NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Luck Alone
by Dennis Ranahan

After missing last season with an injury, Andrew Luck has returned to top form behind center for the Indianapolis Colts. The league is a lot better off with Luck healthy.

Like his predecessor in Indianapolis, the Colts are a whole different team with their talented quarterback running the Colts offense. Luck was one of the three quarterbacks in the last 40 years to enter the NFL with impeccable qualifications. The other two, John Elway and Peyton Manning, were also drafted by the Colts.

In one of the most fortuitous turn of events the Colts had the first pick in the draft each year the college talent included a quarterback with unquestioned skill and preparation to lead an NFL franchise. Elway, who was the first pick in the 1983 draft, had announced to the Baltimore Colts that he would not play football for owner Robert Irsay. The Colts spent the top pick on him anyway, but Elway’s threats took on more credence when the New York Yankees offered him a baseball contract.

Faced with losing him to baseball, the Colts traded the talented quarterback to the Denver Broncos, and the rest is football history that includes two Denver Super Bowl wins behind Elway and the former Stanford QB’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fifteen years later, the Colts were once again bad enough to earn the first pick in the draft when Peyton Manning came out of Tennessee. The Colts, now located in Indianapolis, had one other advantage when Manning was available, Irsay had died in 1997 and his son, Jim, had taken over the franchise. In one of the rarest of events, the son was a lot more effective team leader than his father. The relationship between him and Manning was one of the best in football between an owner and quarterback. Only the New England Patriots 143 regular season wins from 1998 to 2010 topped the 141 victories registered by the Manning led Colts. Twice Manning led Indianapolis to the Super Bowl, and won the Vince Lombardi Trophy to complete the 2006 season.

Manning missed the 2011 season with a neck injury, and the Colts went from a division winner in 2010 to a 2-14 regular season record. The sudden drop turned out well for Indianapolis, as it provided them the first pick in the 2012 draft when Andrew Luck was available in the lottery of college talent.

In his rookie season, Luck led the Colts to the playoffs, and guided Indianapolis to division titles the following two seasons. Then, injuries began to erode the quarterback’s effectiveness, and last year he missed the entire season as Indianapolis dropped to the cellar in their division.

This year, Luck has played himself back into top form, and his presence makes the Colts competitive again … but their defense remains a liability.

While Luck was playing himself back into form, the Colts lost five of their first six games. Now, they have won three in a row and look for a fourth straight victory to even their record when they host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The Titans opened the season with a problem behind center. Franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota injured his elbow in a season opening loss to the Miami Dolphins. Under the direction of rookie head coach Mike Vrabel, the Titans split their next six games headed into a bye week.

The bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Titans team. Mariota was able to rest his injury and returned two weeks ago with his best performance of the season, a 28-14 win in Dallas against the Cowboys. Last week, the Titans talented defense and healthy Mariota, dominated the highly regarded New England Patriots while ending Tom Brady’s six game winning streak with a decisive 34-10 triumph.

The victory kept the Titans within one game of the AFC South Division leading Houston Texans. Now they head to Indianapolis, who they lead by one game in their division standings.

If Luck had the Titans defense on his side, the Colts could win this game easy. But, he doesn’t, and Mariota does. The Titans recent success is no fluke, this is one of the most talented teams in the league on both sides of the ball.

What we get an opportunity to cash on Sunday, is the team with both an offense and defense getting points against the talented Luck.

Luck is not enough.

Qoxhi Picks: Tennessee Titans (+2) over the Indianapolis Colts