For the Indianapolis Colts this season, what looked promising through the first four games may now blossom in to something legitimately special.
If you recall my first Luck-Manning comparison (see here: http://wp.me/prUUN-MRF), Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck had put up some decent numbers through his first four games, especially when compared with the numbers Peyton Manning was able to log in through the first four games of his inaugural season. Though the numbers looked good, it was then too premature to say exactly how well Luck really looked in Year One PP (Post-Peyton).
Well, we’ve added 4 more games to the total. And things are looking quite well indeed.
Luck is, as has been reported numerous times since this past week’s games, on pace to absolutely shatter the rookie record for passing yards in a season. He’s the leading candidate for the offensive Rookie of the Year Award. And despite the lack of talent and depth (upon first glance, anyhow), he has lead the Colts to a better record than anyone thought possible at this point, and in real contention for a playoff spot.
For anyone who does not remember Manning’s first year in Indianapolis, it can be best summed up as “not so much” when contrasted with this year’s Colts team.
Let’s glance at the numbers, shall we?
After the season’s first quarter, the Colts brought in a 2-2 record heading into MetLife Stadium to face the Jets in Week 6, which was only the second road game of the season – the first being week 1 against the Bears. Sure enough, things went just about as well – if not worse – as it did in Chicago. Luck undoubtedly had the worst game of his young career, throwing no touchdowns and 2 interceptions (with 1 lost fumble) in a 35-9 beat-down by the Jets. Things didn’t get a whole lot better in games against the Browns and the Titans statistically, but both ended in wins. Then we have the Miami game last Sunday. What more can be said about Luck’s performance that hasn’t already been said? He threw for 433 yards, a single game record for rookie quarterbacks. That included 2 touchdowns with no interceptions, a 62.5 completion percentage, and a quarterback rating of 105.6, his highest to date. All that adds up to a 5-3 record heading into tonight’s game against Jacksonville.
Manning’s second quarter began differently than his first quarter did, winning his first career game against the Ryan Leaf-led San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately, after that, the team went back to its losing ways, though Manning’s individual numbers began to increase greatly, culminating in a 3 touchdown, zero interception game against game 7 opponent San Francisco. In that game Manning also threw for 231 yards, completed 60% of his passes, and logged in a QB rating of 117.5. However, the Colts did lose that game by a 34-31 score, and went on to lose in game 8 to New England 21-16 and gave Indy just one win and seven losses.
Career Stats to Date
Through the first 8 games of his rookie season, Manning completed 161 of 292 passes (55.1%), and tabbed 1,873 yards with 11 touchdowns. However, along with that he also threw 16 interceptions, and his quarterback rating stood at just 66.0. It was a slight improvement from the first quarter to second quarter, but he had yet to take that huge leap forward that would come in the latter half of the season.
By contrast, Luck looks like he may have already made that leap, but there are still 8 games to go against the likes of Houston (twice) and New England (at New England). I’ll abstain from making any kind of prophetic declarations based on that, but the numbers so far are pretty darn good for a quarterback in his very first year. Luck has completed 190 passes on 336 attempts (56.5%), for 2,404 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has also run the ball 27 times for 148 yards and scored 3 times on the ground. He’s got half the interceptions Manning did at this point in his career (8 to Manning’s 16), but has also lost 3 fumbles. His QB rating is also better, standing at 79.0.
I should also note that Luck is tied with Manning for this season in passing yards, and are tied for 4th overall in the league. Luck also has 2 games with a QB rating of over 100, compared to Manning’s one at this point in their careers, and Luck also has only 2 games with a QB rating under 74, compared to Manning’s 7.
One final note: ESPN’s Mike Sando has Luck at #5 in his top 10 MVP candidates. I don’t know for certain, but I am 99.99% sure that Manning was not getting any legitimate MVP consideration through his first eight games.
2nd Quarter Individual Game States
Week 6, New York Jets – 22/44, (50%), 280 yards, 0 TDs, 51.3 QB rating, 1 fumble lost.
Week 7, Cleveland Browns – 16/29 (55.2%), 186 yards, 0 TDs, 74.8 QB rating, 1 fumble lost (2 rushing TDs as well).
Week 8, Tennessee Titans – 26/38 (68.4%), 297 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 89.5 QB rating.
Week 9, Miami Dolphins – 30/48 (62.5%), 433 yards, 2 TDs, O INTs, 105.6 QB rating.
The first two weeks of the second quarter were a bit rough for Luck, but as the numbers show, he began to improve in completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ration as the weeks progressed. A lot of that is his receivers being more consistent with catching balls instead of dropping them like they’ve been prone to do the first six weeks, and improvement in the run game. That’s the sign of a team that is beginning to develop chemistry. And much like the first quarter of the season, if you wipe out the Jets game, the overall numbers improve greatly: 62.0 completion percentage, average of 315 yards per game, 3 touchdowns against 1 pick, and a QB rating of 90.0. That’s a stark improvement from the Jets game.
Week 5, San Diego Chargers – 12/23 (52.2%), 137 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 66.8 QB rating.
Week 6, Buffalo Bills – 20/41 (48.8%), 235 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 62.6 QB rating.
Week 7, San Francisco 49ers – 18/30 (60%), 231 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 117.5 QB rating.
Week 9, New England Patriots – 30/52 (57.7%), 278 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 69.2 QB rating.
Even though in Manning’s best game against the 49ers, he had more touchdowns and a higher quarterback rating than Luck had in his best game against Miami, Luck’s numbers show more consistency (obviously) and greater overall improvement. Oh yeah, and there’s the whole rookie record for passing yards in a game thing.
Overall, Andrew Luck has proven to be everything we hoped he could be, at least through the first 8 games. He has guided to Colts to a record most thought unattainable (though I predicted a 5-win season, I saw a lot of people suggesting 1, maybe 2 wins), and has a legitimate shot for at least 3 or 4 more wins. If Luck can guide this squad to a 9-7 record and squeak into the playoffs, it has to be considered one of, if not the, greatest rookie season by a quarterback in the history of the NFL. There’s still a ways to go yet for that to happen, but the future is looking bright indeed.
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