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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Andrew Luck had a good rookie season in the NFL. Many superstar quarterbacks…those who were destined for greatness…made big leaps forward from year one to year two in the careers. What could THAT mean for Luck, who already led his team to the playoffs in 2012?

That’s an important question to consider as you watch Sunday Night’s nationally televised Indianapolis Colts/NY Giants game on FOX. Luck could be the next Peyton Manning…meaning, a quarterback who extends what had already been an impressive Colts dynasty. On the other hand, there were several hidden negatives last season that the press has been glossing over.

Among them:

*Indianapolis played a VERY soft schedule last year. Some places ranked it as the easiest of all 32 teams.

*Luck’s TD/Interception ratio was only 23 to 18. That’s on the right size of net zero…which can be tough for rookies to accomplish. But, it was far from spectacular. And, he was only +5 while playing one of the easiest schedules in the league!

*Luck’s QB rating was only 76.5. In an era where it’s just not that hard to break 90.0 if you know what you’re doing, that’s well below something that people should get excited about.

*The Indianapolis offense as a whole only averaged 5.2 yards per play. That was better than the disasters that befell the NY Jets (4.8) or Cleveland (5.0). But, it was well behind what the best offenses were doing.

The Colts kept making headlines by scoring dramatic last second victories. That much did speak very well for Luck’s poise under fire. But, if you’re scoring a bunch of nailbiter wins over a very easy schedule…then you’re not really a playoff caliber team. You’re just better than bad.

Indianapolis finished the year 11-5

That would have been more like 8-8 with normal late-game distributions

Which would have been more like 6-10 against a league average schedule!

Sound harsh?

Yards-per-Play Differential: Colts 5.2, Opponents 6.0

Turnover Differential: Minus 12

Strength of Schedule: Very Easy

That hunk right there represents a 6-10 caliber team. The skeptics have a lot in their arsenal!

But, it’s not all bad news. As we’ve discussed for years in the NOTEBOOK, a great indicator for quarterback ability and intelligence is third down conversion rate. Luck led the Colts to 43% last season, which was third best in the AFC. Check this out:

AFC THIRD DOWN OFFENSE

1…New England (Tom Brady) 49%

2…Denver (Peyton Manning): 46%

3…Indianapolis (Andrew Luck): 43%

If you want to go leaguewide, only Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas topped 43%...which means the six best in the NFL were five veteran stars and Andrew Luck.

Here’s the best case scenario for the Colts in 2013:

*Luck continues to build on his third down and late game poise

*Luck cuts way down on his interceptions

*Luck follows the general growth pattern you see in future Hall-of-Famers

That would keep the Colts in the playoff hunt, and a true best case scenario might have them leaping all the way to best in the AFC South surpassing Houston.

Here’s the worst case scenario for the Colts:

*Luck gets hurt and misses significant time!

*The good fortune they enjoyed in close games last year regresses

*Luck stays overly aggressive and starts veering toward Tony Romo territory rather than Tom Brady territory

Handicappers should do their best to get a read on Luck’s direction tonight in New York, and then next week in a home dress rehearsal game against potentially resurgent Cleveland.

JIM HURLEY knows that all 32 NFL teams have a story to tell. He’s following developments all over the league as he prepares for the dress rehearsals and the start of the regular season. You can purchase tonight’s play, and game day BEST BETS all through the year (both football and baseball!) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you Monday to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers/Washington Redskins game on ESPN that will finish off the NFL weekend. Football is back with a fury. Make the most of it with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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