The food hasn't been delivered to the Green Room and Roger Goodell isn't quite at the podium, but barring injury, it's a foregone conclusion that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will walk on stage as the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Luck spent part of his childhood in Europe while his father Oliver coached there, which means that Luck should be the best thing to come out of the World League womb since spicy brats and Kurt Warner.
Thus, after two weeks of the 2011 NFL season, the flag is up, and the race for Andrew Luck has begun. Drivers, please shift into reverse, and gun it.
Getting Luck's Locker Ready
1: Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
Yup, I don't care what anyone says about Peyton Manning's contract and future. Put your butt in the owner's seat. Peyton's been great, but he's Kobe Bryant with a career-threatening neck injury. Do you want Kobe in that state or the next 15 years of Kevin Durant, given the choice? Best part is, if Peyton heals up enough to come back and play, Luck can watch for a season. Manning's mega-contract can be worked out. Sentimentality is one thing, but the organization knows that if Luck falls into their laps, he can carry this team through 2025. Peyton will wrap up his career calling signals for someone else, a la Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, etc. Remaining winnable games? One. The Andrew Luck Bowl will take place Oct. 9 in Indy, when what's left of the Kansas City Chiefs make their way into Lucas Oil Stadium. On the 8th, the Colts and Chiefs will jointly hold a viewing party for the Stanford-Colorado game.
There is one interesting caveat to this. The Colts may want to place Peyton on injured reserve and end his season now, because if he hangs around and receives clearance to play, he'll push the Colts to let him. Manning's one of the smartest guys around, and even he is aware of what drafting Luck would do for the organization. A few wins, maybe even one or two under Manning, could take the Colts out of the Derby. That's a win for Peyton. He gets to stay a few more years, and gets the second or third overall pick in the draft. This side of the story will heat up as the next eight weeks progress.
1 (tie). Kansas City Chiefs (0-2)
The only thing that hasn't happened to Kansas City yet is a meat recall. Charlie Weis went to the University of Florida to call plays. Tony Moeaki tore up his knee in the preseason, and now Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles have too, sidelining arguably their three most valuable players for the season. Right now the Royals would have a better chance if they threw on shoulder pads. A Philip Rivers-Andrew Luck AFC West rivalry would be fun to watch for years. Over-unders of 55 would be commonplace. Remaining winnable games? You already know.
3. Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
This team is baaaaaad. Tarvaris Jackson may look more comfortable once his former Viking teammate Sidney Rice makes his Seahawk debut, but that would be saying you may sleep better on the floor than a bed of nails. Pete Carroll deserves this season. It's his penalty for all things USC. But as much as I hate to admit it, I think he's a smart guy, and signing TJ was Pete's Ploy to enter the Luck sweepstakes. This is a 2-to-4 win team, which may be too good to keep Luck in the Pac-12. Make that the NFC West.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) One of those Looney Tunes characters is striking the match, and lighting the end of a long fuse that looks like it may only take another few games until detonation. Cutting David Garrard accomplished a few things. One, it saved the Jags some coin. Two, it puts Jack Del Rio on the market for a long vacation from head coaching (see Mike Tice). And three: It keeps the Jags in the hunt for Luck. Blaine Gabbert, Jimmy Clausen is texting you. He needs someone to play catch.
5. Miami Dolphins (0-2)
The Dolphins are not truly horrible enough to be getting a locker ready for Luck, and they have played two AFC teams likely to win their divisions. But there are only three games on the schedule where I would bet on the 'Phins to win outright, which makes them a Serious Contender: Home to Denver (10/23), @Kansas City (11/6), and home to Washington (11/13).
6. Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
Fortunately for Viking Nation, there are six division games which look promising for the Luck Derby. Unfortunately for Viking Nation, Adrian Peterson is good enough for four wins by himself, so this will move the Vikings down to the fifth-eighth pick. A schedule that brings an early Christmas in Week 4 against Kansas City, and games against Arizona, Carolina, Denver, Oakland and Washington should give the Vikes enough wins to lose. Christian Ponder, like Luck, is said to be a very smart kid, but it won't be known whether he has any of Luck's talent until he gets his shot, which may come sooner than Vikings management would have hoped (see Week 4 @ KC).
7. Denver Broncos (1-1)> The Broncos may deserve a higher spot. They only have three eminently winnable games left (10/23 @ Miami, 11/13 @K.C., and New Year's Day home to K.C.). Getting two of those three, while catching someone else sleeping would yield four Bad Luck wins, and probably take the Broncos out of contention.
Not In The Luck Derby ... Yet
8. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Logic here tells me that there are too many winnable games, and the Bengals already beat themselves by upsetting Cleveland in a road opener. Cincy even has a shot at a Luck-killing three game winning streak @Jacksonville (10/9), v. Indy (10/16), a bye and then @Seattle (10/30). Not to mention a couple other bad wins at home v. Cleveland (11/27) and Arizona (12/24).
9. Cleveland Browns (1-1)
Taking the Colts down was huge Sunday. It's early, maybe even before the proverbial breakfast point of the 2011 season, but if the Chiefs find a way to win a few, we may look back at this game as the Luck Bowl. Cleveland tried to hang in there and lose, but the Browns made the mistake of giving the ball to Peyton Hillis a few too many times, and he found the end zone twice. This is a seven-win team, and has some work to do to gain Serious Contention status. Check back if they lose at home to Miami this week and at home to Seattle (10/23) but it's not likely to happen.
Not In The Luck Derby At All
Carolina Panthers (0-2)
Maybe Mississippi State should have paid Cam Newton's dad. This guy's start is like having five of the sox lottery numbers before they set the Pingpong balls flying. The Panthers are a 5-6 win team at least, and look like last year's version of the Buffalo Bills- a team who will finish with an unimpressive record, but on the verge of a return to exciting, winning football. Jimmy Clausen is calling a press conference to announce that's he's returning to Notre Dame.
-- Rick Schwartz is a television and content producer living in Los Angeles without an NFL team.