With the Colts’ regular season in the rear view mirror and the playoffs on the horizon, fans are gearing up for the first postseason appearance since 2015. Preceding Saturday’s wild card showdown with Houston, the FPC Colts Staff answers questions reminiscing on the regular season and looking forward.

Question One: How far will the Colts go in the playoffs?

Ben Pfeifer: I have the Colts losing in the AFC Championship game to the LA Chargers. I’m fairly confident the Colts will beat the Texans on the road, which they’ve done earlier this season. A fully healthy offensive line for the first time in a few weeks will provide a massive boon to Indy’s offense. Colts-Chiefs in Arrowhead will be a shootout for the ages. In the end, I trust Andrew Luck over Pat Mahomes in the fourth quarter. Against the Chargers, the most complete roster in the AFC, the Colts will be outmatched, purely from a talent standpoint.

Lawrence Owen: I see Indy beating the Texans, then defeating the Chiefs in Arrowhead (Chiefs don’t do well Vs. teams with top 10 offenses & defenses).  Then I think they lose to the Chargers after the Chargers beat the Ravens and the Patriots. The Chargers I think just match up too well Vs. the Colts.

Mason Ford: The Indianapolis Colts have the capability to make it all the way to the Super Bowl with the way they have been playing. Winning 9 of their last 10 games, there is nothing but blue skies ahead of them.  Colts play their division rival, the Houston Texans, this Saturday for the first playoff game of the NFL season. In the two contests in which the Colts battled the Texans this season, each team recorded a victory. Despite the balanced head to head record, the game that the Texans won was exceptionally close and the victor was decided in overtime. Expect Indianapolis to defeat the Texans in the Wildcard round and then give the Chiefs a run for their money in the Divisional round.

Maxx Hotton: Deep down I want to say the Colts win just one playoff game but if they can beat Houston on the road I believe they can take on the Chiefs in Arrowhead too. I say the club’s over under at 1.5 and I’m taking the over.

Peyton Smith: I think the Colts will make the AFC championship game. Defeating the Texans in the wild card round should not be too tall of a task for the Colts and the Colts have more than enough firepower to handle the Chiefs and Pat Mahomes, plus the defensive ability to contain them better than any other team. The Colts are young and inexperienced, and might be star struck in a game as big as an AFC championship against an experienced defense like Baltimore or Los Angeles.

Zach Sears: The Colts first head to NRG Stadium to play the Texans who, when you think about it, have not beat the Colts this season even though the Colts and have a 1-1 record when playing this year. I say the Texans haven’t beat the Colts because, in the meeting where the Texans technically won, it was because Colts’ head coach Frank Reich chose to play for the win, not the tie. Once again, I can’t see the struggling Texan team beating the Colts.

Once the Colts beat the Texans they head to Kansas City and after debating with myself, I see them squeaking by the high powered Chiefs team. Finally, they ultimately fall short in a season of many surprises after falling to the most complete team in the AFC side of the playoffs, the Chargers.

Question Two: Which AFC and which NFC team would you least like the Colts to face in the playoffs?

Ben Pfeifer: As previously mentioned, the LA Chargers would scare me the most. From top to bottom, their roster is the best in the AFC. An elite quarterback and some elite skill position players form a potent offense. Two alpha pass rushers and a dominant secondary fuel LA’s tough defense. On the NFC side, I want no part of the Rams. That offense has the play-calling and weapons to shred the Colts’ over-performing defense.

Lawrence Owen: As I said in the first question, Chargers in the AFC. Their defense has the speed to keep up with Indy’s O, and the defense is just so good all around. Rivers has been very good this year. In the NFC it is The Rams.  They have a high powered offense like the Chiefs, but unlike Chiefs, they have impact players on defense that can take away possessions from an offense.

Mason Ford: The scariest AFC team would have to be the Baltimore Ravens. Thankfully, the only possibility that the Colts and Ravens would meet is if both teams win twice and play in the AFC Championship game. When a team can run the ball as well as the Ravens do it sure is hard for the opposing defense to get off the field. Not only can the Baltimore run the ball, their defense is one of the best in the league.

The New Orleans Saints are obviously the best team in the NFC, and for good reason. Drew Brees is a veteran and is playing as well as he was the last time the Saints beat the Colts in the Super Bowl. It would be nostalgic to see a Colts and Saints rematch in the Super Bowl.

Maxx Hotton: In the AFC it’s the Chargers. I think they are the most complete team in the playoffs. After that, it might actually be the Ravens, that defense is scary good right now. In the NFC it’s the Saints, again the most complete team with a veteran QB on the cusp of another ring.

Peyton Smith: The AFC team that scares me the most is the Patriots. Whether or not you believe they are weaker than they have been in the past, Andrew Luck has struggled mightily against Bill Belichick defenses, posting a career 12:12 TD:INT ratio and having not won a single game. It could be a disaster or a wonderful opportunity to get this monkey off of Andrew Luck’s back.

The NFC team I fear the most are the Eagles. Nick Foles will come back to lead an experienced and talented returning championship squad, plus Frank Reich formerly being in Philly does not give the Colts an element of surprise

Zach Sears: Four of the five other AFC playoff teams have either been struggling or just haven’t looked good in recent weeks. The only team that hasn’t is the Chargers who I say beat the Colts to head to the Super Bowl. In the NFC, in my opinion, only one real QB has the experience and surrounding cast to make it to the Super Bowl, that being the Saints who actually beat the Colts in the last Super Bowl that the Colts made it to.

Question Three: What was the biggest catalyst for the Colts’ midseason turnaround?

Ben Pfeifer: Andrew Luck returning to form was huge for the Colts. Through the first three weeks of the season, Andrew Luck looked rusty. After Jacoby Brissett threw the hail mary against the Eagles, people were skeptical. Luck quickly put his doubters to bed, shredding Houston’s defense the next week. His return to a top 3 QB status pushed the Colts over the edge.

Lawrence Owen: Timing. Week 6 saw Anthony Castonzo return.  The rookie coaches had 5 games to get their understanding of their players strength’s and weaknesses. And the players themselves had enough of losing and had that meeting.  It all came together at one point in time like it was fated.

Maxx Hotton: The Colts defense, specifically its red zone defense. They may not like the “bend don’t break” moniker but their red zone defense has allowed their slow starting offense to get their legs underneath them and allowing them to close out late leads.

Mason Ford: Marlon Mack seemed to be the reason the Colts turned their fate around this season. In the earlier games we had to rely on two late round draft picks to establish the run game. It was a lot to ask of two rookies. When Mack was able to play the offense seemed to play better, and opened up the passing game for Andrew Luck.

Peyton Smith: The biggest catalyst for the Colts mid-season turnaround was their ability to get healthy. In week 5 against the Patriots, it felt like the Colts were running out practice squad players on every down. Getting Anthony Castanzo, Marlon Mack, Jack Doyle, and many others back to being healthy again contributed greatly to our success. On a side note, the emergence of Mark Glowinski and the ability to run out the same 5 o-lineman on a weekly basis was extremely crucial for success and the health of Andrew Luck.

Zach Sears: The biggest momentum swing causer, in my opinion, has to be just getting an almost completely healthy roster and coach Reich finding his grove with the play calling to get the ball rolling to end up finishing the season winning 9 out of 10.

Question Four: Pick your team MVP not named Andrew Luck.

Ben Pfeifer: Thinking out of the box here, my team MVP not named Andrew Luck is Dave DeGuglielmo, offensive line coach. In the past, DeGuglielmo coached multiple poor offensive lines in New England and Miami. However, he turned the Colts’ offensive line into a force to be reckoned with. Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, and Ryan Kelly all played above expectations but we knew they were good players. If Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith did not emerge and solidify the right side of the line, the Colts are not in the playoffs. For that development, DeGuglielmo deserves boundless praise.

Lawrence Owen:If I could pick a coach or a player, I would pick Matt Eberflus. With what he has done, with this defensive roster, is nothing short of amazing. He has adapted, game after game, to the talent he has available.  He has made defensive game plans to shut down key players of the opposing offenses, each and every week.

Mason Ford: I think the MVP of the Colts this season would have to be the Offensive line. Last season the Colts allowed 56 sacks nearly the most in the league. This season they allowed a breathtaking 18 which was less than any of the 31 other teams.  Offensive trends have certainly been turned around thanks to players like Rookie Pro-Bowl (Editor’s note: All-Pro too!) Guard Quenton Nelson and rookie tackle Braden Smith.

Maxx Hotton:Darius Leonard Darius Leonard Darius Leonard Darius Leonard…is that clear enough?

Peyton Smith: The Colts team MVP not including Andrew Luck in my mind must go to T.Y. Hilton. After a quiet first half of the season, T.Y. Hilton absolutely exploded, tearing the NFL apart for the last 8 weeks of the season. He carried a depleted and underperforming WR core through the back half of the season and not only excelled but made it easier for his teammates to get open due to the attention he attracted.

Zach Sears:Is Landrew Uck an option? No? Ok then I’d have to say free safety Malik Hooker is my Colts’ MVP who is not names Andrew Luck. Rookie and star players Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson or even coaches Frank Reich or Matt Eberflus but the presence of Malik Hooker is why the Colts ended the season as one of the least deep contested teams in the league. Malik ended his sophomore season with 44 tackles, 4 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions.

The numbers are not impressive by any means but with hardly any deep balls thrown his way there is really no way to get many interceptions or pass deflections. When he is contested however, he does end up with his two interceptions and actually twice this season two of his pass deflections were tipped by fellow Colt defenders preventing more interceptions from the ball hawking free safety.

Question Five: What was your favorite and least favorite moment of the season?

Ben Pfeifer: My favorite moment of the season was the shutout win against Dallas. Up to that point, I was unsure if the Colts were legitimately good or just riding an easy schedule. This resounding win over a talented playoff team cemented the Colts as a legitimate contender in the AFC and in the NFL as a whole.

My least favorite moment of the season was the loss against the Texans. Compounding the close loss, the unwarranted criticism of Frank Reich’s decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime was deeply annoying. Every analytic in the book propounds his decision and Reich will abide by the analytics, as he should. Hopefully, the Colts can get a mulligan in the playoffs and prove to the world that numbers reign supreme.

Lawrence Owen: My favorite moment of this year was October 21st, the game Vs. a very stout Bills defense.  This was when Indianapolis showed they could move the ball on the ground when they really wanted to, against even the better defenses in the NFL.  This made me realize how dangerous this, now balanced offense can really be. 

My least favorite was not the Jags game as many will point out, because the defense also showed up and only allowed 220 total yards and 6 points that game.  Instead, I say October 4th: Thursday night vs. New England.  I call this entire game as the worst moment.  The mental and physical mistakes in this game cost Indy the game.  Many people will point out Wilkins fumble, but too many mistakes on both sides and missed opportunities gave this game away. 

Mason Ford: My personal favorite moment of this season was the when Malik Hooker finished off the Giants with an interception and kept the Colts playoff hopes alive. The New York Giants seemed to be moving the ball well down the field and I was sure that the giants were going to tie the game or win but Hooker intercepted Eli Manning and kept either of those things from happening.

Maxx Hotton: The win against Dallas, the Colts faced a red-hot and complete Cowboys team, and punished them. From start to finish the Colts dominated a division leader like they were a preseason B squad. Even when the Colts lit the league on fire in 2014 they didn’t quite dominate a team like they did to Dallas and it signaled that this isn’t the old Colts team. Chris Ballard created a nasty hard nosed football team that can out-physical any team in the NFL…oh and they have arguably a top 3 QB hitting his prime as well.

The low point was losing to the Jags. Unlike the other Colts losses, the team was firing on all cylinders and should’ve rolled over a Jaguars team playing with backups on offense. As much as the Cowboys game few weeks later solidified the Colts talent, that Jaguars game brought up several serious concerns for the club at the time.

Peyton Smith: My favorite moment of this Colts season was shutting out the Cowboys, behind the absolute domination of the Cowboys front 7, as well as Darius Leonard mocking the wolf howl. It was the most fun game to watch in years for the Colts.

My least favorite moment was the Jags game, which the Colts dropped 6-0. G0ing for it on 4th against a talented defense instead of taking your points is okay, but three times in a row? Against a team with Cody Kessler at QB? That stings, but now it is water under the bridge, and the Colts are in the playoffs.

Zach Sears: I feel like a lot of Colts’ fans would say certain plays or players success are their favorite moments of the season but for me, in hindsight, its Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels stepping away from the Colts’ open at the time head coach spot. If it were not for McDaniels stepping away after almost signing, the Colts wouldn’t have the current amazingly aggressive and clever Frank Reich at the head coach helm.

On the opposite end of things, I think weirdly enough the worst part of this season is the attention it brought to extremely smart Colts’ defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus who has head coach interview requests from the Browns among other teams. This is Eberflus’ first year with the Colts and I know for a fact no Colts’ fans want to see him leave after how he turned around the Colts’ defense.

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