Andrew Luck: Regular Season Clashes Where Rookie Gives Colts Edge
That's right. Luck hasn't played a regular season snap yet, but judging from his fine preseason form, he will provide the Colts with a distinct advantage at quarterback despite being a rookie signal-caller.
The 2012 schedule really doesn't look horrifying for the Colts, especially when taking into account the caliber of quarterbacks Luck's defense will be facing. They will encounter more of a challenge on the practice field, with Luck's innate ability to audible at the line of scrimmage.
Although the personnel on defense may be fragile, remember that former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is now the head coach.
The 3-4 scheme and hard-nosed attitude instilled by Pagano will improve the unit immediately, and attacking the Colts' defense won't be a cakewalk for QBs like it was in 2011.
Here is a breakdown of the matchups in the regular season that Luck will likely win, at least strictly in a numbers comparison to his quarterback counterparts.
Ponder and Gabbert seem much-improved this preseason, each entering their second year as pros with a full offseason in tow.
The arm-strength contest between Luck and the second-year duo is roughly even, but Luck's understanding of an offense and ability to read NFL defenses, I dare say, is already superior.
After all, Luck has been touted as the most NFL-ready QB in years, so it's not a huge knock on Ponder or Gabbert that I've graded Luck ahead of them already.
Ah yes, now onto the Sanchize. You'd think that in his fourth year, everything would start to click.
The preseason has been a disaster.
While a bad preseason isn't always indicative of a poor regular season and vice versa, the Jets have yet to find the end zone entering Week 3.
Do tell: Would you rather have a four-year deal worth just over $22 million that Luck has, or be stuck with Sanchez's contract for five years and $60 million like the Jets are now?
Week 7: vs. Cleveland Browns, Brandon Weeden
Considering the lack of skill players surrounding Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, it's pretty easy to rank Luck ahead of him.
The only thing that may save Weeden is a strong running game on the strength of No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson.
Unfortunately, Cleveland continues to be cursed for some ungodly reason, and Richardson has yet to suit up in the preseason due to a sore knee.
Weeden has a ton of arm talent, but he comes from a spread system in college. The gunslinging mentality of Weeden is in stark contrast to Luck's methodical, relatively mistake-free approach.
Weeden's aggressive style of play will likely lead to a lot of interceptions as a rookie.
With a strong reliance on tempo at Oklahoma State to keep opposing teams off-balance, Weeden will have a tough time reading the Colts' complex schemes this early in his career.
Week 8 and 14: Tennessee Titans, Jake Locker
I love Locker's upside as much as the next person, but his accuracy is still a big question mark. He and Luck possess similar mobility, and Locker has a bigger arm than Luck.
Judging from Thursday's preseason outing, it seems the Titans QB is already developing good rapport with first-round wideout Kendall Wright.
Still, Luck's football IQ seems higher than Locker's, although the second-year quarterback is improving at a rapid pace and justifying why he was once considered a No. 1 overall-caliber talent.
Locker may get the upper hand in one of the two meetings, but I expect Luck to come out on top in the other.
Call it a wash, but that means both games in which the Colts square off against their divisional foe will likely be close.
Week 9: vs. Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill
Clearly Tannehill is no slouch, and he will obviously be aided by having his college offensive coordinator Mike Sherman serving in the same capacity to start his professional career.
Tannehill is meant to be the savior for a franchise that hasn't found a viable long-term answer at quarterback since Dan Marino. While he may be the answer to Miami's prayers, he is not as pro-ready as Luck is, hence being drafted seven picks behind him.
The familiarity factor between Tannehill and Sherman will likely accelerate the Dolphin QB's development, but Luck is already miles ahead of him.
Thus, Luck gets the nod in this matchup within the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Week 12: at Buffalo Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick
The only concern here is that it will likely be below freezing, and Luck hasn't had much experience weathering the elements.
That said, Fitzpatrick doesn't exactly have the rocket arm to combat the swirling breezes of Ralph Wilson Stadium either.
The Bills' defensive line is strapped with plenty of pass-rushing threats: Mario and Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson.
Luck's mobility will be the X-factor here, though.
It could be argued that NFL defenses will have caught up to Luck by this point in the season, but considering his study habits and talent, the opposite is actually more likely to happen.
So, is it going out on a gigantic limb to say that Luck is better than all of the above-listed QBs right now, or that he will be before season's end?
If you are a fan of those teams, their quarterback will have to get lucky to beat the Colts this season.
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