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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Andrew Luck has only thrown 16 passes in an NFL uniform so far…and they don’t even count because they came in exhibition games! But, what little we’ve seen of Luck so far has NFL fans very excited heading into tonight’s nationally televised game between Luck’s Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fitting that Luck’s wearing a horseshoe! He may need it in first prime time network appearance as a professional. The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for defense…and the last thing their starters want is to be embarrassed by some rookie on national television.

We’ll learn a lot about Luck tonight, as he figures to be tested in all directions. Last week’s debut vs. St. Louis was solid, if a bit overhyped.

*Luck’s first pass was a 63-yard TD to Donald Brown. That sounds big. But, if you saw the highlight, you know it was just a short little pass and Brown did all the work! Luck did excel at short passes while at Stanford. And, we don’t mean to suggest this was some sort of fluke. If you believe in omens, a TD on your first pass can’t be a bad thing. Just remember that Luck padded his 10-16-0-188 passing line with what was basically a 63-yard extended handoff that happened to break lose.

*Luck saw extended action deep into the second quarter, in a week where most teams pull their starters much sooner than that. It is a good sign that he moved the ball vs. Rams backups. Luck won’t be getting to face many backups once the regular season starts.

There were reasons to be impressed with Luck’s 23-yard TD pass to Austin Collie. And, he generally showed the kind of composure you want to see on third downs. We said “a bit” overhyped. Be sure you’re giving Luck credit for what he’s actually doing that will foreshadow the regular season. Don’t over-react to what happens vs. backups, or give him too much credit for things other players are doing.

It’s very important that you get a TRUE read on Luck as he tries to maneuver through his rookie season. Maybe he’ll offer value as the best-prepared rookie the sport has seen in ages. Maybe he’ll be a fade because opposing defenses will disrupt his learning curve. Let’s take a quick look at who Luck will be facing if he stays healthy:


Tonight: at Pittsburgh

Good quick test because it’s on the road vs. a good team under the national TV spotlight. It’s not exactly trial by fire because it’s the Preseason…but it’s a taste of fire, which is exactly what he needs.


Dress Rehearsal: at Washington

This will be next Saturday afternoon with a 4 p.m. ET kickoff. This is a GREAT spot because there will be an afternoon feel for a QB and team that won’t be on in prime time very often this season. It’s another road game. But, it’s an opponent that’s manageable. You can’t call it a “friendly” dress rehearsal spot by any means…it’s not at home against a lousy defense. The porridge looks to be just right. (We’ll skip the fourth and final exhibition game vs. Cincinnati because it’s not clear yet how many starters will be playing for either team in what has evolved to become a scrimmage for backups)


Week One: at Chicago

Welcome to the NFL Andrew Luck! Your first regular season start will come on the road against a Lovie Smith defense at a field where wind is often a factor and the turf will be uncertain for your recievers!


Week Two: vs. Minnesota

The official home opener comes against a team that could only manage 3-13 last year. Sounds like a gift from the schedule makers. Andrew Luck vs. Christian Ponder. It could be a lot worse.


Week Three: vs. Jacksonville

Hey, is the NFL trying to frontload a winning record for the Colts?! The Jags are expected to struggle again this year after going 5-11 in 2011. This trio represents a true test, then a chance to build confidence for a young man who comes in pretty confident already.


Week Four: BYE

Wow…that’s September. Chicago, Minnesota, Jacksonville, and a week off. The good news is that this could keep the sun shining over the franchise as Luck gets his sea legs. The bad news is that things will be much tougher later when fatigue sets in. A September bye is a negative because that sets up 13 games in 13 weeks over the last three months of the season. Brutal!


Indy’s toughest 2012 tests:

October 7: vs. Green Bay

October 14: at NY Jets

November 18: at New England

December 2: at Detroit

December 16: at Houston

December 30: vs. Houston

The Colts are in a bad division, and don’t have a particularly brutal schedule rotation this year. They don’t even have to play the best team in their own division until September. And, they arguably play only two serious Super Bowl threats until those late games with Houston (Green Bay and New England).

Frankly, the stage is set for a big year for Luck if he can stay healthy, keep his head on straight, and take what defenses are giving him.

What about TONIGHT? Will he be able to put enough points on the board to help cover the spread in Pittsburgh? Our VSM experts have some thoughts on that…

*Coach Ron Meyer…a man who once stood on the sidelines for the Indianapolis Colts…is releasing his NFL Preseason TV GAME OF THE YEAR in Indy/Pittsburgh. Pay just $20, then watch yourself win on NBC!

*Kelso Sturgeon has a 25-Unit release on sale for just $25 in the Colts/Steelers game. He’s the Dean of Sports Handicapping because he knows when to pass…and because he knows when to step in with the serious money!  

*Jim Hurley’s Network has selections in BOTH prime time sports events tonight. Pay just $20 for moneymakers in Indianapolis-Pittsburgh in the NFL on NBC, and in Boston/New York Yankees in MLB on ESPN. It’s a two-sport parlay…so sit your two best TV’s side by side!

Be sure you visit the VSM home page every day for big play announcements. Additional information is available on the “Buy Picks” page, including details on full season packages for all of our industry legens. Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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