Andrew Luck was tabbed as a can't-miss prospect coming out of college before the Indianapolis Colts selected him No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft.
Seventy-four picks later, the Seattle Seahawks used a third-round selection on Russell Wilson, who had plenty of critics wondering if his smaller stature would prevent him from succeeding in the NFL.
No matter their paths to NFL stardom, each quarterback has his team off to a solid start heading into Sunday's showdown in Indianapolis.
Luck is only 20 regular-season games into his career as the successor to Peyton Manning, but he's largely lived up to the hype. He guided the Colts to an 11-5 mark and a playoff appearance in 2012, and he's completed 64.1 percent of his passes with five touchdowns while helping Indianapolis get off a 3-1 start this season.
Despite a sluggish first half, Luck finished 22 of 36 for 260 yards with two TDs and an interception in last week's 37-3 win over Jacksonville. Coach Chuck Pagano believes that performance signified the poise Luck brings to the position and why he continues to be successful.
"The sky is the limit,' Pagano said. "Listening to him and talking to him, he did get off to a slow start, but he is an even-keeled guy. He is one of those guys who can put things behind him and move on. Talent combined with that kind of mindset, the sky is the limit.'
Seattle coach Pete Carroll has similar feelings about his young quarterback. The 5-foot-11 Wilson, who unexpectedly won the starting job as a rookie last season and helped the Seahawks reach the NFC divisional playoffs, ranks ninth in the league with a 95.3 passer rating and is fifth among QBs with 131 rushing yards.
Wilson helped Seattle earn the first 4-0 start in franchise history by passing or rushing for 140 of the team's final 150 yards in last week's 23-20 come-from-behind overtime victory over Houston.
"The play of Russell Wilson was just extraordinary in how he did it,' Carroll said. "It wasn't just by big numbers in throwing the football, it was just by playing the game and taking advantage of the opportunities that he could, and he did.'
Though Wilson may not have had his best game after going 12 of 23 for 123 yards and an interception, Carroll praised him for his composure under pressure.
"He doesn't change the way he plays," Carroll said. "They were coming hard after him, there were some spaces, and he was well aware of how things were going. We needed his help and he gave it to us.'
Carroll hopes that isn't a trend, though. The Seahawks, who fell from No. 1 in the league in total defense to fifth (300.3 yards per game), trailed by 17 points at halftime before pitching a shutout in the second half.
Seattle needed a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown from Richard Sherman with 2:40 left to force overtime before Steven Hauschka won it with a 45-yard field goal.
Though he's not discounting the team's solid start, Carroll is aware there's plenty of room for improvement.
"There's still 12 more games before you even get close to playoff time, so we're a long ways from home right now," Carroll said.
Pagano also isn't getting too excited over his team's early success. After this week's tough contest, the Colts face San Diego next Monday before dates with Denver on Oct. 20 and Houston on Nov. 3.
"We know it's a marathon and not a sprint," Pagano said on his weekly radio show. "Sitting here at 3-1 four games into it, I'm pleased where we are at and where we are heading."
Indianapolis has outscored its last two opponents 64-10 and held the dismal Jacksonville offense to 205 total yards. It may have a tougher time containing Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch and a Seattle offense that ranks fifth with 144.3 yards per game rushing, but Pagano believes his squad is prepared for the challenge.
"The good thing is we faced two really athletic quarterbacks. Facing (Terrelle) Pryor and then (Colin) Kaepernick definitely was good for us to see, and see early. Those guys can run around and Russell Wilson is an unbelievable talent," Pagano said. "I know he has two eyes but it's like he has eyes all over the place, in the back of his head. He's just got that sixth sense."
The Colts' rushing attack ranks one spot ahead of the Seahawks with 149.5 yards per game after Trent Richardson rushed for 60 and a touchdown last week.
Richardson had 20 carries against the Jaguars and figures to get the majority again Sunday with Ahmad Bradshaw's status in doubt due to a neck injury.
Seattle is 18th against the run (109.0 ypg), and hopes to have defensive lineman Michael Bennett in uniform after he was carted off the field last week due to a strained back muscle.
The Associated Press News Service
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