3. Indianapolis Colts
There was lots of uncertainty surrounding the Indianapolis Colts in 2023. With Frank Reich gone, they hired Shane Steichen as their head coach. Given that it was his first time leading a team, it was uncertain how he was going to fare. It's fair to say that he exceeded expectations, keeping Indy in playoff contention until the finale. The fact that he did it with a roster filled with question marks makes his success even more impressive.
You could argue that there's not much to celebrate when your team doesn't make the postseason, but there are reasons to believe the Colts can build on their 9-8 record in 2023. For starters, they have a one-two punch at running back in Zach Moss and Jonathan Taylor. Fresh out of a breakout year, Michael Pittman Jr. gives Indianapolis a No. 1 receiver alongside Alec Pierce and Josh Downs.
Their defense also has several intriguing pieces, led by the trio of DeForest Buckner, Kwitty Paye, and Samson Ebukam in the trenches. However, the Colts' biggest reason for optimism in 2024 is arguably the return of quarterback Anthony Richardson, whose rookie season was cut short by a shoulder injury.
Gardner Minshew managed to keep Indianapolis afloat during Richardson's absence. He inked a one-year deal last offseason but it would make sense for the Colts to bring him back. That said, Richarson is the unquestionable starter. If the Colts can reinforce their offensive line and the secondary in the offseason, they'll be a legitimate threat to compete in the AFC South in 2024.