Andrew Luck and Nick Foles are no strangers. The two did battle over the course of the transformation of the Pac-10 into the Pac-12 from the years 2009-2011. Luck emerged the victor, taking the final two of the pair’s three meetings, out-slinging Foles 1047 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception to 902 yards, five touchdowns and likewise, one interception. Tonight marks the first time the Pac alum do battle in the NFL, and much as it was in college, their play will dictate their teams’ respective fates.
Luck enters the contest coming off a mixed performance against the Broncos; on one hand he threw for 370 yards and two touchdowns while adding one on the ground, but he also tossed two interceptions (both deflected).
Foles was under assault from the onset of his week one encounter with the Jaguars, taking five sacks and missing open receivers for the opening for the duration of the game. He righted the ship in the second act, finishing with a 60 percent completion percentage, 322 yards and two touchdowns. So who has the edge?
At this moment it’s not easy to say. Luck is the better quarterback and possesses the perhaps the largest upside of any signal-caller in the league. He’ll have the added benefit of going up against a flimsy Eagles secondary that was torched by the likes of Chad Henne and Allen Hurns in week one.
The Colts secondary and front seven are far from special. Vontae Davis can’t cover everyone and LaRon Landry is more of an enforcer at this point. Foles will have some openings given the talent he has in wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, tight end Brent Celek and two gifted pass-catchers in running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles.
In the case of a tie, tie goes to the one with the most wins on his resume. Not to knock Foles but Luck has simply done more with arguably less-maybe even significantly less. Luck was utterly sensational last season against teams that made the playoffs including wins against the team that showed up on Super Bowl Sunday and the team that got showed up. Below are Andrew Luck’s 2013 regular season line against teams that made the postseason (click to enlarge).
Last I checked, the Eagles were a playoff team a year ago. Does that mean Luck is predestined to succeed tonight? Absolutely not, but keep in mind Luck didn’t have Reggie Wayne for the entire season last year (Wayne left in the midst of the fourth matchup against a would-be playoff team) nor starting tight end Dwayne Allen who was lost for the season in last year’s opener. With Wayne and Dwayne back in the fold, the Colts will prove to be a formidable challenge for Philly’s defense.
After a slow start to week one, it should be a strong night for LeSean McCoy. The Colts don’t possess a whole lot of speed in their base and nickel/dime defenses, so running lanes should prove available to the ultra-swift and ultra-slippery back. Darren Sproles should also benefit, and should Chip Kelly prove wise, he’ll slow down his normally up-tempo offense with a heavy dose of ground and pound in effort to control time of possession and keep Luck on the sideline. The one major advantage Philly possesses is the fact that Colts lack a quality running game what with disappointing plodder Trent Richardson, talented yet injury-prone Ahmad Bradshaw, and a mediocre offensive line. The Colts stand to lose the aforementioned battle of the clock which will put a major emphasis on each and every Colts drive. They can’t afford to have many three-and-outs.
Indy will also have to find away to score six between the 20’s. Andrew Luck’s failure to reach the end zone on 4th and goal to go on a sneak loomed large in the loss last week-a play Luck has blasted since. The team also struggled with red zone efficiency at times during the preseason, a troublesome issue for the team that ranked 10th in the league in Red Zone TD percentage in 2013 with a mark of 56.90 percent. Field goals and missed opportunities could very well put this team in a position to go 0-2 if the Colts are not on their A-game.
Prediction: Colts 30 Eagles 24-Tough call here. Neither team appears to be definitively better than the other and I like a lot of the mismatches Philadelphia brings to the table. I’m even confident Foles and McCoy will both be effective. That said, Andrew Luck is the master of the comeback and he nearly rallied the Colts back from a 24-0 deficit last week against Denver. Look for the Eagles to lead into the 4th quarter but then lose it on a patented, game-winning drive from Luck in the game’s waning moments.
Tim Mullhaupt (@TimakaHines) is the editor of The Buckets Blog.