INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck has a knack for overcoming obstacles.
He made the transition from Peyton Manning look seamless. He made the low rookie expectations look ridiculous. He turned doubters into believers, and in less than four seasons Luck has seen his stock soar.
Now he’s about to face a new challenge. For the first time in his pro career, Luck is dealing with questions about a sore right arm and whether his health will allow him to continue bailing out the Colts. He’ll get a chance to answer the critics Sunday against Jacksonville.
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”You’ve got to be on the field if you’re helping your team, so that’s always the goal,” Luck said.
Clearly, Luck has not been himself this season. He’s thrown seven interceptions and his 30 turnovers over the past 19 regular-season games are both league highs.
But, somehow, Luck always seems to find a way to rally the team.
Last week, it was a fourth-quarter comeback at Tennessee – perhaps after he got hurt – that saved Indy’s season and created a four-way tie atop the AFC South. This week, Luck intends to break the logjam by beating up on division foes again.
”When you’re playing a divisional opponent, when you’re playing the Colts who you know have won 13 straight division games in a row, you want to be able to go out and perform well,” Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said.
Actually, it’s 14 in a row, a number that has put the Colts (1-2) on the cusp of history.
From 1972-73, Miami won an NFL record 15 consecutive games against opponents in its own division, according to STATS. Since realignment in 2002, Luck and Manning share the distinction as being the only quarterbacks to win 14 consecutive games against one division.
To keep the streak alive, it’s going to take the whole team to help Luck stand tall and stay healthy.
”I know with their record some would say the Colts are struggling,” Jags coach Gus Bradley. ”It looked like they really started to pick it up in that Tennessee game. Just watching that tape, especially last week, they’re still a very, very impressive team.”
Here are some other things to watch Sunday:
GROUND GAME: One way to protect Luck would be featuring running back Frank Gore. He’s coming off his best performance with the Colts – 14 carries, 86 yards, two TDs. But it’s unclear who Gore would share the workload with. The only other running backs with carries this season, Josh Robinson and Tyler Varga, are also battling injuries. Jacksonville has only allowed one 100-yard rusher in its last 15 road games.
TIGHTEN UP: Bortles has only hooked up with one of the four tight ends on the Jags roster. Clay Harbor has three catches for 43 yards. Free-agent acquisition Julius Thomas hasn’t played because of a finger injury, though he could return this week. Longtime starter Marcedes Lewis still hasn’t caught a pass. Given Indy’s struggles last season against athletic tight ends, the Jags would be smart to challenge Indy’s pass coverage in the middle of the field.
MILESTONE MAN: Adam Vinatieri owns four Super Bowl rings and plenty of records. He’ll be chasing more this weekend. One week after becoming the league’s No. 3 scorer, Vinatieri is within striking distance of three prominent achievements. He needs one field goal to break a tie with John Carney for the fourth-most field goals in league history (478), two points to break Mike Vanderjagt’s franchise scoring record (995) and six points to become the first player in league history to score 1,000 points with two teams.
WAKE-UP CALL: A week ago, the Jaguars defense gave up 51 points and allowed New England to score on each of its first nine possessions. That must be dramatically better this week against an offense that is struggling and a quarterback who is hurting.
ANDRE THE SHRINKING GIANT: Colts receiver Andre Johnson was supposed to give Indy’s offense a boost. So far, he has seven receptions for 51 yards, a 7.3-yard average, and no TDs. Last week, for the first time in a decade, Johnson was shut out. Don’t be surprised if the Colts make a concerted effort to get Johnson more involved this week.
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