A year ago the Indianapolis Colts had just closed the books on a 2-14 season, cleaned out their entire front office, and then ended the Peyton Manning Era by releasing the future Hall Of Famer.
They might have reconsidered those moves, if they didn’t have the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. That pick allowed them to bring in Andrew Luck, who has lived up to every bit of hype and leads the Colts against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.
But can the rookie continue Indianapolis’ dream season against the more seasoned Ravens, who were one dropped pass away from the Super Bowl last year?
Many of Luck’s stats point to a resounding yes. The 23-year-old broke the NFL rookie record for passing yards with 4,374 and tossed 23 touchdowns, leading four Indianapolis fourth-quarter comebacks.
Still, he has been prone to rookie mistakes. Luck has thrown 18 interceptions, and has a low completion percentage of 54.1. But it’s important to note only five more teams threw the ball more than the Colts: Detroit (740), New Orleans (671), Dallas (658), New England (641), Oakland (629). All of those teams have Pro Bowl quarterbacks, and only one made the playoffs.
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Also the two players Luck is most often compared to, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Washington’s Robert Griffin III haven’t thrown nearly as many passes. Wilson and Griffin each had 393 pass attempts this season, and Griffin missed just one game.
Luck did struggle against some of the league’s best secondarys, but Baltimore was not one of them. In his first pro game against the Chicago Bears, Luck tossed three interceptions in a 41-21 loss. Then in Week 6 against the New York Jets, the Colts were blown out 35-9 with Luck going 22-for-44 with two picks and a 51.3 passer rating.
Luck should have a much better game versus a Ravens secondary that is 17th in pass yards allowed per game.
Baltimore lost a step when corners Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith went down with injuries. The Ravens signed cornerback Corey Graham, who filled in well with 60 total tackles and two interceptions on the year, but must shadow Colts top receiver Reggie Wayne all game.
Many thought Wayne was crazy for re-signing in the offseason, but his decision to stay is another plus for Luck and Colts. The 34-year-old was seventh in the league with 1,355 receiving yards along with five touchdowns, and sixth in receptions at 106.
Having a veteran and former All-Pro catching passes did wonders for Luck, who targeted Wayne 194 times, far and away the most on the team.
Couple a top passing game with the steady improvement of running back Vick Ballard, and Indianapolis can advance to the next round. Ballard has averaged 9.1 yards per carry in Colts victories, and helped control the clock with 78 rushing yards and a touchdown in the Week 17 victory over the Houston Texans.
All signs point to a top offensive game from a Colts squad capable of caging the Ravens.