That was the record for the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. A record so bad that Colts fans have not been accustomed to since 1998′s 3-13 which was Peyton Manning’s rookie season. This record was the culmination of a multitude of factors.
- Terrible drafting by then GM Bill Polian since their Super Bowl championship in 2006. First round busts such as Anthony Gonzalez and Jerry Hughes did nothing to add to the Colts roster.
- The Colts were usually silent during the off-season free agency period. They would avoid free agency like the plague and settle with the team they already established.
- Injuries plagued the team for years. Bob Sanders had just been released after being unable to stay healthy since his 2007 defensive player of the year season. Players such as Melvin Bullett, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Joseph Addai, and Jerraud Powers who have had consistent injuries over the past few years would wind up being hurt throughout the 2011 season.
- However, no injury and no reason for the Colts season was ever as big as Peyton Manning. His loss and the lack of the Colts preparing for such a situation put the team and franchise in disarray. They would lose their first 14 games before salvaging two of their last three games. They would lock up the #1 pick in the 2012 draft and with highly touted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck being hailed as the best draft prospect since John Elway. Jim Irsay had to make a franchise changing decision…
Jim Irsay would release Peyton Manning and draft Andrew Luck. Peyton Manning, the franchise’s greatest player of all time would become a free agent for the first time in his illustrious career. The Colts would have a dramatic change of scenary in the off-season. Nearly all of the coaching staff was fired as were the Polians. Starting fresh, Irsay hired Ryan Grigson to be the Colts GM, Bruce Arians the offensive coordinator, and Chuck Pagano the head coach. The Colts would also release franchise fan favorites such as Gary Brackett, Dallas Clark, and Joseph Addai. The Colts would have only five players left that were in the Super Bowl winning squad in 2006.
That was the record of the new look Indianapolis Colts led by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and coach Chuck Pagano. Many analysts and columnists throughout the media wrote off the Colts from contending in 2012 with some saying they’d need a few more years to get back on track and contend. In the power rankings throughout the media, they would have the Colts slotted in the bottom three in the NFL.
The Colts would start 1-2, losing to the superior Chicago Bears and a heartbreaker to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. Chuck Pagano, the Colts new coach, would be diagnosed with leukemia and would take a leave of absence to have chemotherapy. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would man the helm for the Colts in place of Pagano. The Colts would rally in the second half against the Packers and beat them in what was possibly the biggest upset of the season.
Throughout the season, the Colts would adopt the #CHUCKSTRONG mantra and play for Chuck, who was battling Leukemia. Andrew Luck would orchestrate seven fourth quarter comebacks including game ending TD pass at Detroit. They would fall a game short of winning the division but made the playoffs at 11-5. On week 17, they had nothing to play for as they locked up the 5th seed but Chuck Pagano was back to coach and led the Colts to an emphatic win against division rival Houston thus ending their chances at home field advantage. The Colts would lose in the playoffs to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore. This season was something to build off of and quickly erased the memory of the disastrous 2011 season.
That was the record of the 1999 Colts, the second year of Peyton Manning in the league. Although Luck’s rookie season was far superior than Peyton Manning’s rookie season, (11-5 and 3-13 respectively) fans now expect this Colts team to contend on a yearly consistent basis especially how the 2012 season turned out. This Colts team is not like the 2012 Colts team. They plugged many holes in free agency, something they were unable to do in 2012, and drafted well as well. With the Colts surrendering back to back division titles to the Texans, some may feel Houston is just keeping that throne warm just so the Colts can seize it and reign over the AFC South just like they did when Peyton Manning was in town.
Can they? Will They? Only one way to find out…
Week 1: Oakland Raiders @ Indianapolis Colts
Week 1 is a clash of two teams going in opposite directions. The Colts, working on winning a division title and having a franchise quarterback to call their own for 10+ years. The Raiders on the other hand have a starting quarterback in Matt Flynnwith two career starts and a backup with only one. Their best player, Darren McFadden will be a test to see if the Colts new and improved run defense can stop him. The Raiders don’t have much on defense either as their pass rush is almost non-existant and have an aging secondary of stop-gap players. Colts win easily
Week 2: Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts
This game is a rematch of sorts from last year’s game. Andrew Luck set the rookie passing record last year against these Dolphins at home. The Dolphins made a splash in the off-season by acquiring Mike Wallace and Danelle Elerbe. Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck will always be tied together as they were in the same draft class. The Dolphins are more of a formidable opponent in 2013, but so are the Colts and at home, they handle the Dolphins.
Week 3: Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers
The Colts first road game is against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. Their first true test of the season, Luck faces off against his former college coach Jim Harbaugh, on the west coast. Although the Colts have a better team than last year, they struggled mightily on the road against superior defenses such as Chicago, New England, and the Jets. Luck will make the plays that count against a weak secondary but the pass rush of San Francisco will be too much to handle for the Colts. They’ll force Luck to make mistakes, stop the run, and force several turnovers.
Week 4: Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The first divisional game is in Jacksonville. Depending on who is quarterback for the Jaguars depends if the Colts win emphatically or if it is a close game. Blaine Gabbert is not a very good quarterback and the Jaguars are a better team with Chad Henne at the helm. Maurice Jones Drew is still a Colt killer and always has big games against them. Let’s not forget about the first time the Colts faced Jacksonville in 2012. The Colts had the game won but blown coverage made a 80 yard TD score from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts happen. You know that game is still fresh on the Colts minds. The Colts will be too much for the Jags to handle with Luck firing on all cylinders and the Colts pass defense swarming the Jaguars mediocre receivers.
Week 5: Seattle Seahawks @ Indianapolis Colts
The first big game at Lucas Oil Stadium is against the Super Bowl favorite Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks who were one drive away from making it to the NFC Championship last year bolstered their roster in the offseason and acquired Percy Harvin in a trade with Minnesota. The Colts are clearly the inferior team to the visiting Seahawks but with the Colts great home record and the Seahawks shoddy road record, I say the Colts get the upset. This game is also between two star quarterbacks that were in the 2012 draft class. Bruce Irvin, who is returning from suspension may be a little bit rusty and Percy Harvin is hurt until December, and the Colts secondary can do a great job covering the likes of Golden Tate and Sidney Rice.
Week 6: Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers
The Colts first true primetime game with their new look franchise comes on Monday Night against the Chargers. Years ago, this was a marquee matchup with playoff history and close quarterback duels between Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers with Rivers getting the winning edge most of the time. The times, however, have changed. The Chargers arn’t that same defensive juggernaut since former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera left to coach the Carolina Panthers and Philip Rivers hasn’t been his former elite self as he has consistently been top 5 in interceptions the last several years. The Chargers also have no receiving weapons, an aging tight end, a weak offensive line that got torn to shreds this preseason. This could be a trap game for the Colts after a hard fought matchup with Seattle the week prior and what is arguably the biggest game in the NFL regular season just six days away. Colts take care of business in San Diego handily as the Charger pose no threat.
Week 7: Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts
This is without a doubt the biggest game of the season for the NFL. The storylines are all there. Peyton Manning returns to face the team that let him go in “the house that Peyton built.” The Broncos, who are also Super Bowl favorites, will be another home test for the Colts. However, this is just not any test because they face the greatest player in Indianapolis Colts history. The player that turned Indiana from a basketball city to a football city. The player that put the Colts from laughing stock to an elite winning franchise. The player that brought home four MVPs and two Super Bowl trips along with one Super Bowl championship. You can bet your bottom dollar that Peyton Manning wants to show up Jim Irsay and the Colts for letting him go. This is a big game for Peyton just as much, if not bigger than for the Colts. This Colts game can be considered bigger than the 2006 AFC Championship game where the Colts topped the Patriots. A hero comes home as the enemy which will spark mixed reactions from the Indianapolis faithful. This will be the strongest offense the Colts will face all season and rightfully so with Manning manning (pun intended) the helm. Von Miller will also be returning from his six game suspension and would look to start off his season on a strong note. On deciding who wins…
- My brain says the Broncos offense is too much to handle
- My heart says Peyton Manning works his magic one more time and orchestrates a 4th quarter winning drive in what is essentially a home game for him
- My gut says Andrew Luck plays out of his mind in the biggest game of his young career and Peyton Manning makes a bad interception in a big game again in the 4th quarter. Colts ultimately win a nail-biter.
Week 8: BYE WEEK
With the Colts going into the bye week a rock solid 6-1, they can rest easy knowing three of their toughest opponents are in the rear-view mirror. They would only play two more teams that were playoff teams the year prior and would play one of those teams twice.
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
I’m personally happy the NFL gave this game a primetime slot on Sunday Night Football. I want this to be a legitimate rivalry that is up there with Steelers/Ravens, Saints/Falcons, and Cowboys/Giants. The Colts visit the defending two time AFC South Champion Texans. Visiting Houston hasn’t been pleasant for the Colts in the last three years as they lost all three of those matchups. The Texans added Ed Reed in the offseason to help bolster the secondary but may not even be available week 1 and has aged quite a bit. Matt Schaub has shown signs that he has hit his ceiling as a quarterback. He is good enough to make the playoffs but isn’t good enough to beat a superior team in the playoffs. It’s kind of like the Philip Rivers syndrome. He could beat the Colts with ease but couldn’t topple the Patriots or the Steelers. This Colts team, riding high off their win against Denver two weeks prior will beat the Texans at Reliant Stadium for the first time since 2009. This is not the team that lost narrowly to Houston in Week 15 of the 2012 season. They are riding a wave of momentum and can’t be stopped.
Week 10: St. Louis Rams @ Indianapolis Colts
In a battle of two former #1 over picks in Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford, the Rams come into town with a stout defense and new weapons on offense hoping to turn the corner and make the playoffs in a tough division. The Rams defense which kept quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick at bay last year could very well do the same to Luck in 2013. However, the Rams success solely depends on Sam Bradford and if he can make the plays that matter. With no running game because Steven Jackson left, the Rams would have to air it out to their new, unproven weapons which will fail against a solid Colts secondary. Colts win in a low scoring game.
Week 11: Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans
The Colts clash with the Titans on Thursday Night Football and is their first meeting in a three game span. The Colts have had the Titans number over the years winning 7 of their last 8 against them. The Titans success in this game, and the season, all depends on if Jake Locker ascends into a competent NFL quarterback. Last year he played horrible and with Ryan Fitzpatrick at backup, he is playing for his job. Chris Johnson, who hasn’t been himself since his 2009 2,000 yard season, has never (thankfully) ran all over the Colts the way Arian Foster and Maurice Jones Drew have. The Titans defense is also non-threatening to the Colts offense as the Colts win easily.
Week 12: Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals
The Colts take a trip to the desert to face a beloved figure of the 2012 season for the Colts in Bruce Arians and his Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals, who had a very solid defense last year started the season 4-0 but with quarterback injuries would be a 10 loss team. The Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer as a stop-gap in the quarterback position and will have the greatest wide receiver he ever played with in Larry Fitzgerald on his side. The Cardinals may have a stout offense but with troubles in the offensive line and running game, the Cardinals will be one dimensional in passing the ball and the Colts will jump at the opportunity to crate a few turnovers from the oft-turnover Carson Palmer. Colts win a big one on the road.
Week 13: Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts
This game will be more of the same from two weeks prior. This time it is in the Colts house and nothing will change. Colts win easily as Locker or Fitzpatrick struggles as does the Tennessee defense.
Week 14: Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals look to become AFC North champions for the first time since 2009 and make the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years. They have the defense that ranks among the best in football, arguably the best receiver in the NFL in AJ Green, and a newly formed running game that’ll prove to be dangerous. It all depends on if Andy Dalton can go above and beyond and win the big games that count. In this case, he does as he makes the plays he needs to win all the while the Bengals defense swarms the Colts offense and gives Luck and the fits as the Colts lose.
Week 15: Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
In a game that could very well be for the AFC South championship, the Texans visit Indianapolis which is a place in which the Texans have never won in their young history. If the Colts hadn’t won the division by now with their 11-3 record, this would possibly be flexed into Sunday Night Football again showing a clash between division rivals. The Texans, again, fail to come up big at Indianapolis as they have the past two years.
Week 16: Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs
A rematch of sorts from their Week 16 matchup last year at Arrowhead. The Chiefs with their new coach in Andy Reid and new quarterback in Alex Smith look to improve from last year’s dismal 2-14 debacle. The Chiefs look to be bigger and better this time around hungry to be a dark horse for the playoffs. With both teams improved from last year and the Colts already clinched a division or first round bye wouldn’t phone this game in but rather get beaten by a Chiefs team that is fighting for their playoff life. Chiefs win in a game with heavy playoff implications.
Week 17: Jacksonville Jaguars:
There are two scenarios in which this game can play out with all three equaling in a Colts win.
- The Colts are playing for a #1 seed, first round bye, or division title/playoff spot in which their starters will be playing
- The Colts are resting their starters if they have already locked up a seed which will put Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback which will still be enough to beat Jacksonville at home.
The record of the 1999 Indianapolis Colts as well as the 2013 Indianapolis Colts