The matchup for Super Bowl 50 is set, as the Denver Broncos will take on the Carolina Panthers for the Lombardi Trophy. Of course, at this point in the season, 30 of the 32 NFL teams are already looking forward to next year and looking at what they need to do to be the ones playing in the biggest game next season.
One of those teams is the Indianapolis Colts, who missed the playoffs this year after failing to win their division and losing quarterback Andrew Luck for nine games. It was a very rough year for the franchise, but they still have a positive outlook for the future, in large part because of Luck.
Recently, ESPN ranked the 30 non-Super Bowl teams based on how close they are to being contenders, with the teams broken down into different tiers. The Indianapolis Colts were pretty high on the list, receiving a 7 (out of 10) grade and ranking in the "Talented but missing critical pieces" category. Mike Wells wrote the Colts' section, saying:
Owner Jim Irsay already has said the offensive line has to get better and the Colts need to get younger at certain positions. The reason the Colts, who missed the playoffs this season, are rated so high is is because quarterback Andrew Luck will be back after missing nine games and having the worst season of his four-year NFL career. When the Colts played the two teams that reached the AFC Championship Game this season, they beat Denver and lost to New England by only seven points.
Only the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and Pittsburgh Steelers ranked ahead of the Colts, while the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, and Washington Redskins ranked in the same tier as Indianapolis. Interestingly, the Colts were the highest ranked team that did not make the playoffs last season and the only non-playoff team to be in one of the four top categories.
The Colts' promising ranking on this list is due heavily to quarterback Andrew Luck. The team's franchise player had his worst professional season in 2015 as he struggled on the field and struggled to even stay on the field, both of which led to the Colts' disappointing 8-8 record. Luck will be back healthy next season, however, and there's every reason to expect that he will be greatly improved from the Andrew Luck that we saw last year. Therefore, it's expected that the Colts will be right back in the mix next year and will likely be a playoff contender once again.
Of course, the Colts also have issues that need to be addressed. The offensive line has been mentioned heavily, while the defense needs playmakers - particularly pass rushers. The team will have a lot of work to do this offseason, but with Andrew Luck healthy they are still expected to be a contender for several years to come. ESPN reflects that, as though the Colts aren't at the top of the list of teams close to contending for the Super Bowl, they're pretty high in the rankings, especially for a team that missed the playoffs this year.