Indianapolis Colts (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS), 8:30 p.m. EST, Week 4 NFL, Monday, October 3, 2011, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla., TV: ESPN
by Badger, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Indy +10/TB -10
Over/Under Total: 41
Life without quarterback Peyton Manning will be on full display in primetime to a national television audience once again this week, when the Indianapolis Colts travel to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium on Monday Night Football.
Since television schedules are made months in advance you cant pile on the networks for continuing to show the misery that is the Colts without Manning, but with last weeks, 23-20, loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday Night still causing nightmares for the Colts, now they have to strap it up in front of the world again on Monday Night Football this week.
This game was originally given the primetime treatment because it was to feature Manning and the Colts against young Josh Freeman and the upstart Buccaneers. The only good news for the suits at ESPN is the fact that at least Freeman and the Bucs have held up their end of the bargain.
Tampa won their second game in a row and scored some big divisional bragging rights in the process when they held on for a, 16-13, victory over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. It wasnt pretty, especially since Freeman threw two interceptions and the Buccaneers did their best to shoot themselves in the foot (9 penalties, 1-for-4 in Red Zone), but a win is a win in the NFL and the Bucs certainly will take it and move on to Monday Night.
The early line out of Las Vegas opened with Tampa Bay as large 10-point favorites at home in Raymond James Stadium. Its still early, but with the point spread still just a day or two old there has been no line movement so far on the board for this game.
The over/under total opened and 41.5 and can still be found at that number at a few sportsbooks, but a majority of the big sportsbooks in Vegas on offshore have dropped the hook to make the current total 41 on their boards.
It could be a tall task to get over the total this week because neither offense is very good.
The Buccaneers and Freeman continue to struggle for consistency, so it explains their average output in most offensive statistics (315 total yards 22nd; 223 pass 21st; 92 run 20th; 20 ppg 21st). A real lack of game-changing speed on the perimeter and in the backfield makes the Buccaneers the type of offense that is going to grind away and wait for the opponent to wear down.
However, the Colts defense looked like they turned the corner last week against the Steelers and could be up to stopping the run. Indy held Pittsburgh to just 67 yards rushing (2.3 ypc) and added three turnovers and three sacks last week, but remember that that was at home on the fast track of Lucas Oil Stadium. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis always seem a step faster at home on the carpet and Raymond James Stadiums grass may feel like deep-plush and negate the Colts speed.
Tampa Bay can afford a few three-and-outs on offense because the Colts offense is a mere shell of its former self now that Kerry Collins is playing quarterback. The Colts are 29th in total offense (254 yards) and 28th in scoring (15.3 ppg), numbers you havent seen attached to Indianapolis since B.M. before Manning. The Colts still have plenty of pieces, just no maestro to turn it into music.
And theres no guarantee that Collins will play after getting knocked out of Sunday Nights game, meaning Curtis Painter gets the start to lead the Colts offense. Painters ineffectiveness in the preseason is what caused the need to sign Collins in the first place, so its hard to figure thats a bonus to the Colts attack.
The Colts and whomever is at QB will have to be even more patient and efficient in order to gain ground on the Buccaneers defense this week, since the Bucs play a conservative two-deep, keep-it-in-front style that makes teams drive it rather than give up big plays. This year the Bucs have played a bend but sometimes break scheme (24th in yards allowed 384.7 ypg; 20th in points allowed 20.0 ppg) that is making every week turn into a nail-biter.
Recent history between these two teams is limited, with the last time they met on the gridiron coming in the form of a, 33-14, Colts win and home in September of 2007. The Colts have won two in a row on the field, but at the betting window the Colts have gone 4-1 ATS in the last five games head-to-head (back to 1992).
The Colts are also a cash-machine like 7-1 ATS in their last eight games on Monday Night Football, but remember that all of those were with Manning at QB and suddenly were talking apples and oranges.
The Buccaneers are 0-3-2 ATS in their last five games on Monday Night, so bet on a side with caution this week.
The over has a few betting trends giving it support, including a 6-1 record in the Colts last seven road games. The over is also 4-1-1 in Tampas last six home games, and its 6-3 in the entire history of the Colts-Buccaneers series.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im not sure the Buccaneers are double-digit favorites over anyone right now, even the hapless Colts. That said, I cant stomach the thought of placing my money on the Colts right now. Both offenses struggle and the Bucs win, 20-14 or 17-13. Im playing the under of 41.
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