NFL

Andrew Luck Sweepstakes: Chiefs Take the Lead and the Colts Are Serious Contenders

We’ve been looking at the Andrew Luck sweepstakes since last November, when it was clear that the Stanford QB was going to be a franchise player in the NFL. Luck passed on the draft in 2011, but when he comes out next April, he’ll certainly go first. This was my guess in May; I even wrote a post about it in the preseason. Who has the best shot of getting him? Through two weeks – 14 to go! – here’s a breakdown of the contenders:

1) Kansas City Chiefs: Won the West and made the playoffs in 2010, but a dropoff was expected. But nobody expected this: Outscored 89-10, and two of the team’s best players are out for the year: RB Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry. The Chiefs travel to San Diego this week (they’ll be at least 2-touchdown dogs), and should be 0-3 before hosting the Vikings and then traveling to Indy (it’ll be dubbed: The Loser Gets Andrew Luck Game). It’s only been two weeks … but I’m not sure I can find three wins on this schedule. Unless Cassel starts to air it out with 50 passes a week … ah, who am I kidding: Andrew Luck to the Chiefs!

2) Indianapolis Colts: I was wrong. I really thought the Colts were a 6-win team without Peyton Manning. That doesn’t appear to be the case after a mind-numbingly bad performance at home against the Cleveland Browns. The running game has been inconsistent, the defense misses far too many tackles and only has two sacks so far, and all signs point to 3-4 wins, tops. Everyone knew Kerry Collins would be bad, but Brett Favre would be worse. Does it make sense to sign David Garrard and make run a a playoff spot? Andrew Luck going to the Colts, as I said last week, is like Tim Duncan to the Spurs. One legend passes the torch to another, and there’s no dropoff. The Spurs rode an injury to the Admiral to the No. 1 pick in the draft and selected their next franchise player. Could Indianapolis do the same? The Colts, though, should spend every other draft pick/free agency move on defense.

3) Miami Dolphins: My original pick last April and I’m sticking with it. The Dolphins took a positive from one week (Henne passed for 416 yards!), but he reverted to the norm at home against the Texans (12-for-30, 5.7 YPA) Sunday. At least rookie RB Daniel Thomas looked sharp at times (despite a fumble): 18 carries, 107 yards. The Dolphins have lost 11 of 12 at home. The good news is, the next three games are on the road (Cleveland, San Diego, New York Jets). The Dolphins could beat Denver and KC, but the AFC East is 6-0 right now, and would it really surprise you if the Dolphins went winless in the division? Somewhat interesting subplot: Back in January, Luck’s college coach was about to leave for Michigan, but then Stephen Ross, Miami’s moneybags owner, got involved and tried to get Harbaugh to coach the Dolphins. Harbaugh ended up in San Francisco, but surely the two had some conversations about Luck.

4) Seattle Seahawks: Quietly have been awful for two weeks in road games against the 49ers and Steelers. Seattle had eight first downs and 164 yards against the “old” Pittsburgh defense. Sure, the Seahawks were without Sidney Rice, but the offensive line is abysmal (or have they just faced two good front 7s in San Fran and Pittsburgh?), and Tarvaris Jackson has been sacked 10 times already. The Seahawks are probably a distant 4th here, as the schedule softens up, starting this week at home against Arizona. Cleveland and Cincinnati are also on the schedule and the NFL West remains a joke.

Fringe, contenders who could emerge in the coming weeks:
* Minnesota Vikings: 0-2. Blew halftime leads against the Chargers and Bucs, and naturally everyone is panicking. I can’t imagine them being the worst team in the league … unless Adrian Peterson goes down.
* Cincinnati Bengals: 1-1. Were a sexy Andrew Luck talking point in the preseason when the Bengals looked horrendous, but through two weeks against Cleveland and Denver, the Bengals don’t look that bad. Consider the opponents, though.
* Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-1. Didn’t look great in the opener, but still outlasted the Titans. But the Jags couldn’t move the football against the Jets (they didn’t get into the red zone once), and they’re an MJD injury from challenging the Chiefs/Colts for having a crack at Luck.

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