Reasons to be Cautious:
Defense – Here is why I don’t like the Colts to return to the playoffs. In 2012, the Colts defense was 26th overall, 21st against the pass, 29th against the rush, gave up 24.2 ppg (21st), and only forced 15 takeaways. If that isn’t bad enough, they lost Freeney and really did nothing to make this squad any better. The loss of Freeney devalues Mathis and even at his age, I believe Freeney is better than the rookie Werner (who I am not high on). Outside of Mathis, the only other name on this defense is LaRon Landry, a guy that is on his 3rd team in 7 years and averages just 61 tackles, less than 1 sack and 1 INT per year. The offense is not good enough to hide this defense.
Return of Pagano – Odd that I have this as a negative, but, this team has never had Arians on the sideline. This is, for all intents and purposes, Pagano’s rookie year as a head coach. Any other time a team loses a coach that took them to 11 wins and replaces him with a rookie HC, that has to be a step back right? Arians is an offensive mind that is now in Arizona. His loss could very well result in a step back for the offense and the team.
Ahmad Bradshaw – Injuries. As good as he is, he has only played 16 games once in his 6 year career. What is most alarming about his injury history is that Bradshaw has never even carried the ball 280 times in a season. Only twice has he carried the ball 200+ times.
Reggie Wayne’s Age – Like Andre Johnson, Wayne has not shown any sign of slowing down (102 catches, 1,355 yards and 5 TDs in 2012), but he will be 35 by mid-season and at some point, father time catches up with everyone. Wayne and the Colts hope it doesn’t happen in 2012.
Andrew Luck – Despite his impressive stats above (and 11 wins), Luck had some areas of concern – 28 turnovers (18 INTs and 10 fumbles), 54.1% completion and 76.5 rating. Not terrible for a rookie, but numbers he has to improve on if this team has hopes of making it back to the playoffs and advancing. He also looked very overmatched against good teams – 59-24 loss to NE and 51.9% completion, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 fumble and a 59.6 Rating in the playoff loss to the Ravens.
Schedule – In 2012, the Colts wins came against teams with a combined 71-95 record (.427). Thanks to a last week win against Houston (12-4 and who had nothing to play for) and a late comeback against GB (11-5) that number is not as bad as it may have been.
2012 Losses – While they only had 5 losses, 1 of those losses was a 35-9 drubbing by the Jets, 1 was to the 2-14 Jags, and 1 was a 59-24 beat down by the Patriots. Those losses tell me this team walked a fine line between 11-5 and 5-11.
I am not buying into the 2013 Colts and think they had a perfect storm occur in 2012, combined with an incredibly inspiring situation with their coach. It was a great story, I just don’t see it happening in 2013. I see Luck (individually) taking a few steps forward, but I see the Colts as a team taking a few steps back. I think 8-8 will be the ceiling for this team in 2013.