INDIANAPOLIS — For the last two seasons, the Indianapolis Colts have missed out on postseason play.
Relative to the past couple decades, that playoff drought feels like an eternity to the team's fans and its longtime employees who seemingly got used to January — and, in a couple cases, February — football in the Circle City.
And while the Colts have remained competitive the past couple years, both of which have ended in 8-8 overall records, the team and its coaches know all too well that being a tough opponent doesn't provide much consolation at all when you're sitting on the couch after Week 17 of the regular season.
For the Colts, not just getting to the playoffs, but making some noise once you get there, is the expectation year in and year out.
So after a notable offseason in which the team hired a new general manager and immediately proceeded to undergo a major roster transformation, many experts believe Indianapolis could, and should, be back in the postseason picture come 2017 — and beyond.
In a recent piece, "NFL Insiders make early 2017 season predictions," several ESPN writers/editors/insiders collaborated "to recalibrate their early predictions for the 2017 season" on many topics, two of which featured the Colts (you can access the piece by clicking here, but you must have an ESPN Insider subscription to read the entire article).
The first Indy-related reference came in the section, "Who's the non-playoff team from 2016 that will make the 2017 field?" Matt Bowen, a former NFL safety and current ESPN writer, picked the Colts:
Bowen: The Indianapolis Colts play in a very winnable division, and new general manager Chris Ballard spent the offseason upgrading the Indianapolis defense. After adding young, ball-hawking talent to the secondary (Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson) and veterans along the defensive front, the Colts should be in a position to make a run in the AFC South.
And while his top pick was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, senior NFL writer Mike Sando also said he'll "be watching" the Colts for this category: "Indy has better unity throughout its organization, a favorable schedule and an improved roster," Sando wrote.
Then came the section, "Which team improved itself the most?" Popular choices were the Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns, but national NFL writer Kevin Seifert went with the Colts. He writes:
Seifert: New Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard did a great job filling holes with talented veterans. They added a dozen veteran free agents, with a focus on defensive line and linebacker. Keep in mind that the Colts had signed a total of 10 free agents in the previous nine offseasons combined. Nose tackle Johnathan Hankins and linebacker Jabaal Sheard were particularly smart signings. Ballard has effectively set a new tone in Indianapolis.
So while the talk from Colts camp the rest of the offseason and into training camp will undoubtedly be about daily improvement, not buying into any hype, not being too up or too down, etc., here's more written evidence of outsiders who believe Indy is back on the right track to be a consistent winner moving forward.
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.