There is not a clear cut way to make a deep playoff run and make it to the Super Bowl. Every team had their own formula and some just had a couple lucky bounces go there way to make it to the big game.
It has been a long 10 years since the Colts have reached the Super Bowl. With the roster, and how it is currently constructed, the expectations are high for the Colts.
Some say reach the Super Bowl. But what do the Colts need to do to make the Super Bowl? Here are five key factors that the Colts must do to get back to the big game.
1. Win the Division, Host Playoff Games
During the Peyton Manning era, it was almost a guarantee that the Colts would win the division. In seven of Manning's final nine seasons in Indianapolis, they won the AFC South division, which allowed them to host at least one playoff game at home. For the Colts to have an easier path to the Super Bowl, they must win their division.
From 2002 to 2010 when the Colts were consistently winning the division, they were 6-3 in playoff games at home. When they played on the road, they were 3-5 (if you count the Super Bowls versus the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints). The Colts went from winning around 75 percent of their playoff games at home, to being a losing team on the road.
Now, to the current Colts under Andrew Luck. In Luck's short seven-year career, one of which was thrown away because of injury, he's played in eight total playoff games. The Colts have won the division two times in the Luck era, 2013-2014. So, the Colts have only played in two home playoff games in Luck's eight career playoff games. Luck is 2-0 in those home games, and 2-4 in the road games.
For the Colts to make a deep run in the playoffs this year, they first must win the division. You win the division, you host at least one playoff game. If the Colts can get a top-2 seed in the AFC, they avoid the Wild Card Round, which they have yet to do in the Luck era, and have a great possibility to host all AFC playoff games.
2. Top-7 Rush Attack & Top-15 Scoring Defense
The first is more of a team goal, but it's vital in the playoffs to run the ball effectively. Head coach Frank Reich talked about wanting to be a top-7 rush offense this season, and further mentioned not about running 30 plus times per game, but running effectively when needed.
The Colts finished 20th in the NFL last year in rushing offense. For the early portion of the season, the Colts were without starting running back Marlon Mack, and were still trying to find the right offensive line combination.
After week 7, including the playoffs, Mack was first in the NFL in rushing first downs with 51, and was second in carries (197), rushing yards (933) and rushing touchdowns (10). As a team over the final three games, the Colts averaged 150 rushing yards per game.
To be a top-7 rush offense next year, the Colts must improve on their 4.4 rushing yards per attempt average, which was 20th in the NFL. Having Mack, who averaged around five yards per carry when healthy, back for a full 16-game season will help improve the Colts' rushing attack.
The Colts were already top 10 in scoring defense last year, allowing only 21 points per game. This season, the Colts play much better quarterbacks and offenses, so to stay in the top 15 will be vital to the Colts making a Super Bowl run.
Back to the Manning era, from 2002-2010, the Colts had a top-10 scoring defense in five seasons. Luck has only had a top-10 scoring defense in 2013, and just last year. In 2013, the Colts reached the Divisional Round, same as 2018. Getting Luck a top-15 scoring defense will be big in getting to the Super Bowl.
Also, small tid bit of information, in the last five seasons there have been six teams to reach the Super Bowl with a top-15 scoring defense, in most cases they were top 10. In 2014, 2015, and 2017 both teams that made the Super Bowl were top 15 in scoring defense.
3. Beat the Best of the Best
To be the best, you have to beat the best. The Colts have fallen short of doing that recently. Yes, getting wins against a divisional opponent could be considered a good win, but when was the last time the Texans made an AFC Championship Game?
The best of the best (the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots) are the teams the Colts need to start consistently beating to be true contenders. The Colts will face at least two of those three teams this year on the road, that being the Chargers in week one and the Chiefs in week 5.
Luck so far in his career is 1-1 versus the Chargers. Versus the Patriots, he is 0-4 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs. Against the Chiefs, Luck is 3-2, but just recently lost to them in the playoffs.
Of course, Luck isn't the entire reason the Colts are 0-6 vs the Patriots since 2012. The defense has given up an average of 43 points per game. Football is a team sport and both sides of the ball must show up when playing the best of the AFC.
For the Colts to make a Super Bowl run, they must beat those top teams in the AFC. If they can have them come to Indianapolis in the playoffs, that would be big for the Colts. Luck has a combined record of 2-4 when they play at the Chargers, Chiefs, or Patriots.
If there was a clear cut way to making the Super Bowl, every NFL team would do it. There are never two similar ways to get to the big game. Just look at the differences between the 2006 and 2009 Colts.
The 2006 Colts had to fight to get the No. 3 seed, had to play a tough Kansas City team at home, and lucked out by getting the AFC Championship game at home that year. In 2009, the Colts steamrolled through the regular season, starting 14-0 before resting their starters and losing the last two. They got both playoff games at home and went to the Super Bowl.
For the Colts to get back to the Super Bowl, they must win their division and host at least one playoff game. The Colts need to play in their stadium, on the turf where their speed can take over.
They have to be a top-7 rush offense and have a top-15 scoring defense. Keeping teams out of the end zone and being able to run when you need to are two vital pieces to getting to a Super Bowl.
And finally, they have to beat the best the AFC has to offer in the Patriots, Chiefs and Chargers. Manning had his troubles early with those same teams and he finally got past them in the middle of his career. It's time for Luck to do the same.
If the Colts can successfully accomplish these missions, they could be playing in Super Bowl LIV. The Colts have been in four Super Bowls (III, V, XLI and XLIV) and have a record of 2-2 in those games. All four of those Super Bowls were hosted in Miami, Florida, the same location for this upcoming season's Super Bowl.
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