions have been made about how good the Colts will be in 2012. Numerous analysts have come out and said that they believe the Colts will be a bad football team this season, possibly even worse than in 2011. The main question that arises from that is: The Colts went 2-14 in 2011 and posted the worst record in the NFL, how can the Colts be worse than that? Most believe that Indianapolis would have challenged Houston for the AFC south title crown had it not been for Peyton Manning’s season ending injury, yet although this more than likely was true, the Colts had begun to show signs of decline prior to the 2011 season.

2010 was not a particularly successful season despite winning the AFC south the Colts struggled mightily for consistency, and finished with a meagre 10-6 season, off the back of a trip to the Superbowl. It might be harsh to say that the 2010 season wasn’t successful for the Colts; the team faced huge adversity, with many players on IR, yet still though the eventual Superbowl champs Green Bay, had the most players on IR come the end of the season. The Colts bowed out to the Jets at home 17-16 in the wildcard round.

Coming back to the 2011 season, expectations were high and when Indianapolis fell from the top of the NFL to the bottom without their star quarterback, many were quick to point the finger at long time GM Bill Polian, and if I’m honest, I believe it was completely justified. The Colts roster had become somewhat stagnant, with a number of failed draft choices and overpaid veterans the Colts roster was that of a 2-14 team in 2011; albeit without Peyton Manning. With him I still believe the Colts were a playoff team, quarterbacks like Peyton Manning don’t come around all too often… well they do for the Indianapolis Colts.

2012 signals a new era for the Colts and with Andrew Luck at the helm the Colts look set to surprise many. To answer the question, whether or not the 2012 Colts will be worse than the 2011 Colts, is a tough one. An immediate difference maker of course is the quarterback position, for this we are taking Peyton Manning out the equation, I’m not going to make any Manning/Luck comparisons here. The 2011 Colts were led by Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky at quarterback. Yes this one goes to Luck, Stanton and Harnish, 7-0, 2012 Colts.

This seasons Colts offensive line appears to be stronger, with Winston Justice at right tackle, and also with a further experienced and healthy Anthony Castonzo, the tackle positions certainly emerge stronger. Despite the losses of veterans Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem (not much of a loss in my opinion, or was it just me that saw Diem false start all of the time!) the 2012 Colts offensive line figures to be superior to the 2011 one, however the Guard spots do look to still be up for grabs, and also occupied by mediocre players at best. Maybe we will call this one evens, specially based on the starting O-line’s performance in the Rams game. Still 7-0, 2012 Colts.

Moving on to the backs and receivers, I would say the 2012 Colts have a group of emerging young receivers along with a strong veteran presence in Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery. I would include Austin Collie in that too, yet off the back of another concussion it is hard not to fear for his career, however he is a very talented player and if he stays healthy will explode for the Colts in 2012 with Andrew Luck at the helm, just like he did in 2010 with Peyton Manning, prior to the season-ending concussions. In comparison to 2011, I’m giving the receivers of 2012 the nod. Young stars of camp such as Lavon Brazill and T.Y. Hilton, along with high pick tight ends in Fleener and Allen, give this group the edge over last season’s squad with declining players such as Dallas Clark. The Colts may have lost speedy receiver Pierre Garcon, but to me the Colts have enough young talent to replace him. 14-0, 2012 Colts.

When looking at the running backs I would argue that the group has not changed significantly, with Joseph Addai being the only notable name out, and rookie Vick Ballard the only one in. I’d probably edge towards the 2012 Colts here, nevertheless we will call this one evens.

The defense has seen an extensive makeover from 2012. With a change in the Colts base scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4, it’s difficult to compare the two units of personnel. Despite this, I’m splitting the defense into the front seven and DB’s. First and foremost the Colts front seven last season, struggled tremendously at stopping the run; a feature of the Polian Colts for many years. My hunch is that with bigger bodies up front the Colts will be better at stopping the run in 2012 than in previous years. The biggest problem the Colts front seven in 2012 faces is the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker for star defensive players Mathis and Freeney. Both have been reported to have made the switch relatively well, still both are set to struggle in pass coverage but both pose a large threat in the pass rush department, and former first round pick Jerry Hughes appears to be an important contributor for the Colts defense in 2012, of which he has struggled to do so in his Colts career thus far. Taking all this into account I expect the 2012 Colts front seven to be more successful than in 2011, this may be because I favour the 3-4 alignment, mainly as it allows you to bring a plethora of different blitzes and coverage’s of which a 4-3 just doesn’t present in my opinion. So I’m not going to base this decision on the personnel as such, but the scheme in place of which I feel the Colts are adequately poised to succeed with in 2012. Clearly I choose the 2012 Colts over the 2011 Colts. 21-0, 2012 Colts.

Finally looking at the Colts defensive backs of the past season, and the coming season, I feel we can compare the talent of the past two seasons, and its one area, along with the offensive line, that I have the most concerns over in 2012, more in terms of depth as I feel the Colts do possess three great starters in Powers, Bethea and Zbikowski. Not much has changed from 2011 to 2012 at defensive back the same problems are still evident, the Colts do not have an adequate starting corner opposite Jerraud Powers, I’m yet to believe Justin King is the answer, although he still has time to prove himself. I think most of the defensive backs are pretty even with last year’s group, if not mildly improved with the acquisitions of Josh Gordy and Cassius Vaughn through trades, essentially it comes down to who I believe is a better starter out of Bullitt (who played minimally in 2011) and Zbikowski. For me, I think Zbikowski brings more fire and explosiveness to the team than Bullitt, leading to me choosing the 2012 DB’s over the 2011 ones, narrowly mind. Maybe just a field goal this time. 24-0, 2012 Colts.

I really don’t see the 2012 Colts being worse than the 2011 Colts. To me the 2012 Colts are a rejuvenated bunch, full of enthusiasm and a willingness to prove their doubters wrong. Many players from the old regime look fired up to prove they can play. The 2012 Colts are not going to blow people away with their play, but they are certainly going to turn a lot of heads, courtesy of Andrew Luck, and head coach Chuck Pagano. Ryan Grigson, I think has done a great job this offseason, and although he is likely to be judged on wins, he mustn’t be. Regardless however, this Colts ballclub is tonnes better than last season, yes the Colts lost a considerable number of key veterans of the past, but the time was right and the Colts are only on the way up from here. It might be premature to assume the Colts can make the playoffs, yet I feel there is an air of confidence around the team, and I for one think they are in contention for a wildcard spot. For the 2011 Colts It may have been a disastrous 2-14, but for the 2012 Colts, I figure for it to be more in the region of 9-7. So let’s say this season the Colts are poised to be winners more than losers, maybe the perennial winners tag is one for the future.

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Tags: Andrew Luck Anthony Castonzo Antoine Bethea Austin Collie Bill-polian Cassius Vaughn Chandler Harnish Chuck Pagano Coby Fleener Curtis Painter Dan Orlovsky Donnie Avery Drew Stanton Dwayne Allen Dwight-freeney Indianapolis Colts Jeff Saturday Jerry Hughes Josh Gordy Justin King Kerry Collins Lavon Brazill Melvin Bullitt Peyton-manning Pierre Garcon Reggie-wayne Robert Mathis Ryan Grigson T Y Hilton Tom Zbikowski Vick Ballard Winston Justice

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