The Seattle Seahawks game last Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals was a good win and Russell Wilson was impressive, as usual. It seems he improves with each game – the whole team does. Wilson makes them a better team. But Thursday was quickly forgotten with a bigger game Sunday night: Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts versus Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. That was an exciting game because it was Manning’s first game back to Indianapolis since 2011, when he was released by the team that drafted him first overall in 1998 and where he played as the face of the franchise for 13 years, winning a championship in 2007. Plus, the Broncos were one of two teams left undefeated going into week seven. Colts won, 39-33, proving to be quiet assassins: they took down the San Francisco 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos.
No doubt the Colts are going to be tough in the postseason, but if the Seahawks met the Colts again, I think the Hawks would beat them. While Luck may be the more skilled QB than Wilson, I may be biased, but I’m more impressed by Wilson and I think he will go farther this season. Let’s look at these two talented second-year QBs side by side.
1. Expectations: I like an underdog.
Luck led a straightforward path to the NFL and expectations for his success have always been high. Let’s start with his pedigree. One of many similarities Luck shares with his predecessor Manning is having a father who played in the NFL as a starting QB. The senior Luck (Oliver) played for the Houston Oilers for five years and was even teammates with Archie Manning. In high school, Luck was a highly-rated college recruit. Eventually choosing Stanford over a host of schools with top football programs, Luck was the starting QB under Jim Harbaugh for three years – all which were successful seasons and included appearances at the 2009 Sun Bowl and the 2011 BCS Bowl. During that time, Luck was runner-up twice for the Heisman in 2010 and 2011, losing out to Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, respectively. Then in 2012, Luck entered the NFL as the number one overall draft pick by the Colts.
Wilson on the other hand took the road less traveled on his way to the NFL. First, he doesn’t look like a typical NFL QB at 5’10 and 5/8” – the average height is around 6’3” so that automatically put him at a disadvantage to some scouts. Secondly, his father didn’t play professional football – he was a lawyer. Thirdly, Wilson vacillated between sports, playing football, basketball and baseball in high school.
He then spent the next four years going between football and baseball: He was drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles but opted to attend NC State where he played football for three years. After he graduated, he then signed with the Colorado Rockies. Wilson played in 61 games for their minor league affiliate, the Ashville Tourists, but then committed to the University of Wisconsin for the 2011 football season. After the season ended at the beginning of 2012, instead of gearing up for MLB Spring Training, Wilson started training for the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. A few months later, he was drafted 75th overall in the third round by the Seahawks.
2. Stats: Not always flashy, but definitely effective.
During Luck’s rookie season in 2012, he started all 16 games and ended the year with a pass completion average of 54%, an average of 258 yards per game, and a total of 23 TDs. He was second place in the Rookie of the Year vote (once again, second to RG3). Luck started out slow, with his NFL debut against the Chicago Bears ending in a loss, 41-21, where he completed 23 of 45 passes for 309 yards and one TD but had three interceptions and a QBR of 40.7. But he quickly got the hang of playing in the big leagues, especially during the game against the Miami Dolphins in Week Nine. In one of his best games, Luck completed 30 of 48 passes for 433 yards and had two TDs, no interceptions and a QBR of 90 – plus the Colts came away with a close win, 23-20. A little under halfway through the 2013 season and Luck’s numbers are on the rise and remain impressive, with a pass completion average of 61% and a QBR of 71.9. He’s only going to improve with age and experience.
Similar to Luck, Wilson also started all 16 games of his rookie season and began his NFL career with a loss against the Cardinals, 20-16. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 153 yards, had one TD and one interception, and a QBR of 39.6. But he improved – oh boy, did he improve. There were some exciting Seahawk games, gems of the highlight reel, in 2012, when the Hawks would win in a dramatic fashion. One game in particular was against the New England Patriots in Week Six. Hawks scored two TDs in the fourth quarter to pull away with the win by one point, 24-23 and Wilson threw those two TD passes with ice water in his veins, showing no fear and all confidence. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 293 yards (Tom Brady needed twice as many, going 36 of 58 for 395 yards), and had three TDs, no interceptions and a QBR of 92.2.
Wilson and Luck’s rookie numbers were very close, though Wilson had slightly lower personal numbers, which may explain why he finished third behind Luck in the Rookie of the Year voting. Technically, Wilson’s averages this season are slightly lower than his numbers last season, but there are still a lot of games to play and Wilson doesn’t have to have flashy numbers – it’s just the “W” that counts!
3. Predictions: Money’s on my home team.
Both squads led by Luck and Wilson currently lead their divisions: Indianapolis is the AFC South front-runner with a record of 5-2 and Seattle is on top of the NFC West with a record of 6-1.
However, the measure of a team should not be based solely on the overall record, but take into account which teams they record those wins and losses against. Colts previously lost to the Miami Dolphins and the San Diego Chargers who are mediocre opponents. If the Dolphins and Chargers gave the Colts trouble, they will likely be challenged by the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and maybe a healthy Tennessee Titans squad (who they will face twice, by the way). Plus the Colts are now vulnerable after losing WR Reggie Wayne to a season-ending knee injury.
Seahawks, on the other hand, have formidable opponents in the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers – the latter will be hosting the rematch and looking for a win after the last two blowouts by Seattle. But other than those two teams, the Hawks should have “wins” (knock on wood) against the Rams, Bucs, Falcons, Vikings, Giants and Cardinals, especially with WR Percy Harvin and FB Michael Robinson returning.
It’s unlikely the Colts and Hawks will meet again this season, unless it’s at the Super Bowl (knock twice) because the Colts have to get through the Patriots, Chiefs and Broncos for the AFC title. But if or when they meet again, advantage: Wilson and the Seahawks.