The Indianapolis Colts were just 39 points and 11 under-inflated footballs away from making the Super Bowl this season. But according to ESPN, the team is nine players away from a championship.
ESPN teamed up with Pro Football Focus to determine how many players away each team in the NFL is from a championship.
The magic number for the Colts is nine. They need just nine more plays to make it to, and win, the Super Bowl.
Seems simple enough, right?
Players are broken down into elite, good, average, and bad categories. The only ones to make the list were those who played a majority of the team’s snaps.
The elite players for the Colts were just T.Y. Hilton and Vontae Davis. No arguments there, but Andrew Luck should also be considered in this category. His importance to the team cannot be understated and without Luck the Colts are looking at another top pick in the draft.
Considering this roster made it to the AFC Championship game, some might suggest that nine seems like a lot of players. Especially if you consider that you have just 22 starters. The reality is that the Colts need help at a lot of spots.
This team is really only set at two positions: quarterback and tight end.
Hilton is the only proven receiver left on the roster. Reggie Wayne might retire and even if he decides to come back, he isn’t the player he used to be. Donte Moncrief is poised for a big jump in year two, but the team still needs a possession receiver.
The right side of the offensive line was a mess this year (mostly due to injuries) and the team doesn’t have a running back that scares anyone. Getting help for Luck means better protection and a run game that can produce consistently (just enough to set up the play action would be fine).
Most of the team’s needs are on defense. Aside from Davis and Mike Adams, the entirety of this unit ranks average or worse. The grades were a bit generous to a number of players as well (D’Qwell Jackson did not have an “average” season) and the Colts would be better off if they flat out cut some of these people and started over.
The Colts need to seriously overhaul the front seven on this roster. They need consistent pass rushers and no, a 34-year old coming off Achilles surgery Robert Mathis doesn’t count. The defensive line struggled to get off the line most of the season and there is always the possibility that Cory Redding retires, taking away the team’s emotional leader.
While stopping the pass is more important in today’s NFL, the Colts have been bounced from the playoffs due to their lack of run defense for the past two seasons. Art Jones and Jackson did very little to help stop opposing ball carriers.
There are at least 11 spots on the current roster where the Colts could use an upgrade. That number might change depending on who returns to the team and who decides to retire.
Hitting just half of these needs might be enough to put the Colts over the edge. Its safe to assume that they’ll be the favorites to win the AFC South next season and therefore make the playoffs once again.
The Colts will need a better effort and more talented players on each side of the ball if they want to get further in the playoffs. Expect a very defense oriented draft from the Colts this season and another aggressive run in free agency.