The Indianapolis Colts were one of the feel-good stories of the 2012 NFL season. With their coach battling leukemia, the Colts surprised all of the experts with a sparkling 11-5 record and a berth in the playoffs. This came on the heels of a brutal 2-14 record in 2011.
Colts fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic heading into the 2013 season. Quarterback Andrew Luck performed better than expected in his rookie season and is now a year wiser, coach Chuck Pagano should be on the sidelines the entire year and the Colts have a schedule that appears to be favorable, getting the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars twice, as well as home games against Oakland, Miami and St. Louis.
While the Indianapolis faithful may be planning on a return trip to the playoffs, history says it’s not going to be so easy and the sportsbooks in Las Vegas agree. The over/under on the number of games the Colts will win in 2013 is just 8.5 and the Colts do have several negatives entering the year.
The Colts are unlikely to reproduce last year’s 9-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Teams that win or lose a high percentage of close games one season have a tendency to see things equal out a bit the next year.
The Colts will not have the same emotional edge they had with Pagano’s health problems and to make matters worse, Bruce Arians, who served as interim coach in Pagano’s absence and led the team to a 9-3 mark, has since moved on to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
The Colts were outscored last season 387 to 357, which indicates they were closer to a 7-9 team using football’s Pythagorean expectation than they were a playoff team. Teams which out-performed their Pythagorean expectation win total by more than two games went on to see a decline of 2.5 wins the following season between 1983 and 2011. The Colts, who had four more wins than expected, definitely fall into this category.
The Colts will not be sneaking up on anybody this season and there’s a big difference in the mentality of the opposition when they are playing a 2-14 team or squad coming off a playoff berth. Teams which may have looked past the Colts a bit at the beginning of 2012 will not be making the same mistake twice.
The Colts have too much talent to revert back to 2011, but it’s unlikely they will catch all of the breaks that they did during 2012’s run to the playoffs. Look for Indianapolis to win eight or nine games and be on the outside looking in when postseason play begins.
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