Nearly every year there's one or two surprise playoff teams that no one expected to be in contention. At the end of the 2012 season, the Colts and the Vikings were making surprise playoff appearances, but their success was as much a testament to the inconsistent nature of last season's wildcard contenders as it was to those teams' abilities on the field.
In 2013, don't expect the Colts or the Vikings to be making trips back to the playoffs. Both teams play in divisions with clear favorites. The Packers are as close to an April shoo-in to win their division as any team can possibly be at this time of the year, and the Texans are in a similar position in the AFC South.
Both the Colts and the Vikings made huge progress last season. The Vikings got a boost from Christian Ponder's much improved play, and the Colts got instant production out of Andrew Luck and a very young Colts team.
Despite last season's success, the Vikings are left with more questions than answers. Last year, running back Adrian Peterson had one of the best seasons by a runner in NFL history. It's just too unrealistic to believe that he can do that again in 2013. Christian Ponder improved, but the Vikings lost Ponder's best weapon, Percy Harvin, in a trade that sent him to Seattle. With teams like the Saints and Giants likely getting back into form, it's hard to imagine the Vikings sneaking into the postseason again.
The Colts are in a different situation. They've added some pieces to their puzzle that makes the Colts better on paper, but we also have to consider that they overachieved in a big way last season. To add to that point, the man that got the most out of the team, Bruce Arians, who filled in for head coach Chuck Pagano for most of the season, is now in Arizona as their head coach. That means that Andrew Luck will be adjusting back to Pep Hamilton's offense. Hamilton was the offensive coordinator at Stanford for Luck's final season in college.
The Vikings and the Colts are both young teams, and their stock arrows are still pointing up, but getting back to the playoffs following the 2013 season may be too much to ask. Both teams are making positive strides forward, but they're not playoff teams just yet, and I expect their competition to be somewhat better this season. Expect them to play meaningful games late in the year, but that should be about it for them.