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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s one of the NFL staples.

Parity has defined this league for years.

Since 1990, at least 4 teams have made the playoffs the season after missing the postseason the year before.

The Colts were one of those teams in 2012.

That was a tall order back in Andrew Luck’s rookie season.

It’s once again a difficult task in Frank Reich’s first year at the helm.

So how do the Colts go from drafting in the top-10 last year to making the postseason in 2018?

-Improved Coaching: It goes without saying that the Colts were at a disadvantage from a coaching standpoint last season. The team inexcusably wilted in fourth quarter after fourth quarter. The Colts were one of the historically worst fourth quarter teams in NFL history. So the bar is pretty low for this new staff to improve in finding proper in-game adjustments and to finish off games. Schematically, this offense is more along the craze in today’s NFL. Quicker rhythm and using a variety of weapons should aid Frank Reich. On the defensive side of the ball, can this new 4-3 system be engrained quickly and thrive off more speed and athletic ability?

 

-Andrew Luck: Ah, yes. The savior, No. 12. Seriously, those end game issues last season could have easily been a couple of wins more with Luck executing things late. This is a quarterback who has won 11, 11, 11, 8 and 8 games in his five seasons of playing. The two 8-win campaigns came when Luck was banged up. A healthy Luck gives you a chance every week. There’s not many quarterbacks in the league you can say that about. Luck looked healthy during the preseason. He says he will be a better quarterback post-surgery. If that happens in 2018, this is a team that will again be playing meaningful football in late December.

 

-More Defensive Playmaking: Finishing 31st in sacks last year and the lack of interceptions from players not named Malik Hooker kept this defense in the basement of the NFL. This new defense isn’t supposed to be the most complex system. Instead, it’s a defense that thrives on speed and running to the ball. Will more zone looks offer extra eyes on the quarterback and lead to interceptions? The healthy returns of Hooker and Clayton Geathers should greatly enhance big plays coming from this defense in 2018. 

 

-Weapons Not Named T.Y. Hilton: The Colts’ 2017 season typically went how T.Y. Hilton went. Hilton needs help, especially with defenses obviously keying majorly on No. 13 this season. Frank Reich believes this scheme can dial up playmakers in a multitude of ways. That’s a lot of pressure though on this staff to give Hilton help in the playmaking department. Can newcomers Ryan Grant and Eric Ebron do their part in the pass catching game? Are young backs Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins ready to do the heavy lifting in the run game?

 

-Better Protection: Chris Ballard openly admits one of his two biggest mistakes from 2017 was not properly addressing the offensive line. He thought it was fixed. He was wrong. So he tried to make up for it in 2018 by drafting two lineman in the first 40 picks (Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith) and then signing two 80-plus game starters (Matt Slauson and Austin Howard). It’s looking like Nelson and Slauson will start around Anthony Castonzo, Ryan Kelly and possibly Joe Haeg. Is that group enough to finally improve the protection of whoever is under center? An emphasis on quicker throws should help in this endeavor.