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On a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles, California, during the early days of 1967, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in a game that would be known as Super Bowl I. Since that game, 54 other Super Bowl champions have been crowned, bringing pure elation to the fanbases who religiously follow their teams year-round. Since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts franchise has celebrated one Lombardi Trophy victory during the 2006-2007 season. Before and after that season were many playoff runs marred with disappointment and disparate feelings of underperformance. It has been well over a decade since the city of Indianapolis has been able to taste the sweetness of Super Bowl perfection, far too long, some may argue, with the talent that has graced the Lucas Oil Stadium Turf.

But the Colts may get another crack at the seven-pound sterling silver trophy this year, so long as they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday; they’ll be in the dance. And once you’re in the dance, anything can happen.

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Why the Colts Will Win the Super Bowl

Super Bowls have been won by teams with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. Some like the 1985 Chicago Bears, 2000 Baltimore Ravens, and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers had historically great defenses and mediocre to slightly above average quarterbacks (Jim McMahon, 15-11 TD-INT ratio in 1985, Trent Dilfer, 55.5% career completion percentage, and Brad Johnson, nicknamed “Checkdown Charlie”). Others like the 1999 St. Louis Rams and the 1995 Dallas Cowboys had legendary offenses. The Colts have neither a historically great defense or an extremely potent offense, but what they do have is a well-balanced team that performs well on both sides of the ball. Every Super Bowl team to ever win the Lombardi has had at least 23 turnovers forced during the regular season. The Colts have that box checked, as they’ve forced 31 through 16 games. Secondly, while Carson Wentz hasn’t been playing at an elite level this season, the Colts are still 7th in the NFL in points per game with 27.5. Over the past four years, every team that went to the big game finished top 5 in offensive points per game. The Colts currently rank 7th but are within 4 points of the Bengals, who are in 5th. These stats may seem obscure and nonsensical, but they hold some weight considering they have stood the test of time.

A recent Super Bowl championship team that fans have been comparing the 2021 Colts to are the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Headlined by “elite?” Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, a young Torrey Smith, and an older Anquan Boldin on offense. On defense, the Ravens featured an aging Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, plus Ravens great Haloti Ngata and prime Paul Kruger. Flacco’s 2012 regular season stats are eerily similar to that of Wentz’s thus far. Wentz has produced about three ticks higher than 2012 Flacco in the completion percentage department, albeit on 44 fewer attempts. Flacco also threw for almost 500 yards more than Wentz has, but this again can be chalked up to the attempt discrepancy. Wentz has thrown for more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than Flacco did in 2012 (26-6, 22-10) and has been sacked less (25 to 36) while also posting a higher quarterback rating (95.8 to 87.7). Flacco’s yards per attempt averaged out to be 7.2 during the regular season, while Carson Wentz sits at 6.9. What remains to be seen is how Carson Wentz will perform in the playoffs, as that is where Flacco became elite. In the Ravens’ four-game playoff run, Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions for 1140 yards, or 285 yards per game on 31 attempts per game. Flacco posted a pristine 117.2 passer rating over the four-game stretch and averaged 9 yards per attempt, a truly remarkable number that would put him in the top 25 all-time in YPA if that number held constant and was extrapolated out over a 16 game season.

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His weapons that season included the aforementioned Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and BYU legend Dennis Pitta at the Tight End position. The Ravens spread it around the yard pretty evenly during the season, with not one receiver getting over 1,000 yards, but three, Smith, Boldin, and Pitta, all gaining over 600 yards receiving. In comparison, the Colts have one 1,000 yard receiver in Michael Pittman Jr. before falling off a cliff, with their second-leading receiver being Zach Pascal, who has posted 377 yards receiving on the year. What the Ravens didn’t have, however, was an MVP caliber running back to tote the rock for them. Ray Rice ran for a little over 1100 yards for the Ravens in 2012 and wasn’t nearly the bell cow that Jonathan Taylor has been for the shoe this year.

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On the other side of the ball, the Ravens weren’t overly impressive in 2012, ranking 12th in total defense. Coincidentally the Colts also rank 12th in the NFL in total defense. The pass defense gave up roughly the same amount of yards through 16 games on similar attempts (3763 yards on 565 attempts for the Colts to 3650 yards on 557 attempts for the Ravens), and the same goes for their rushing defense (1753 yards on 389 attempts for the Colts, and 1965 yards on 492 attempts for the Ravens). Again where the Ravens defense stepped up was in the playoffs, where they held both the Andrew Luck led Colts and Tom Brady led Patriots to under 14 points. Even in the advanced metrics, such as Football Outsider’s DVOA, the Colts and Ravens rank similarly. The Ravens finished 2012 ranked 8th in DVOA, while the Colts are sitting at 9th according to the latest rankings update.

The 2012 Ravens may have had more of a veteran presence, especially on defense with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but the roster that Chris Ballard has built is filled with self-motivated, high-character players that want more than anything to win a Super Bowl ring. The similarities between the 2012 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens and the current Colts are uncanny, but what will ultimately make or break this Colts’ season is the play of Carson Wentz in the playoffs. Wentz had shown the ability to be elite before, namely during the 2017 season when he was the MVP front runner. But can he, for four games in late January/early February, be an elite quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts? A Lombardi Trophy awaits if the answer is yes.

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Note: Another similar team to use as a case study for the Colts are the 2005-06 Pittsburgh Steelers who had a better defense, but also a young, plucky Ben Roethlisberger who was a little more reckless with the ball than current-day Carson Wentz, throwing 9 interceptions in only 12 games. Those Steelers also had Willie Parker who broke out for 1200 rushing yards during the 2005 regular season.

 

The stats used in this article were obtained from Pro-Football-Reference, Football Outsiders, and Football Database.

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Jack Guiley

Hi, my name is Jack Guiley, and I'm very excited to be a part of The Blue Stable family. I am currently a freshman student-athlete at DePauw University majoring in economics. I played four years of varsity high school football and am lucky enough to have earned the opportunity to play collegiately at DePauw. I've been a Colts fan for as long as I can remember, but my first real memory of my fandom was watching the 2006 Super Bowl at the age of four. I love the draft, and really anything Colts-related. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @guiley_jack if you have any questions or want to discuss anything about the Colts!

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