It doesn't happen often but Tom Brady won't be the primary storyline when the Patriots take the field on Sunday. The other franchise quarterback, Colts rookie Andrew Luck, will also be in the spotlight. Luck, taken first overall in last April's draft, is the engine behind the Colts' surprising 6-3 start. This hasn't escaped Brady's notice.
"It's always challenging for those rookies," he said on Thursday. "I don't know, I was a rookie, I was like fourth-string and eating nachos before the game in the stands. There wasn't much of me thinking of playing and I always admire those rookies who can do it, because it is such a challenge whether you're a defensive end like Chandler Jones, or Dont'a Hightower or Andrew Luck or any of these rookies that are really playing a big role for a certain team. It's a real credit to them and their ability to transition and focus on all these things that really come about and play well."
Brady's story is well known at this point; he was the 199th player taken in the 2000 draft, a sixth-round afterthought who burst on the scene in 2001 after Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury. The rest, as they say, is history.
Like the rest of us, Brady marvels at what Luck has accomplished. But more than that, he's amazed that Luck's been able to do it with so little time in this offense.
"That's part of the position as well," Brady said of taking charge in the huddle. "That happened and I had quite a few -- 18 months -- to develop camaraderie with the guys that I played with and it was a lot of time and practice spent with extra coaching sessions and so forth. For those rookies, it's coming right from college to this position, it's very challenging."
And while Luck's numbers might not blow you away -- he's completing 57 percent of his throws and has 10 TDs and 9 INTs -- ESPN analyst and former Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi says it's about more than the stat sheet.
"He doesn't necessarily 'wow' you with his ability to scramble, or his strong arm -- he'll often use touch over velocity -- but I think he wins you over with his consistency," Bruschi said on Thursday. "Over and over again, making the right read, the good decision, such as taking a sack instead of forcing the ball somewhere. Maybe it's shrugging off a rush with his exceptional lower-body strength.
"The Colts have been excellent on third down and he's obviously a big part of that," Bruschi continued. "He steadily gets better as games go on, and hasn't made the big mistakes that have cost his team a victory. And probably most impressive is the way you rarely see him make the same mistake twice."
Vegas likes the Pats by 9.5 points but a loss wouldn't have much bearing on their season. The AFC East is a mess and New England shouldn't have any trouble winning the division. Indy, meanwhile, would move to 7-3 with a win -- a season after going 2-14 -- and would solidify their spot in the postseason. It's a scenario that's almost impossible to imagine in a post-Peyton world. And yet here we are.