Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/10/14
The Indianapolis Colts have seemingly been blessed. Or, if you prefer, Luck-y. See what I did there? In all seriousness though, if you could show me one single person – press or fan – who thought the Colts would be 8-4 with a decent chance at 11 wins in the pre-season, then I could show you a big fat liar. There’s no way anyone, even the most diehard fan (of which I unshamefully include myself) would have thought that this team, lead by a rookie quarterback playing in place of a legend would be 4 games over .500 at this point in the season. Yours truly only saw the Colts winning 5 games all year. But here we are, after week 13 (and the 12th game) and the Andrew Luck and the Colts are in prime position to make the playoffs only one year after going 2-14 and cutting ties with Peyton Manning. Luck has been on a pace that no rookie quarterback before him has ever achieved, and could end up with 4,795 yards. AS A ROOKIE. Wrap your head around that number real quick. Nearly 4,800 yards in his first NFL action. Peyton Manning only achieved 3,739 yards (a rookie record at that time). The current rookie record, held by last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton is 4,051 yards. Luck will likely surpass Manning’s number this week, and Newton’s the week after. And he’ll still have two games to play after that. Oh, and let’s not forget that he already has the most wins by a rookie quarterback taken #1 overall. That is immensely impressive. So now let’s compare how Luck has done in direct comparison with his predecessor, now through 12 weeks: Overall Record Since we last checked in, the Colts have improved their 3-1 record to 6-2 in the last 8 games. The difference between this quarter and the last quarter is that the Colts found ways to win despite two pretty terrible performances by Andrew Luck. The season’s third quarter began with a 27-10 win over Jacksonville that saw Luck run for two touchdowns. The next game at New England was by far the worst overall performance for the team as a whole, getting demolished 59-24 at Gillette Stadium. Luck himself threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. They followed that with a 20-13 win over Buffalo that was probably a bit tougher than it should have been. Then came the Detroit game. Luck was stupendously horrendous through the first three and a half quarters, but came alive when it really mattered. Down 12 points with 4 minutes to play, Luck threw two touchdowns (one as time expired) to win 35-33. That puts the current Colts team at 8-4 and it will be a real stunner if they don’t qualify for the playoffs. Through his first 12 games, Manning only managed a 2-10 record. Where Luck went 3-1, Manning wound up 1-3. However, in those four games, Manning played slightly better on average than Luck did. They both had two bad performances (Luck against New England and Detroit, Manning against Miami in week 10 and Buffalo in week 12), but Manning’s other games were statistically better than Luck. Unfortunately for Manning, though, the thing that matters – in this category anyhow – is the W. And Luck simply blows Manning out of the water. Advantage: Luck Career Stats to Date We’ve kind of touched on Luck’s stats through 12 games, but let’s go into a little bit more detail. He’s completed 279 passes on 503 attempts (55.5%). He’s already notched 3,596 yards as we mentioned earlier, and has 17 touchdowns through the air. His quarterback rating stands at an average 76.1. On the ground, he’s run 44 times for 216 yards (4.9 average), and added an additional 5 scores. That’s the good. The bad? He’s thrown 1 less interception than he has touchdowns (16), and has fumbled the ball 9 times, losing 5. He continues to have some major troubles in road games, where 13 of those 16 interceptions have occurred. He’s thrown three interceptions in a game 3 times, two of those games coming in this quarter of the NFL season. Manning overall faired a bit worse through 12 games. He completed 250 passes on 449 attempts (55.7%). He logged in 2,810 yards, and 19 touchdowns, a +2 differential for Manning as far as passing scores go, but a (-3) difference in total scores. His quarterback rating through 12 was a measly 68.2. Manning doesn’t and never will compare to Luck’s athleticism in the pocket or outside of it, as he only ran 13 times for just 56 yards (4.3 average). Manning has the edge only in passing touchdowns, and that’s not enough to eclipse where Luck is right now. Advantage: Luck   3rd Quarter Individual Game stats Once again, the career stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story as to how each player is progressing or did progress, which is why we break down each NFL quarter by individual games. Luck Week 10, Jacksonville – 18/26 (69.2%), 227 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 80.1 QB rating (2 rushing TDs, 1 fumble, 1 lost). Week 11, New England – 27/50 (54%), 334 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 63.2 QB rating (1 fumble, 1 lost). Week 12, Buffalo – 20/37 (54.1%), 240 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 71.9 QB rating. Week 13, Detroit – 24/54 (44.4%), 391 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 70.8 QB rating (1 fumble). If you go purely on completion percentage, than the sharp decline from week 10 to week 13 is tough to ignore. Also easy to pick apart (pun intended) are the 8 interceptions Luck has thrown the past four games. But some good did come out of it – not the least was the team’s 3-1 record this quarter. He threw for a career high 4 touchdowns against the Lions in week 13, the last two coming in the final four minutes of the game to cap a stunning comeback victory. And his best game QB rating wise was a game in which he didn’t throw a single touchdown pass. The completion percentages and interceptions we can blame on a combination of coaching (interim Head Coach Bruce Arians is known for his love of the deep pass), rookie mistakes and poor protection from the offensive line. But if the Colts want any kind of realistic shot at making some playoff noise, Luck will have to be a lot smarter with the ball. Manning Week 10, Miami – 22/42 (52.4%), 140 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 47.7 QB rating. Week 11, New York Jets – 26/44 (59.1%), 276 YARDS, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 81.3 QB rating. Week 12, Buffalo – 14/29 (48.3%), 164 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 48.6 QB rating. Week 13, Baltimore – 27/42 (64.3%), 3 TDs, 1 INT, 105.0 QB rating. The third quarter of Manning’s rookie season maintained the roller coaster pace it had been on since week 1. He had some good (the Baltimore game) and some ugly (Miami and Buffalo). You could see that progress was being made, though, as he was able to score three touchdowns for the second and third times of his career. And he notched a QB rating of over 100 for the second time. But with that being said, over the four game spans in each player’s rookie year, Luck has more yards (1,192 to Manning’s 937), a slightly higher average QB rating (71.5 to 70.7), and more importantly, 2 more wins. Yes, Luck threw one fewer touchdowns and 1 more interception, but don’t forget to count the two rushing scores he had against Jacksonville. Advantage: Luck At the end of the NFL’s 3rd quarter, it is apparent that Andrew Luck will have – if he hasn’t already – a far better first season than Peyton Manning. Don’t misunderstand, I am and always will be a huge Peyton Manning fan. And even though Luck is playing like no other rookie quarterback before him, we don’t know that will necessarily translate to future success. But right now, there is no doubt that Luck is better at this point than Manning was, and he’s doing it with a team that has far fewer talents on it than Manning’s first Colts team. Follow me on Twitter @expertfan1
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