There are only six weeks left in the 2011 NFL season, which means we are closing in on the Indianapolis Colts clinching the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft and the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. As the Colts inch towards an ignominious 0-16 record, the rest of the league is giving them a wide berth. Carolina, St. Louis and Minnesota all sit at 2-8 and even if they forfeited the remaining games, few people think Indianapolis can win two games the rest of the way.
There are two fan bases that have to be viewing this whole scenario with mixed emotions. The Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins made it through the first quarter of the season as candidates to win the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. The Dolphins were winless and really couldn't straighten themselves out and the Seahawks had one win and also showed no real direction. Add in the fact that neither had a legitimate long-term quarterback answer and it made perfect sense for both to get in on the Suck For Luck campaign.
For any team, Andrew Luck provides a combination of great talent and surprising affordability at the top of the 2012 NFL Draft. Luck has the perfect combination of football skills and maturity that make any team salivate over the prospect of locking him up on the new rookie wage scale. As Andrew Brandt described it at National Football Post, it really is a perfect storm of value for the worst teams in the league.
It is now seven weeks after that initial look at the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and suddenly the Seahawks and Dolphins are both going to miss out on this rare prospect as they're beyond just showing signs of life. The Dolphins have won three straight to improve to 3-7, capping it with a throttling of the Buffalo Bills. The Seahawks have won two straight and now sit at 4-6. They remain five games back of the San Francisco 49ers, but Seattle actually finds itself on the tail end of the NFC wild card chase.
Seattle stands three games back of Chicago and Detroit, and two games back of Atlanta. Considering Jay Cutler could be done for the season, the Bears could very well slide out of wild card contention. The Seahawks play their next three games at home against Washington, Philadelphia and St. Louis. I would not be remotely surprised to see them sitting at 7-6 three weeks from now. Of course, given their consistency level, if they were 4-9, I also would not be all that shocked.
For Dolphins and Seahawks fans, what exactly is the feeling right now? On the one hand their teams are somewhat relevant again. Both have a lot of work to do to get into the playoffs but they have sloshed their way back from the brink of a disastrous season. On the other hand, they still have question marks at quarterback. Matt Moore is showing some things in Miami so they might be tempted to stick with him in 2012. In Seattle, Tarvaris Jackson is contributing at times, but they are often winning in spite of T-Jax.
It makes for a difficult time for fans that are beginning to think of the long term. Nobody wants a crappy team, but some folks look at a season of struggle as a sacrifice for the greater good, particularly when you are looking at a prospect like Luck. Both teams are in danger of tantalizing fans only to fall short and get stuck in some kind of vicious cycle. It makes for a difficult time for fans.
Projected 2012 NFL Draft Top Five Picks
Week 12 Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Schedule
Game of the Week: Carolina Panthers @ Indianapolis Colts - This is one of the last significant opportunities for somebody to crash the Colts party. Indy also travels to a currently two-win Jaguars squad in the season finale, but by then who knows who will be where in the standings. Given the Panthers performances lately, they really should just destroy the Colts. However, given how the Panthers defense has performed for much of this season, they could very well make Curtis Painter look like Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.