Colts, Cream of the AFC Crop?

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The NFL regular season is rapidly approaching and the Colts will be opening their preseason schedule against Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles “Oregon” offense.  We will get our first glimpse of this rendition of the Colts for the 2015, albeit brief and incomplete.  These games largely don’t correlate to the regular season, but do however help teams evaluate players that will be on the bottom of the roster.
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So, Justin and I were talking about our lives outside of the Colts/True Blue Fans world and we started talking about our excitement for the regular season that was approaching.  I told him that I had high expectations for this team and felt this might be the year they break through and make it to the final game of the NFL Season.  I said I didn’t think I would put any teams ahead of the Colts in the AFC, even with the flaws we feel the team may have.   Justin seemed to agree.  So let’s look at the AFC teams they will face this season.
The teams are: Bills, Jets, Titans, Jaguars, Texans, Patriots, Broncos, Steelers, Jaguars, Titans, Dolphins. Okay, let’s remove the obvious teams: Jets-no QB, new coach; Jaguars-improving roster, still last in the division; Titans-new QB, still turning over the roster; Texans-“best of the worst” of the division behind the Colts. These are bad teams and, on paper, pose no real threat to the Colts.
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That narrows the field down to these then: Dolphins-improving, borderline playoff team with schizophrenic-like games; Bills-formidable defense with a few questions on offense, improving personnel. These teams I placed as second-tier teams, could end as a playoff team, but most likely needs some help along the way. That leaves team I consider to be “Top Tier” such as: Denver-new coach and offensive philosophy, but still have Peyton and top tier offensive weapons coupled with a sound defense; Pittsburgh-tough defense and efficient offense led by Big Ben; and that just leaves the one-ton elephant in the room: the Patriots. The Pats have had the Luck-led Colts’ number, but this team has lost it’s best corners and more importantly, Tom Brady will be facing some type of suspension, though his return game is set to be against us in week 5.
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The top tier teams are going to be difficult games, no doubt about that, but I have to say Grigson has done a very good job putting this team together (especially on the offensive side of the ball). The defense has a chance to be very good if they can generate any type of pass rush and figure out how to stop the run. I know this isn’t all the teams in the AFC, but these probably represent the teams most likely to make a run at it, minus the Ravens, Chargers, Chiefs, and Bengals. All of these teams I’d place somewhere between the first and second tier teams. They’re all better than the listed tier two teams, but seem to have issue that’s hard to point out what prevents them from being true tier one teams. They look great on paper, but seem to be missing something. Whatever that “it” is.image

Looking at everything from a birds eye view it all points to the Patriots, Broncos, and Steelers as the teams to beat in the AFC along with the Colts. Last year the Colts split with the Broncos and got ran over by the Steelers and Patriots. No teams have done more to solidify their offensive weapons than the Colts. It seems they have done just enough on defense to correct some of their more pressing issues from last year, like the Patriots running at will on them. I have felt this way before, but this time seems different. I’m going out on a limb and saying that the Colts will be the team to beat in the AFC and that’s not just the fan in me talking.
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