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Five reasons why the Colts will make the 2018 NFL playoffs

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Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Sessler examines the Indianapolis Colts.

1) Counting on a healthy Andrew Luck

Feel free to deep-six this article if Andrew Luck's surgically repaired shoulder is anything less than ready to roll. You can't make a case for the Colts without their star quarterback returning to the field and authoring 16 uninterrupted starts after sitting out all of last season.

Here's what we know: Luck hit OTAs looking like an evolutionary Paul Orndorff -- the dude is jacked beyond comprehension -- and has finally resumed throwing after not playing a game in more than 530 days. Luck's intense commitment to rehab is paying off. He sought out a mechanics coach and voyaged to Amsterdam for treatment, telling reporters during this month's minicamp: "The pain is gone, and it's going to stay that way. My body doesn't revolt, in a sense, to new things I ask."

The Colts remain a work in progress, but a healthy Luck makes this club a factor in the AFC South. He's been out of the picture for so long. Long enough that our attention has drifted to other passers in this division -- Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, even Blake Bortles -- but Luck is imbued with Hall of Fame-level skills. A Colts squad that was largely unwatchable last season could hit the scene as a new creation ... assuming their prized leader can toil from wire to wire.

2) Frank Reich

The Colts wanted Josh McDaniels. They wound up with Frank Reich.

Time will tell how this marriage plays out, but I can't help but wonder if they stumbled upon a gem. Reich brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to a club that felt punchless in 2017 under deposed coach Chuck Pagano. Pairing Luck with an offensive-minded coach is long overdue.

Reich deserves mounds of credit for helping craft an Eagles offense that hammered opponents en route to Super Bowl glory one season ago. Philly's attack -- flush with college concepts and RPO action -- had plenty to do with Reich's decades of NFL experience. The Colts might need another draft or two to accrue the optimum lineup, but Reich's impact on the playbook will be felt right away.

3) Chris Ballard

It's just a hunch, but I see Ballard as a general manager with the leadership skills and scouting talent to transform a Colts team that felt lifeless before his arrival.

The sense around the team is that Indy's draft class is filled with players who will -- and must -- contribute right away. The defense needs help at every level and lacks star-power, but there's a plan in place with Ballard running the show.

Ballard handled the McDaniels double take with class and poise before turning around and picking Reich. After Pagano and ex-general manager Ryan Grigson spent years battling one another, the Colts have organizational unity for the first time in years.

4) Young talent on the offensive line

Luck's career has been undermined from the start by an offensive line riddled with issues. The results were no surprise: a franchise passer who took far too much punishment before ultimately going down with an injury that flung the team into a black hole.

Ballard has gone out of his way to address this unit, adding a rock-solid, immediate starter in pro-ready guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame. With pivot Ryan Kelly beside him and Anthony Castonzo at the bookend slot, Indy has a foundation to build around.

5) A wide open AFC South

The Colts were a fiery wreck last season, but if all the above plays out in their favor, what's stopping Indy from hanging around in this division?

The Jaguars are a fascinating, physical team with a Super Bowl-level defense, but you're still asking Blake Bortles to play above his head for Jacksonville to repeat.

The Texans are juicy if Deshaun Watson returns to form, but this is a young quarterback coming off a mid-season torn ACL. Another variable. The Titans have promise with Marcus Mariota under center and a versatile backfield, but Tennessee has a ways to go in terms of adding star power in the passing game.

The division is intriguing, but it's too early to call it for Jacksonville or anyone else. Especially if we get the version of Luck we saw before his shoulder erupted into total chaos.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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