Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill faced off in a battle that, at the end of the season, could determine a playoff spot in the AFC.
During the game the two threw for a combined 723 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions (and luckily no turnovers, as both had fumbles that were recovered by the offense). They also completed 60 percent of their passes, and combined for a quarterback rating of 99.1.
The success of both quarterbacks is the reason why their teams are still fighting for a playoff berth, and there's a good chance that this game will be the deciding tiebreaker in the AFC playoff race.
But this will also be the last time that these two quarterbacks will matchup at 1:00 p.m. ET on a Sunday afternoon. What we saw in Week 9 was only the beginning of a battle for supremacy in the AFC. Today it's for a playoff berth, but in the next five years these two quarterbacks could wind up playing each other for home-field advantage or even an AFC Championship.
There are differences in the two quarterbacks that cannot be denied though. Andrew Luck is much more polished than Tannehill, and it isn't even close in that aspect. Luck has already led the Colts to three comeback victories, and at 5-3 has them in the catbird seat for a playoff spot.
They're also only two games behind Houston for the top spot in the AFC South, and outside of games against the Texans and the Patriots, the Colts have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way.
Luck's greatest ability isn't even his arm, but his Dan Marino-esque quick release that allows him to not only avoid sacks, but find the right receiver to throw the ball to. Against Miami, Luck seemed to convert 3rd-and-everything, and did it so smoothly despite having the likes of Cameron Wake pressuring him.
At times, I even thought what he did was witchcraft, but it was a sight to behold, as Luck managed to make a good defense in Miami look atrocious while setting the rookie passing record for yards.
Tannehill originally held that record—which he set in Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals—and was also effective this week. He's not as refined as Luck, but has a large upside himself. His main weakness is overthrowing his receivers, especially when he's under a lot of pressure. Had his offensive line not let him down with stupid penalties, and had his receivers not made some crucial drops (Jabar Gaffney's drop in the red zone that forced Miami to settle for a game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter come to mind), Tannehill could've left Indianapolis with the victory.
The best way I could sort out these two would be like this: Andrew Luck can be worth a guaranteed eight victories per season for the Colts on his own. Other than Reggie Wayne, Luck doesn't have many great weapons surrounding him, as his two tight ends and most of his receivers are still developing. The thought of those weapons getting better, plus with what the Colts will add in the future, is a scary one for the AFC.
While Ryan Tannehill is also very good and has shown himself to work well with Miami's limited weapons, he is a little bit more dependent on Miami's running game (they should've had at least 10 more carries as the run game averaged 5.1 yards per carry on only 17 rushes). Beyond that, while Tannehill wouldn't exactly be worth eight victories on his own, he will win games for Miami when he has to.
Is Andrew Luck vs. Ryan Tannehill the next great AFC quarterback rivalry?
One thing to keep in mind with Ryan Tannehill is the fact that he's only started 27 games when you combine college and the NFL. Luck started 38 games in college alone. While both quarterbacks have high ceilings, you can make the argument that Tannehill has a larger upside, only because Luck is closer to hitting his ceiling than Tannehill is to hitting his.
Sunday's contest was a fun game to watch for fans of great quarterback play, and if the standings hold and both teams finish second in their division, it's likely we'll see a rematch of these two in Indianapolis once again next season.