2013 NFL Preview: The year of Andrew Luck.

Andrew-Luck

This kid Andrew Luck is incredible. Don’t miss it by silly debates. He’s the best quarterback from last year’s draft class and he is ready to emerge as one of the league’s best signal callers, period. Before you know it, he will be the league’s most valuable player as well.

And honestly, it’s not too far fetched to imagine that happening as soon as 2013.

I agree with you Stampede Blue.

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I got a chance to listen to the Simmons AFC Over-Under podcast with his random-dude-buddy guest.

(Browns fans: when the national concensus is moving as a group in favor of the Browns and is moving as a group against the Steelers, how does that usually work out? .. Exactly.)

Anyhoozles, there were several other parts of their analysis that I found sub-par. But none moreso that the Pythogorean theory of football-predicting applied to the Colts. These two went through maybe five minutes on the Barnwell stat-boy data and out of division match-ups and blah blah blah and in their whole “UNDER 8.5 WINS” speil on the Colts, they forgot to mention one thing.

Andrew Luck.

How on earth does one evaluate the Colts and not account for Andrew Luck? You want to hang your hat on last year’s point differential? REALLY? Gonna do the pythorgoen jive to quantify ‘lucky wins?’ Is the term ‘regress to mean’ supposed to overwhelm?

Here’s Barnwell rationale for calling an team that went 11-5, made playoffs, with a rookie QB a “team in decline:”

Indianapolis Colts
2012 Record:
11-5

Pythagorean Wins: 7.2 (overperformed by 3.8 wins, luckiest in league)
Record in Games Decided by Seven Points or Fewer: 9-1 (0.900, second-best in league)
Strength of Schedule: 0.435 (easiest in league)
Turnover Margin: Minus-12 (26th in league)
2013 Out-of-Division Schedule: AFC West, NFC West, vs. Dolphins, at Bengals
I already wrote about the Colts and their chances of succeeding in 2013 earlier in our season preview; you can read that article here. Let me say this much: The Colts are going to start 2-0. They host the Raiders and the Dolphins during the first two weeks of the 2013 campaign, and those are games that the Colts are exceedingly unlikely to drop to inferior competition. That will get the fans going, but remember that their subsequent six games include trips to San Francisco and Houston and drop-ins from Seattle and Denver. If the Colts are competitive in those four games, we’ll all have a good idea that they’re a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

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Camelot of college football.

Best-Case Scenario: Andrew Luck overcomes all concepts of regression.
Worst-Case Scenario: Andrew Luck is overcome by all concepts of regression.

The Colts are 9-1 in close games and the deduction is that they’re lucky? Not that their rookie QB is extra-special? Oh-kay. Barnwell talks about regression but fails to realize that Andrew Luck has not regressed since he won the starter role as a freshman at Stanford four years ago. His analysis simply ignores that the Colts might just have the best quarterback of the generation.

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Not like you couldn’t see it coming.

When Jim Harbaugh took over the Stanford team in 2007 they were coming off a 1-11 season. Harbaugh’s first year, 4-8; next year 5-7. Enter Luck. Here’s the progression of Stanford’s offense in the Harbaugh years:

  • 2007: 4-8, 19.6 pts/gm (107th in country);
  • 2008: 5-7, 26.2 pts/gm (54th);
  • 2009: Luck wins job as [redshirt] freshman. 8-5, 35.5 pts/gm (12th). Lose Sun Bowl (Luck injured, doesn’t play.);
  • 2010: 12-1, 40.3 pts/gm (9th). Win Orange Bowl 40-12 over VaTech. Ranked 4th;
  • 2011: (Harbaugh leaves, David Shaw now HC.) 11-2, 43.2 pts/gm (7th). Lose Fiesta Bowl. End ranked 7th.

So, it’s not like he didn’t have a .795 winning percentage. Not like he didn’t grow the offense from 26 to 43 points a game. QB rating? 162.8 over three years with 9430 yards and 82 TDs.

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How could you be so obtuse Bill Barnwell? Is it deliberate?

But ok, let’s take a look at the Colts and Luck last year. QB Rating is soft, 76.5. No doubt because his completion percentage is 54%, very low. His yards/attempt is 7.0, 17th in the league. But his yards/catch is 12.9, 3rd best in league. Given time, I might be able to spin this into something trend-able, measurable. I’d also point out the bringing in Pep Hamilton to install Luck’s Stanford offense at Indy might provide an uptick to Luck’s stats. But instead, I’d rather direct your attention at a couple other data points:

  • Fourth Quarter Comebacks: 4, third in league;
  • Game winning drives: 7, first in league.
  • Colts without Luck, 2-14; Colts with Luck, 11-5.

Sometimes the output of RDBMS modeling is unable to account the je ne sais quoi of the enigma. The pure winner.

But I can do math too so let’s do math. Here’s a formula:

  1. (Avg_Stan_winpct_w_Luck – Stan_winpct_pre_Luck) + (Indy_winpct_w_Luck – Indy_winpct_pre_Luck) / 2 = avg_pct_gain_w_Luck x 16 games = number_of_games_Luck_gives_a_team
  2. (0.795 – 0.417) + (0.688 – 0.125) / 2 = 0.490
  3. 0.490 x 16 games = 7.83
  4. ➔➔ANDREW LUCK GIVES YOU EIGHT MORE WINS THAN WHAT YOU HAD BEFORE.

The lesson as ever:  be wary of stats wonks using geometry theorems to demonstrate QB efficacy because stats can and often are manipulated to fit the narrative.

Instead of trying to fit Luck’s success into a repeatable data pattern, just ask a simple question:

What do you see when you watch Andrew Luck?

If you’re not seeing a QB who is in the Brady-PManning-Rodgers class right now, I think you’re not paying attention closely enough. Do yourself a favor and catch a couple Colts games this year and join me out front of the Andrew Luck bandwagon. When you watch him you’ll see accuracy, quick release, fast reads, mobility, size, surprising speed, and leadership. Really, everything you want in a QB and probably the most NFL ready since Peyton.

Last year: not a fluke. This year when the Colts are in the playoffs again won’t be a fluke either.

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Predictions for the 2013 NFL.

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Ginger or no, the Gilligan QB look doesn’t inspire.

AFC East: Pats, Bills, Dolphins, Jets.
The Pats will falter sometime but not this year. After years of neglect the defense got an overhaul — OH HAI, 4-3 defense! Tommy Kelly added to Wilfork is a real strong DT tandem; could free Chandler Jones to have a break-out year. I do like the Bills and must say EJ Manuel looks better in pre-season with the Bills than I remember him with FSU. Keller injury is killer for Fins. The Jets are a case-study in what can go wrong with a meddlesome owner; it all started with dumping Thomas Jones.

AFC North: Steelers, y-Bengals, Ravens, Browns.
So many people are calling the Steelers dead. I don’t see that at all. Roethlisberger was injured for a significant part of last season; he’s healthy now. DeCastro missed all of last year; he’ll have a major impact on the o-line. Jarvis Jones has looked really good pre-season games I’ve seen. Antonio Brown is vastly underrated. Sleep on the Steelers at your risk. Love the Bengals, but don’t love Dalton. After seeing him on Hard Knocks, I don’t see him as a leader. I actually DO like Flacco, but Ravens were just gutted after last year. The Browns? Covered them Tuesday.

AFC South: Colts, y-Texans, Titans, Jags.
My liking of the Colts to win the AFCS is all about the continued steeply positive trajectory of Andrew Luck. It is not a disparagement of the Texans. I am a fan of the team on whole; big fan of DeAndre Hopkins. But Matt Schaub is still, to me, in that Andy Dalton category and I see Luck prevailing here as I do Roethlisberger in the AFCN. Love what the Titans are doing to build out their o-line but that will pay off for the next QB, not Jake Locker. The Jags new uniforms are the ultimate in window dressing and for focusing on entirely the wrong thing they deserve their fate this year.

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Not enough misfortune can come to the Jags after this.

AFC West: Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders: Welkah is going to kill it with Peyton Manning. On the Chiefs, I’m actually an Alex Smith fan. Yeah, I’m the one. Andy Reid not so much. But adding Smith, Eric Fisher, Dwayne Bowe, Sean Smith –and in the process dumping Brady Quinn, Eric Winston, Jonathan Baldwin, and Javier Arenas– figures to be enormous talent upgrades at weak spots. (Ahem, Browns.) Kinda interested to see Terrelle Pryor with the Raiders; not that interested in the Philip Rivers saga.

AFC Postseason: I have always hated unceasing Browns’ QB talk. “They have to find their QB.” As though the rest of the team doesn’t matter. That being said, once you have a team built… your QB makes the different between good and great. Brady, Roethlisberger, Luck, and Manning are the four best QBs in the AFC. Those are your division winners. Dalton, Flacco, Schaub, Smith: they’re fighting for wild cards. I’ll take the Pats to win the conference.

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Leslie Frazier: Alchemist.

NFC East: Cowboys, y-Giants, Skins, Eagles: Cowboys are moving TO the 4-3 and it will pay off. Romo has a rep as a turnover machine but his o-line was a sieve. (Browns had seven sacks of Romo for crissakes.) Drafting a center ain’t sexy, but it’s what they needed. Nice to see a team use FA in the right way: 31 year old Will Allen will start at safety while the 3rd round draft pick learns the ropes. Sound familiar? If you’re a Browns watcher, no it does not sound familiar. Giants, solid as always. Robert Griffin returns but people don’t get faster after ACL surgery. Fan/media hype keeps him starting even though Cousins may be the better QB. Eagles were too far dead for Kelly to turn them around in a year, but I’m fascinated to see what he pieces of the Oregon offense get built into Philly’s.

NFC North: Bears, Packers, Vikings, Lions: I’m a Jay Cutler fan, not gonna lie. He’s a UFA at the end of the season; this is his money year. He’s got a much better o-line or at least a different one: four new starters (two drafted, two UFAs). He’s got a top TE (Martellus Bennett) to go with Marshall and Jeffery. You know their defense is locked down; the Bears with a decent offense will be a scary thing. On the other hand, the Packers defense continues to be scary in the opposite way. Little was done to upgrade the o-line so Rodgers figures to be running around a lot again. Nobody takes the Vikings seriously but they were 10-6/playoffs last year. I look at the roster and deduce Leslie Frazier is an alchemist. Or Matt Kalil is the greatest o-lineman since Walter Jones. It’s one or the other. Lions will implode in an undisciplined way again.

NFC South: Falcons, y-Panthers, Saints, Bucs: Everyone thinks the next division is the toughest, but here we have four stacked teams. I’m not a great Mike Smith fan, but the Falcons’ talent was remarkable last year and adding Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora .. well that’s a lot of talent. I love the Panthers this year, love the Lotulelei pick. You have to love jon Beason and Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly. Remove Chud’s cute offense and add Domenik Hixon and this team is ready to jump. Saints got the FA the Browns needed and spend their 15th pick on Kenny Vaccaro so the secondary should be better. Payton’s back so the offense will be much better. Then there’s the Bucs. They’ve built a Seahawks-like d-backfield that I can’t wait to see. They’ve got weapons on offense. It’s all about Josh Freeman for them. This is the toughest division in football.

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Beast mode is unstoppable.

NFC West: Seahawks, Niners, Rams, Cards: We know Marshawn Lynch is the best RB in football, right? I mean, good on Russell Wilson Rookie of the Year and all, but I don’t think Lynch gets his due. The beast secondary will continue to scare the crap out everyone they face. Pete Carroll will continue and expand his ownership of the Niners. I’m really growing to loathe Colin Kaepernick. Off the top of my head, can’t think of a more classless TD celebration than his “Embracing Narcissism” interpretive dance. Losing Dashon Goldson and Michael Crabtree is major. Frank Gore is now 30. But they still have maybe the best o-line in the NFL so they won’t fall completely off the table. Love the Rams off-season, like Jeff Fisher (although I like him less after the Bernie thing… he was a d-bag there), really really like Sam Bradford. But he still doesn’t have the WRs he deserves. You know where I stand on Tavon Austin. While I do like Chris Givens, Bradford needs to stretch it out this year. Carson Palmer will continue to be not good for the Cards.

NFC Postseason: In my teams to regress, I see the Skins, Packers, Niners taking a step back. A little ballsy to give a wild card to the Panthers, but it’s fitting since Cam Newton is –imo– better than Griffin and Kaepernick. It’s his year to take center stage back from those two. But the spotlight stealer will be the Bears with Jay Cutler in the role of this year’s Joe Flacco.

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Super Bowl: Pats 35, Bears 20. Brady gets his fourth ring.

Awards:

  • MVP: Andrew Luck
  • OPOY: Marshawn Lynch
  • DPOY: Luke Kuechly
  • OROY: DeAndre Hopkins
  • DROY: Star Lotulelei
  • Comeback POY: Derrell Revis
  • Coach of the year: Marc Trestman

First pick in 2014 draft: NY Jets.

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That’s how I sees it. Sure there are some curveballs in my calls, but that’s because there are curveballs coming this year. (Did I just pick last year’s SB teams not to make playoffs? I guess I did.) The fun is trying to pick them before they happen.

  • Bears in the SB!?! with a rookie HC who hasn’t coached in the NFL in 10 years!? WOW

    Panthers schedule is brutal, if Ron Rivera can muster 7 wins let alone make the playoffs he should be your COY. While Cam is da man, I just don’t see the talent and depth at skill positions to help him succeed. And while Koechly is a stud, just don’t see the talent around him, particularly the secondary to keep them in the game against the slew of stud QBs they face this year.

    Luck MVP is a stretch as well. He also is going to suffer from lack of talent around him, especially on the OL and RB positions, not to mention a brand new coordinator and basically a new HC with Pagano coming back. There’s also something to be said about how the team rallied around Coach Pagano’s illness last year, so we’ll see, I expect a regression on the record, but def see Luck improving on his stats last year, just not MVP-worthy yet. With the hindsight of Payton’s performance on Thurs, it seems like it’s his to lose, with that 7 TD spot.

    Koechly is def a stud, but his sack numbers are below pedestrian (1 sack last year!?!), as well as only forcing ZERO forced fumbles. he’s going to have to make a GIANT leap this year to get in the same discussion with JJ Watt, Cameron Wake, Aldon Smith, etc. Not to mention as mentioned above, don’t see the team defense cracking Top 15, let alone the typical Top 5 team defense ranking typically required for the winner’s team.

    Also, who is DeAnthony Hopkins?? If you’re referring to DeAnthony Thomas, he’s still in college.

  • Not to get ahead of things from last night, because that was mostly about altitude I think, but I can see the Ravens’ O-line having a serious problem with the Browns speed rush this year. Steelers too. For all the sturm und drang about overinvesting in the d-line and leaving holes elsewhere, it will be nice to finally go into a few of these divisional games feeling like we have a bullet in the gun. There have been a lot of matchups over the last few years where the only phase of the game that wasn’t clearly in Bal and Pitt’s favor was the kicking game.

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