The Indianapolis Colts are likely to start 2013 the same way as 2012, with much of the football nation doubting the team.
And that’s just the way they like it.
There are plenty of reasonable factors to build a case against the Colts’ playoff chances.
The offensive line is only intermittently successful in protecting rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The defense allowed 352 rushing yards two weeks ago against the Kansas City Chiefs and has allowed a 100-yard receiver in eight of the past nine weeks. And, despite its 11-5 record, Indianapolis was outscored by 30 points by its opponents during the regular season and finished with a -12 turnover ratio.
As one scribe who regularly follows the team said, the only thing the Colts do well is win.
And that’s exactly why they could confound their critics again.
Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne recently said he was closing the doors of the team’s bandwagon.
“If they don’t believe in the Colts by now,” Wayne said, “they’re never going to believe.”
There’s no doubt trusting this team requires a certain leap of faith.
Just more than eight months removed from making the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, Indianapolis is making this postseason run with a first-year general manager, a first-year head coach and a first-year quarterback.
On Sunday, the Colts will meet a Baltimore Ravens team making its fifth straight playoff appearance -- the longest active streak in the NFL. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has qualified for the playoffs in every year of his career, and the Ravens have one of the league’s most dangerous running backs in Ray Rice. They also have a defense that has underachieved for much of this season but is filled with Pro Bowl players.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano spent the past four years in Baltimore, and nobody in Indianapolis knows the Ravens better.
“Obviously, I’ll be able to share quite a bit with our football team,” Pagano said at the team’s practice complex. “A lot of intangible things, things that they won’t be able to get from the video.
The Colts also will benefit from offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ familiarity with Baltimore from his years of preparing to play them twice a season.
But Indianapolis is taking nothing for granted.
The Colts have worked hard to make themselves into the NFL’s best story this fall. They’ve proven a lot of doubters wrong, but they understand the regular season is over. A new season begins Sunday.
“The journey is just starting,” Pagano said. “We are just starting another chapter.”
George Bremer is a columnist for TheHerald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.