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The Man in Black, Andrew Luck’s renaissance, and your NFL week 12 preview

We should enjoy the Colts’ QB’s difficult second album, writes Steve O’Rourke.

Andrew Luck: keeping it simple.
Andrew Luck: keeping it simple.
Image: Zach Bolinger

Updated Nov 25th 2018, 2:26 PM

LEGENDS CAN BE difficult to untangle. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction, especially when so many people want to buy into the latter.

Take Johnny Cash’s acclaimed 1994 comeback.

As mythology would have it, while Ray Houghton was chipping Gianluca Pagliuca in East Rutherford, the Man in Black’s career was effectively over.

He’d spent most of the previous decade making terrible records as country music as a whole fell down the ‘Urban Cowboy’ hellhole that was all John Travolta’s fault.

Columbia, unsure what to do with their prize asset of nearly four decades, pulled a Jon Gruden and released him. Cash signed with Mercury, who promptly forgot he existed. Things looked bleak for Cash.

Then Rick Rubin, the legendary rock and hip hop producer had an idea nobody has ever had before. Rubin gets Cash alone in a room with a guitar and a mic, and has him sing his favourite songs. Not songs he wrote, but ones that gave him a love of music in the first place.

The result was ‘American Recordings’, an instant critical success that resulted in Cash playing South by Southwest and Glastonbury and, finally, after 40 years in the business, overtake Hank Williams as the undisputed king of country.

The truth, however, is less elegant.

You see, Cash really hadn’t gone away.

Sure, he’d spent a lot of the previous decade popping pills and recording songs like ‘The Chicken in Black’ but, in 1992, he was one of the rare country musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the following year recorded a track with U2 when they could rightly claim to be the biggest band in the world.

Plus, after Cash originally laid down his tracks, Rubin added instrumentation from Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Mike Campbell of The Heartbreakers.

Thankfully, he saw the error of his ways and reverted to the idea of a stripped down Cash.

So over the past 14 years, the legend of ‘American Recordings’ has grown. Some see it as Cash’s masterpiece but it may not even make his top-five albums.

Where the 2018 season ranks in the career of Andrew Luck remains to be seen.

Just a few months ago, if there had been odds on such a thing, the sharp money would have been on Luck never playing football again.

A persistent, and somewhat mysterious shoulder injury, seemed unwilling to respond to treatment.

But 11 weeks into the 2018 season and the former number one overall pick is on pace to throw for 4,400 yards and 46 touchdowns.

Not only that, but his 7% touchdown percentage and 66.3% completion rate are both the highest marks of his career, as his Indianapolis team is scoring 28.9 points per game, the sixth-best figure in the league.

Like Rubin figuring out that a stripped down recording would capture Cash at his best, head coach Frank Reich has built the Colts offence to perfectly suit Luck; keep him clean and allow him to sit back and throw.

Neither Rubin nor Reich should be considered geniuses for this.

Source: TheJohnnyCashChannel/YouTube

And while this feels like it could be a good Luck season, the playoffs are not a certainty yet for his team.

But, given everything we expected of the Stanford QB coming out of college, is ‘good’ good enough?

Or are we only settling for it because we’ve lived through his ‘Chicken in Black’ years for so long?

Week 12 picks (season record 100-65-2)

Sunday – 6pm (H3)

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals

The Hue Jackson revenge match. The former Browns head coach is now helping the Bengals lose. Cleveland needs to put together some more divisional wins to show they’ve really turned a corner.

Pick: Browns

San Francisco 49ers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Two teams that have really struggled to find any identity this season. The Bucs change quarterback yet again, but will their starter — Jameis Winston — last the game?

Pick: Bucs

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills

A battle of two playoff teams from 2017 with little or nothing to play for this year. The Jacksonville coaching staff it rightly being panned for their handling of the QB situation, but I’d argue what’s happened in Buffalo is even worse.

Pick: Jags

Oakland Raiders @ Baltimore Ravens

The Raiders showed some semblance of being a football team last week, but it was against the Arizona Cardinals. Expect Baltimore to run the ball. A lot.

Pick: Ravens

Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers

It’s really hard to know what to make of these two teams, both of which have played better than their records suggest. The fact their respective divisions contain the two best teams in the conference hardly helps.

Pick: Panthers

New England Patriots @ New York Jets

The Patriots have had a week off to think about their hammering at the hands of the Titans and, given the state of the Jets, could well run up a score in this divisional match-up.

Pick: Patriots

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

The other side of New York is doing a bit better of late but could really do with losing out to make sure they get Eli Manning’s replacement. The Eagles’ Super Bowl hangover is long and painful.

Pick: Eagles

Sunday – 9.05pm (H3)

Arizona Cardinals @ LA Chargers

Had the Chargers managed to secure the service of an even semi-reliable kicker this season, I would still feel pretty happy about picking them to make the Super Bowl. As it stands, they’re a missed extra point away from being real contenders.

Pick: Chargers

Sunday – 9.25pm (H3)

Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts

The Colts don’t have any unwinnable games left of their schedule, especially, if they continue to keep Andrew Luck upright. The Dolphins are this year’s best worst team.

Pick: Colts

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos

There’s no disguising how poorly the Steelers played in the first half against Jacksonville last weekend but they found a way to win and that’s the sign of a very good team. Denver won their Super Bowl over the Chargers last time out.

Pick: Steelers

Monday – 1.20am (H3)

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

The saddest part of the 2018 NFL season is that it represents yet another year of Aaron Rodgers’ prime wasted by inept coaching. That and how much money the Vikings paid Kirk Cousins for the returns to date.

Pick: Vikings

Tuesday – 1.15am (H3)

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans

From the highs of laying a beatdown on the Patriots, to suffering a hiding at the hands of the Colts, life as a Titans fan is certainly not dull. With Indy charging, Houston needs to keep winning.

Pick: Texans

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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