One of the most popular simulation features ever published on WhatIfSports.com came a week after my tenure started in January 2010. It was that desolate off week before the media blitzkrieg swarmed Miami in the lead up to the New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
Acting as any guy would with a new toy (that being our NFL simulation engine), I wanted to test it out and remix the stale and overplayed pre-Super Bowl features that filled column inches in newspapers and time during sportscasts.
WhatIfSports.com had at its disposal a computer that could simulate the 2012 New Orleans Saints with Archie Manning (1980 season) as the team's starting quarterback using our NFL Dream Teams tool. We then took Archie's new-age Saints squad and simulated a matchup between it and Peyton Manning's 2009 Colts 1,001 times.
Archie's team won 52.4 percent of the simulations.
Three years after Archie's best NFL season with New Orleans, he found himself on the 1983 Houston Oilers, where he and two other quarterbacks split the 16 starts. After starting the first three games, Manning passed the torch to Gifford Nielsen, who started the next seven games, but the Oilers turned to a 23-year-old rookie, selected in the second round out of West Virginia, to lead their offense down the homestretch.
His name: Oliver Luck.
Ahh yes, the symmetry and synergy between the patriarchs Manning and Luck and their sons is enough to bring a tear to your eye, or, in WhatIfSports.com's case, provide another opportunity to take the ol' NFL simulation engine out for a spin.
For those new to WhatIfSports.com, our simulation results are based on the statistical DNA of each squad. In 1983, Oliver Luck completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 1,275 yards with eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions in seven games. His team finished 2-14 that season.
It wasn't so long ago that NFL pundits predicted the same forecast for Andrew's rookie season as the new triggerman of the Indianapolis Colts. Through his first nine games, Luck has completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 2,631 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions (with five rushing touchdowns).
Using the NFL simulation engine, we simulated Luck versus Luck 1,001 times, with Andrew getting the best of his dad's Oilers 67.8 percent of the time by an average score of 28-22.
|Oliver Luck versus Andrew Luck: 1,001 Simulations|
|Matchup||Win%||Avg Score||WIS Interactive|
|2012 Indianapolis Colts||67.8||28.3||Simulate Matchup|
|1983 Houston Oilers||32.2||21.9||Sample Boxscore|
What better place to have a classic "what-if" matchup than inside the cozy confines of "The Eighth Wonder of the World," the Houston Astrodome. Plus, we know it's available to rent.
Papa Luck got things going quickly in the first quarter.
Although his workhorse, Earl Campbell, only touched the ball twice on the Oilers' opening drive, Oliver did some damage with his arm, connecting with Mike Renfro for a 17-yard touchdown and the early 7-0 lead. Unrattled, Andrew answered back with a nine-play drive that spanned 77 yards and culminated with a 29-yard touchdown to college teammate, Coby Fleener.
Second quarter action was limited up until the final drive by Indianapolis.
With a little over a minute on the clock, Andrew engineered another long drive. With just 12 seconds remaining in the half and the ball resting on the Oilers' 42-yard line, Andrew heaved his third-down pass to the end zone where Reggie Wayne out-soared the competition and brought down the ball for six and the 14-10 lead.
The momentum would swing back in favor of the Oilers in the third quarter.
Two turnovers—one an interception by Andrew, the other a fumble by Vick Ballard—allowed Houston to retake the lead. Following the fumble, Oliver found Tim Smith on 3rd-and-goal from the Colts' five-yard line. By the end of the quarter, Oliver Luck and Houston had opened up a 27-14 lead on Indianapolis.
The late-game fireworks didn't go off until midway through the fourth quarter.
Andrew continued to nickel and dime his way to success. It took eleven plays and nearly four minutes off the clock, but Donnie Avery came down with Andrew's third touchdown pass of the game to close the gap to 27-21 with just under four minutes to go in the game. As luck would have it (yeah, yeah), Campbell fumbled on the second play of the drive and the ball was recovered by the Colts. Already deep in Houston territory, it only took Andrew three plays to put another six points on the board. Adam Vinatieri's extra point gave the lead back to the Colts for good.
Andrew leads his Colts' back from 13 down in the fourth quarter to secure the 28-27 win over dad Oliver.