Think the folks at ESPN are a little envious of their compatriots at NBC right now?
Later this season, NBC is allowed to use a flex schedule to get a better game for its Sunday night telecast. Monday Night Football doesn’t get that option at all, and you know MNF would have flexed out the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts this week. Thankfully, it’s their only scheduled Monday Night Football appearance of the season.
With 38-year-old Kerry Collins replacing Manning under center, the Colts are 0-3 for the first time since Manning’s rookie season.
They are in the bottom six of the NFL in points per game (15.3), passing yards per game (164.0) and total offense. They have yet to score a first-half touchdown.
The Colts have actually been fairly competitive since getting blown away in their opener in Houston—although it should be said their past two games were at home. Indy lost by eight to Cleveland, the Colts’ first loss to the Browns since 1994. And last week they hung with the Pittsburgh Steelers, losing on a field goal with four seconds remaining.
The Bucs (2-1) lost by a touchdown at home in their opener to the Detroit Lions—and that looks acceptable now—and have squeezed out wins over the Minnesota Vikings (24-20 after being down 17-0) and 16-13 over the Atlanta Falcons last week, even though QB Josh Freeman threw for only 180 yards, no TDs and two picks. Freeman had six picks all of last year and already has four in 2011.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Bucs’ rush defense, which was a problem last year. The Bucs allowed an average of 156 yards rushing in the first two weeks (31st in NFL) but held Atlanta to just 30.
Colts at Bucs Betting Storylines
It looks as if the Curtis Painter era will begin for the Colts on Monday night. Collins was knocked out in the fourth quarter against the Steelers with an apparent concussion. Collins was 13-of-29 for 93 yards in the game, but just 3-of-9 in the second half. He was replaced by Painter, who was 5-of-11 for 60 yards with a 62.7 rating.
Through Thursday, Collins is still suffering concussion-like symptoms and has yet to practice, so the Colts—who signed Dan Orlovsky off the street this week (supposedly the Colts don’t have the cap room to sign former Jags starter David Garrard)—are prepping like Painter will get his first start.
This might actually be a good thing. Collins has completed just 49 percent of his passes, averaging fewer than five yards per attempt. He’s thrown only two TDs with one interception, lost three fumbles and been sacked five times. The 17-year veteran ranks No. 30 in passer rating (65.0), No. 32 in completion percentage (49.0) and third-down passer rating (41.5), and No. 29 in yards per attempt (4.9).
Painter, while his stats weren’t great last week, did lead Indy to a late fourth-quarter touchdown that tied the game. It was Painter’s first regular-season action since 2009. He has attempted 39 passes in his career.
Tampa Bay got some good injury news. Linebacker Geno Hayes passed the NFL’s concussion tests after leaving last week’s game versus the Falcons and will play. So apparently will fellow starting linebacker Quincy Black, after he missed the Atlanta game with an ankle injury.
However, starting free safety Cody Grimm was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered last week. The Tampa Bay defense has been a bend-but-don’t-break unit this year. Bucs opponents have gained 309 more total yards as well as 15 more first downs, but the possessions haven’t always translated to points—Tampa Bay’s D ranks 24th in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed.
Colts at Bucs Betting Odds and Trends
As of this writing, Tampa Bay is a 10-point favorite with the total at 40.5, according to NFL odds. About 60 percent of the lean is on Indy. The Bucs are 2-1 ATS this year (1-1 at home), while Indy is 1-2 ATS (0-1 on road).
Honestly, I would say that all Colts trends other than this three-game stretch are completely worthless to share because No. 18 isn’t in there. The ‘over’ has hit in Indy’s past two games. The Bucs are 6-1 ATS in their past seven following a win. The ‘under’ is 4-0-1 in Bucs’ past five after a win.
Monday Night Football Predictions: Colts at Bucs Betting Picks
I have no doubt the Bucs win, as the young team will be jacked up in its first home Monday night game since 2003, when Manning rallied Indy to a 38-35 win.
But I would take the 10 points because at worst it will be a push, but I probably see the Colts losing by a TD.
I wonder if the line might move up to 10.5 if Painter officially is named the starter, and then I would jump all over that. And I love the ‘under’ even though it’s pretty low.