Season Preview: Indianapolis Colts

Sports Mole previews the season ahead for AFC South side the Indianapolis Colts.

The Indianapolis Colts took the NFL by surprise last season as rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led his side to the playoffs a year after finishing with the worst record in the league.

First overall pick Luck inspired his team with several great performances, leading his side to a 11-5 record, despite the absence of head coach Chuck Pagano, who fought a battle against Leukemia for the majority of the campaign.

Although their season ended with a defeat in the Wild Card, round there is optimism that the Colts can go even further this year.

Sports Mole takes a look at what the season ahead holds for the Colts.

Head Coach: Chuck Pagano

Last season: 11-5

Review: The Colts had an inconsistent start to the season as they began with a defeat to the Chicago Bears on the opening day. Defeats to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets followed sandwiched between wins over the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.

Due to Pagano's illness, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians took over the head coaching duties and guided them to four victories in a row, taking them to a 6-3 record.

Heavy defeats at the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans did not deter the Colts from ending the season with wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and against the Texans at home to finish the year 11-5. Their season came to an end with defeat to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round in a 24-9 defeat.

Notable Ins

Ahmad Bradshaw: The 27-year-old left the New York Giants at the end of last season. After a while on the shelf in free agency, the Colts picked him up. Bradshaw has had trouble remaining healthy in the past few seasons but when he has been fit he has proven to be a quality back, especially during the Giants' Super Bowl-winning teams of 2007 and 2011.

LaRon Landry: The former sixth overall pick had a solid year with the New York Jets last season, proving his fitness and his quality as he was voted to the Pro Bowl. In a passing league, Landry's size and pace will allow him to cover tight ends, which will be crucial if the Colts reach the playoffs this season after they handed him a four-year deal.

Notable Outs

Dwight Freeney: The veteran pass rusher's contract wasn't renewed by the Colts after 11 seasons with the team. The 32-year-old's skills deteriorated slightly last year and the club chose to replace him in the Draft with Bjorn Werner. Freeney joined the San Diego Chargers during free agency.

Bruce Arians: Last year's offensive coordinator and interim head coach, became the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in the off-season. Arians was crucial in helping Luck adapt to the NFL and will be missed by the Colts offense. The club replaced him with Luck's old coordinator at Stanford, Pep Hamilton.

Key Player Offense: Andrew Luck

Key Player Defense: Robert Mathis

Rookie to watch: Bjorn Werner

Pre-season form: 2-2

Prediction: 10-6 – The Colts will be hard pressed to repeat their feat of one season ago when they finished 11-5. Their schedule this year is harder as they face the NFC West along with some quality second-placed teams from different divisions of the AFC. A lot will rest on the shoulders of Luck as apart from Reggie Wayne there aren't many quality pieces on the offensive side of the ball. The defense could be a worry without Dwight Freeney; a lot will be expected of rookie Bjorn Werner to get pressure on the passer this season. A similar finish to the last campaign could be on the cards for Pagano's side.

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Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck in action against Buffalo Bills on August 11, 2013
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