How Andrew Luck and the Colts Can Beat the Raiders in Week 8

How Andrew Luck and the Colts Can Beat the Raiders in Week 8 article feature image
Credit:

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Andrew Luck

  • Andrew Luck's much-anticipated return got off to a slow start, but the quarterback is coming into form at the right time.
  • Here's how the Indianapolis Colts can pull out the road win at the Oakland Raiders in Week 8.

I’ll be leveraging my experience as a fantasy analyst with a statistics background and a high school football coach to identify aspects of one matchup every week that you can take advantage of while setting your fantasy football lineups and/or placing bets on the upcoming slate.

For Week 8, we’re focusing on the AFC matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders.

Andrew Luck’s Long Awaited Return

Andrew Luck has been one of the best young quarterbacks since he entered the league in 2012. There are plenty of ways to evaluate this, but fantasy points might be the simplest approach.

Here are his season-by-season finishes among fantasy QBs:

  • 2012: 8
  • 2013: 6
  • 2014: 2
  • 2015: 28
  • 2016: 4

The only time he didn’t finish inside the top eight was 2015 — the season he played only seven games due to injury — a theme that would later repeat itself. And he did this all behind an offensive line that ranked inside the bottom five for pass blocking two times and inside the top 12 only once over that span (per Pro Football Focus).

After Luck missed all of 2017 due to surgery on the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder — an injury he suffered in 2015 and played through all of 2016 — there was a lot of excitement about his return in 2018.

But he wasn’t all the way back.

Luck’s Deep Ball Woes

It was obvious that one major piece of Luck’s arsenal was missing upon his return: His deep ball.

While Luck owned a career average depth of target of 9.0 yards entering 2018, it was very obvious that he was not attempting nearly as many deep passes to start the season. Over the first three weeks, Luck threw the ball 20 or more yards only 5.6% of the time. His career deep passing rate was 14% heading into the season per PFF, which was 2.5 times greater. Luck’s aDOT through the first three weeks was a stunningly-low 5.6.

The cherry on top was the Colts bringing in Jacoby Brissett to throw the game-ending Hail Mary at the end of their Week 3 loss to the Eagles.

Since that game, Luck’s arm appears to be improving mightily. His deep ball rate has nearly doubled to 10.2%, and his aDOT is up to 8.9 yards — very close to his career average.

The results have been great for Luck’s overall play. He was the 22nd-best passer according to PFF through the first three weeks, but since then, he ranks inside of the top 10 and has thrown 15 touchdown passes. No other quarterback has more than 11 over that span.

Luck has returned to being one of the scariest matchups for opposing defenses.

The Raiders’ Pitiful Secondary

Back in Week 3, I talked about how the Falcons were limiting opponent deep balls with a Cover 3 defense focused on not getting beat over the top.

This Raider defense is the opposite of that.

Marcus-Gilchrist
The Raiders have given up deep ball pass attempts at one of the league’s highest rates this season. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being coordinated by Paul Guenther, who orchestrated a Bengals defense that graded out as the best Cover 3 defense in football in 2017, the Raiders have been pathetic against deep passing. They’ve given up the fourth-most yards per deep pass attempt, according to Pro Football Reference, and rank 27th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA against deep passes.

The personnel in Oakland simply is not good. The Raiders have just one cornerback ranked inside the top 65 of PFF’s coverage grades at the position (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie). Adding insult to injury is that DRC is fourth in cornerback snaps for the Raiders.

The story is the same at safety. Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson have by far seen the most snaps for the Raiders, but rank outside the top 25 at the position. Gilchrist — the free safety who is typically tasked with covering the deep middle of the field in Cover 3 — ranks outside of the top 80 in coverage grades.

Buy Luck and the Colts

The line for Indy’s road trip to Oakland originally opened as a pick ’em, but was very quickly bet up to Colts -3 following the Amari Cooper trade. The Raiders will also be without starting running back Marshawn Lynch, who was placed on Injured Reserve with a groin injury.

I don’t often bet road favorites, but I love the Colts in this spot as I think Luck should be able to hurt the Raiders repeatedly in the passing game.

Luck is also a tremendous fantasy option this week. Our fantasy experts have him as the seventh-best quarterback for Week 8. He has a top three projection on FantasyLabs for the main slate on both DraftKings and FanDuel.