We’ve reached the time of the year that many of you look forward to with great optimism. Yes, NFL training camps open this week, and your Indianapolis Colts will crank it up on July 25 in Westfield as they begin the process of fielding a team that some pundits feel has championship potential. I’m personally not inclined to anoint them into the upper echelon of the league just yet, but the question that remains is just how good was this team last season, and will the moves they made in the offseason make them a tougher opponent?
Sure, their run to the playoffs last season was interesting to watch, especially when you consider the woeful 1-5 start which had season ticket holders displaying buyer’s remorse, and many experts throwing dirt on their grave just six games into the campaign. Miraculously, they would go on an improbable 9-1 run that provided more than a great return on those aforementioned tickets, finishing 10-6 in the AFC South, and defeating Houston in a wild card playoff matchup, setting the stage for a divisional game against Kansas City. While the Chiefs would snuff out any pipe dream they had for a shot at the AFC title game against New England, it was without question an impressive finish to the season. For those of you out there who say the run to the playoffs didn’t entail defeating a serious opponent, well you may be right, but nine out of your last 10 in the NFL isn’t exactly chopped liver, so some serious props must be paid accordingly.
Clearly, a healthier Andrew Luck and the stunning emergence of Darius Leonard, along with Eric Ebron and Quenton Nelson, were key components to the overall progress demonstrated, but the duo of General Manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich was nothing short of impressive, with Ballard grabbing the Executive of the Year award from the Pro Football Writers Association. All that being said, the future looks solid for this team, and as mentioned previously, there is a contingent of alleged media experts who feel this team can do more in 2019 and make a play for the AFC Championship.
The 2019 schedule is indeed tougher, with a season-opening tilt on the road with the Chargers, as well as a rematch with the Chiefs, and road tussles with the Steelers and the Saints. Throw in the normal divisional contests that aren’t guaranteed cakewalks, and it’s easy to see this year’s schedule is tougher than what 2018 offered up.
When factoring in the inevitable injuries and subsequent recovery periods, life in the NFL simply isn’t easy, so I’m thinking Colts fans might want to temper their expectations for the upcoming season.
Can this football team be better than a year ago? Absolutely. However, the reality is this team is still very much a work in progress, and even though they should contend for an AFC South Division crown, it will be a much tougher task to emulate the success they had last season. Prediction: nine up and seven down.
Notes: You can attend Colts training camp workouts at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, but you must have a free ticket for entrance, which can be found on their website. There are also special events at camp that can be viewed at: www.colts.com
A certain sports radio talking head recently took me to task when l proclaimed that Indianapolis was a football town first and a basketball town second. That’s no knock on the Pacers, but rather a byproduct of the chokehold the NFL has on its fan base. I personally prefer IndyCar over hoops and the gridiron, but one can always enjoy all three here locally and that’s a beautiful thing.
The Colts will open the preseason when they travel to Buffalo to face the Bills on Aug. 8. The regular season opener is Sept. 8 when they visit the Los Angeles Chargers. The home opener is Sept. 22 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Danny Bridges, who still isn’t sure Andrew Luck can throw it really deep with his surgically repaired shoulder, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at firstname.lastname@example.org