As Luck Would Have It…

Adam Settle

The midpoint of this year’s NFL season is nearing and some teams are beginning a stretch that may define their franchises for years to come. No, I am not describ­ing teams like the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles. For the NFL’s bottom-feeders, namely the Indianapolis Mannings (0-8), the Miami “Hard-Fought Loss” Dolphins (0-7), the St. Louis “this is the year” Rams (1-6), the Arizona “Calling Kurt Warner” Cardinals (1-6) and the Den­ver “Teblow” Broncos (2-5), the latter half of this season will present life-shattering conflicts.

What is the cause of this madness? Well, that Andrew Luck fellow is still really good. The NCAA’s role model for “student-athlete,” who returned for his junior season at Stanford to pursue his degree in architecture has not only con­tinued his stellar play to solidify his place atop next year’s draft, he has played even better with less around him and a new coach at the helm. In just eight games, Luck has amassed 2218 yards, 23 touch­downs to only four picks and a freak­ishly efficient 71.9 completion percent­age while leading the Cardinal to an 8-0 record and a potential shot at crashing the BCS National Championship party. Moreover, Luck, the son of former NFL great Oliver Luck, treated a national au­dience to a thrilling 56-48, triple-over­time victory on the road at USC. There will most certainly not be a Matt Leinart fall here.

Some teams seem to be trying harder than others to “fall” into the number one overall pick come April. Indianapolis has, at times, looked like they don’t have a pulse; the Cardinals cannot get out of their own way at times; the Rams looked dead in the water and then casually dis­mantled the Saints; the Dolphins real­ized they were beating the Giants on the road and then fell apart after seeing the USC/Stanford highlights during halftime and Tim Tebow is still allowed to play quarterback in Denver.

One of the most intriguing storylines moving forward will be how the Colts play out the final string. For one, this is not a team that should finish 1-15, even with Curtis Painter at the helm, and their play has been embarrassing at times, surprising for a team with veterans like Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne. Second, the Colts want to know if Peyton Manning will be able to physically handle playing quarterback in the NFL, not just for next season, but at all. Owner Jim Irsay has been public in suggesting that Manning will return before the end of this sea­son, even if the team continues it slide. In other words, the Colts may very well jeopardize their position to land Luck by seeing if their old stud can still perform at a high level.

Even if the Colts do obtain the first pick, should they spend it on Luck, or trade it away? Like the Rams, the Colts already have their franchise quarter­back in tow, but the situation in Indy is a little more volatile, i.e. a 36-year-old quarterback with multiple neck surger­ies. If Manning can play, and the Colts go ahead and draft Luck, then Indy may create a Favre/Rodgers scenario where neither quarterback is pleased with their situation. Worse, Luck still has another year of eligibility after this year, and may very well return to school if he does not want to hold the clipboard behind the incomparable Peyton Manning for a few years.

The Dolphins have a beast of a sched­ule, and are relying on the incomparable Matt Moore with no running game, no pass defense and no chemistry. But de­spite all of that, the Dolphins have been in mostly close games and had both New York teams on the ropes on the road un­til they collapsed. It would not surprise me if the Fins pull off a few wins, in­cluding an upset special over the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend. St. Louis and Arizona will pick up a few wins against one another and the rest of that horrid division; I’m still not buying the 49ers. The Broncos may have already knocked themselves out of the race, despite having the worst quarterback situation of any of the teams mentioned and allowing Tim Tebow to pray his way to a comeback win against Miami.

None of these teams will openly be­gin a “Suck for Luck” campaign, de­spite what despondent fans may want to see. There is too much pride in the average NFL player to continue to play this poorly without any attempt to im­prove. However, if the effort is there and they still try and fail, there will most definitely be a silver lining.

Andrew Luck may be the biggest “sure thing” in football in a generation. Any­one that special deserves to be fought over. Let’s just hope things don’t get ugly.

Contact Adam Settle at [email protected]