Andrew Luck: Can Rookie QB Still Lead Indianapolis Colts to the Postseason?

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Andrew Luck: Can Rookie QB Still Lead Indianapolis Colts to the Postseason?
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Andrew Luck got a little welcome to the NFL courtesy of the Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in Week 11.

Although Luck was sacked just once, he threw three picks—two touchdowns—and finished with a 54.0 completion percentage. Unsurprisingly, Indy fell to the Pats 59-24 and dropped to 6-4 overall. Because of this tough loss, though, are the Colts in danger of missing the postseason?

Well, the gap has slightly closed between Indy and the rest of those vying for an AFC Wild Card. To that end, let's break Luck and the Colts down regarding their 2012 fate.

 

Exposure From the Patriots

In addition to the sack, Belichick's defense got quite a bit of pressure on Luck and kept him under duress throughout.

Now yes, New England's pass defense still remains quite vulnerable as the rookie compiled 334 yards and averaged 12.3 per completion. Nonetheless, Luck had plenty of overthrows from miscommunication because of the disguised coverages.

The end result was two of Luck's picks getting taken back for touchdowns and New England routing at home. Also, the pressure caused a fumble of Luck which made him account for all four of Indy's turnovers.

Pressure was getting applied from all over and it wasn't Luck panicking as it was the Pats' scheme.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

New England disguised the front seven quite well and it forced Indy into being one-dimensional. Even though the Colts amassed 119 rushing yards and five yards a pop, turnovers and Tom Brady prevented Indianapolis from maintaining balance.

In short, the best way to beat any quarterback is with pressure and although it's Luck, rookie mistakes will happen.


The Remaining Schedule

This week is the Buffalo Bills and then the Detroit Lions in the transition to December.

As long as Indy runs the ball vs. Buffalo, the Colts can get a win here because the Bills can be suspect against the pass. The same can be said for the Lions, as Detroit may rank No. 8 in pass defense but allows a 66.5 completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks.

Thereafter the Colts have three divisional games against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans twice—sandwiched between are the Kansas City Chiefs.

K.C. at this point is a guaranteed win since the Chiefs can't slow anyone down. The Titans, however, must be attacked via the ground just like the first meeting. In the Week 8 matchup, Indy compiled 171 yards rushing which allowed Luck to set up off play-action.

As a result, Luck completed 68.4 percent of his throws and the Colts won in overtime. Formulate the same game plan and Tennessee's defense will break.

The Texans twice within a three week span are the two rough contests.

Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

Houston is an upgraded version of New England's defense because J.J. Watt and Co. get pressure, stop the run, force turnovers and blanket in any coverage. Don't expect Indy to take the first meeting as it's on the road after hosting Tennessee.

Week 17 is a more realistic shot at upsetting Houston, as Indy will have seen the Texans and it's a home game. The intangible advantage of confidence from a recent game vs. Houston and motivation to qualify for January will be in favor of the Colts.

How will the Colts finish?

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All that said, 11-5 is the best-case scenario and 9-7 is the worst-case scenario.


Other AFC Playoff Contenders

Had the postseason kicked off this week the Colts would be competing.

Tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 6-4, Indy has the No. 5 spot with a better record within the AFC. Elsewhere the only current legit contenders capable of sneaking up on Luck and Co. are the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets.

Cincy sports a 5-5 record with games remaining against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Also, the Bengals are likely to enter Week 16 with a 9-5 record—next four are winnable games vs. Oakland, San Diego, Dallas and Philadelphia.

New York owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indy and after New England in Week 12, the Jets have the potential to win out: Week 13 onward are the Cardinals, Jaguars, Titans, Chargers and Bills.

Combine all the elements between Cincy, New York and Pittsburgh with opportunities to finish 9-7, the Colts must get 10 wins. And that requires a victory over the Texans.


Follow John Rozum on Twitter.

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