On paper, Tom Brady vs. Andrew Luck has the makings to be one of the great rivalries in professional sports. Brady is the current gold standard of NFL quarterbacks, and Luck promises to be the future. The Colts and Patriots own their divisions, and have faced off in the postseason for two consecutive years. Much like Brady's legendary duels with Peyton Manning, his matchups with Luck should be must-watch affairs.
But it hasn't worked out that way.
Luck will be in the lineup Sunday after missing the Colts' last two contests with a shoulder injury. It doesn't matter much, though. Given Luck's dreadful track record against the Patriots, the Colts may actually be better off with Matt Hasselbeck, anyway.
Luck has never beaten the Patriots, and frankly, hasn't come close. In four meetings against the Pats, Luck's Colts have been outscored 189-73. His horrid play has been a big reason why.
Since Luck entered the league as the No. 1 pick in 2012, he's had a proclivity to turn the ball over. He leads the league in turnovers since 2014, and has averaged 14 interceptions per season. So far this year, Luck has been picked off seven times in three games.
No team takes advantage of Luck's penchant for throwing interceptions more than the Patriots. He's lobbed 10 picks against the Pats in four games, with nine of them coming while the Colts have been behind. Five of Luck's interceptions in those four contests have come with the Colts trailing by three scores or more.
In his career, he's thrown more interceptions and fewer touchdowns per game against the Patriots than he has against the rest of the teams he's faced (including the postseason).
There are a number of reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest one is the fact that the Patriots almost always take away their opponent's biggest weapon. For the Colts, that would be wideout T.Y. Hilton, who's only caught 14 passes in four games against New England.
With Hilton largely taken out of action, Luck has been unable to consistently find other targets. He's completed a paltry 50 percent of his passes the four times he's faced the Pats and his quarterback rating has seen a massive drop.
The odds would appear to be against Luck having success if he plays Sunday night, considering he's off to the worst start of his career and has missed two straight games. Brady, conversely, is arguably playing better than he ever has before at the ripe old age of 38.
Tom Brady's stats after 4 games? Just saying, @Patriots fans... pic.twitter.com/pt9WyMVyFm— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 12, 2015
Brady has played well against Indianapolis over their last four meetings, completing 64 percent of his passes and averaging 262 yards to go along with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. But the real reason why the Patriots have dominated the Colts recently has less to do with the damage they've inflicted through the air, and more to do with how they've been able to pound Indy on the ground.
In two games last year, for example, Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount rushed for 349 yards and scored seven touchdowns against the Colts. In their Divisional round matchup in 2014, Blount rushed for 166 yards and found the end zone four times.
This season, the Patriots may have their best running back in years. Dion Lewis is 13th in the AFC in yards from scrimmage -- which is nine spots ahead of Rob Gronkowski, by the way. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano called Lewis, whom he cut last year, a "matchup nightmare."
"Nightmare" is a good word to describe how the last four games against the Patriots have gone for the Colts. Maybe Brady vs. Luck will eventually turn out to be a great matchup, but so far it's been anything but.