Colts and Cowboys lurk as possible Super Bowl crashers

Credit: Art Editor Credit: Art Editor

Usually, the Super Bowl is won by one of the two or three teams that everyone expects to win the Super Bowl. Occasionally, however, an underdog breaks through that ceiling, like the Ravens in 2013 or the Giants in 2012.

This article takes two teams who are not part of the triumvirate of Super Bowl favorites (the Packers, Seahawks, and Patriots) and makes the case for why they might be the surprise team hoisting the Lombardi this February in Santa Clara.

Indianapolis Colts
While many people see the Colts as a close second to the Patriots or even a favorite to win the AFC, betting markets still see the Patriots and even the likely declining Broncos as surer bets to reach Super Bowl Sunday. This underestimation is misguided.

The main reason is the Colts’ offseason. To start this offseason, the Colts had four problem spots. First, the running back group was an absolute disaster, with Trent Richardson serving as the symbol of a group that failed to ever do much of anything. Second, the defensive line was weak, as outside linebacker Bjoern Werner failed to justify his second round draft slot. Third, Reggie Wayne’s departure left a huge hole for a receiver across from T.Y. Hilton. Finally, the offensive line was a mess, with tackle Gosder Cherlius simply not living up to his billing.

Other spots such as the secondary weren’t great Vontae Davis proved he was one of the league’s best cornerbacks last year, but one cornerback doesn’t make a secondary. General manager Ryan Grigson took those into account as well in free agency even though they weren’t disasters.

The Colts fixed all of these problems. Former San Francisco running back Frank Gore, though no longer a star, is a competent running back who can add yards to the end of a play with his patience and cutting ability. Former Philadelphia outside linebacker Trent Cole continued to play very well last year and will add a much needed extra weapon to replace the Colts’ long time star Robert Mathis. Former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson brings Reggie Wayne’s experience and possession receiving style while arguably being an improvement talent wise. Former Philadelphia guard Todd Herremans has been great every year he has not been injured (as he was last season). He’ll help shore up the interior of a line that, for years, has looked like it was hired by the rest of the AFC South to get quarterback Andrew Luck killed. Safety Mike Adams and cornerback Darius Butler could help shore up the secondary.

All of the offseason changes are reasons to think the team will improve, while not even mentioning that Luck is entering his fourth year. He still has plenty of room to grow, and he has gotten tangibly better with both his accuracy and decision making through each of his first three seasons.

It seems extremely likely that the Colts will waltz through their division. However, with the Broncos weakened and the Patriots losing their secondary and starting three rookies on the offensive line, the Colts might face weak competition all the way to the Super Bowl. There’s no reason to exclude them from the discussion of who can take home the prize.

Dallas Cowboys
Last year the Cowboys had an incredible offense, driven by a powerful and skilled offensive line. In their positions, Quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant were among the league’s best. While this team may miss running back DeMarco Murray, running backs rely on their offensive lines to break open holes.

Murray was not considered a particularly good back until the Dallas offensive line went supernova two years ago. Replacing Murray with running backs Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden will likely work fine.

The defensive side is more questionable, but it lacked talent last year, too. Rookie defensive end Randy Gregory almost certainly would have been a high first round pick if he wasn’t caught committing the apparently unforgivable crime of smoking pot. The return of linebacker Sean Lee adds more talent, and Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has his sterling reputation for a reason. The Cowboys’ troubled defense last season was only slightly below average, and still made it within one play of the NFC Championship game.

With an improvement on the defense and the offense continuing to hum, it’s possible the Cowboys can finally shed the endless ridicule of the last six seasons and grab Super Bowl 50.