Andrew Luck, Quenton Nelson key to Colts' postseason hopes

The Colts are ready to see what life is like again with QB Andrew Luck back in the lineup for an entire season. Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

For the Indianapolis Colts to contend for the playoffs this season, here are the five players who can help make that happen:

Andrew Luck, quarterback: A healthy and effective Luck will help speed up the rebuilding process the Colts are going through. He proved his ability to cover up many of the flaws on the roster when he led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, including the AFC Championship Game in 2014. But Luck has to first prove that he's healthy and then quickly knock off any rust after missing the 2017 season while rehabbing from right shoulder surgery.

Quenton Nelson, left guard: Nelson, taken No. 6 overall in the April draft, is another piece to what the Colts hope will be the best offensive line they've put together since selecting Luck No. 1 overall in 2012. His impeccable technique and ability to quickly pick up schemes turned the heads of many of his teammates and the coaching staff while working with the first unit throughout offseason workouts.

Anthony Castonzo, left tackle: Castonzo, the longest-tenured offensive lineman for the Colts, had his impressive 2017 season go unnoticed because the line as a whole gave up an NFL-high 56 sacks. He'll team with Nelson to take responsibility in protecting Luck's -- or Jacoby Brissett's -- blind side.

T.Y. Hilton, receiver: Hilton has been Luck's primary target for the majority of the six seasons they have been on the field together. Hilton, who has topped 1,000 yards receiving in four of his six seasons, will need to grab hold of the No. 1 role even more this season because of Luck missing last season and new faces at receiver and tight end. Hilton likely will spend more time going in motion and catching passes on the move underneath in coach Frank Reich's offense.

Malik Hooker, safety: The first step for Hooker is to get back onto the field after his rookie season was cut short when he tore an ACL in Week 9 against Jacksonville. It's what Hooker did before the injury that showed his importance to the defense. The 2017 first-round pick used his ball-hawking ability to produce three interceptions in just seven games as a rookie. Creating turnovers has been a priority for general manager Chris Ballard since he was hired in January 2017.