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Thursday Night Pick; Colts vs. Jaguars

The Jaguars snuck past the Colts earlier in the season, but that was when Andrew Luck was still a rookie. A lot has changed since then. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Colts at Jaguars
Andrew Luck is the toast of the town after his record-breaking performance against the Dolphins in Week 9. Though Robert Griffin III won the hearts and minds of NFL fans early in the season, only Luck is continually improving and most importantly, winning football games. Through nine weeks, Luck has been everything we’ve expected him to be; polished and poised with an arm capable of making every throw.

In the most crucial moments, Luck has excelled. Of Indianapolis’ five victories, Luck led the Colts back from a 4th quarter tie or deficit in four of them. The only time Luck fell short in the 4th quarter with a chance to regain the lead was against… you guessed it… the Jaguars, way back in Week 3.

Luck is only halfway through his rookie season and he’s already a top 10 NFL quarterback. In fact, I’d put him 8th, below the elite five (Rodgers, Brees, Brady and the Mannings) and right there with Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan. There’s only one thing we’ve yet to see Luck do; perform in front of a national audience.

More experienced quarterbacks have struggled knowing the whole country is watching. Furthermore, Luck is entering Thursday night’s game with an extra dose of attention and pressure now that the Colts have won three straight and he set an NFL record just four days ago.

The Colts entered the 2012 season hoping to develop Luck and the young nucleus around him. Instead, Indianapolis is leading the AFC Wildcard pack with realistic expectations of making the playoffs. That’s a lot of pressure for a rookie quarterback to play with. Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III played with house money their rookie seasons. Fans were thrilled just to have a reason to watch. Winning games was gravy. Not for Luck, though. He’s given Colts fan too much too soon. It’s about winning games now. Losing to a downtrodden Jaguars team when the Colts franchise is bursting with momentum – win streak, Luck’s play, Chuck Pagano’s inspiring battle – would be completely deflating to a fan base that has grown accustomed to winning.

Luck will start the ninth game of his young NFL career Thursday night and his first of many in front of a national audience. It won’t be as a rookie, though. Luck is well past that stage, and there’s no turning back now. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -3.5

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