I had a chance to sit down and talk with Adam Hughes, the Editor over at Naptown’s Finest, who gives us a little insight on what the feeling in Indianapolis is about Monday Night’s matchup.
|KeyTPP: The Pewter PlankAH: Adam Hughes, Naptown’s Finest
TPP: The elephant in the room story around the Colts this season is the absence of Peyton Manning and the subsequent downward spiral the Colts are in. When you heard Manning was out for the year indefinitely at the start of last week, did you completely lose faith in this squad or is there still some hope in your heart the Colts can bounce back from 0-3?
AH: My personal “lost-faith” moment was the Week 2 loss to the Cleveland Browns, who had no business beating the Colts at home, even with Manning out. The Colts have flashed a few encouraging signs this season, though, starting with the improved running game on both sides of the ball. Some of last week’s success in that area may be due to the Steelers’ own difficulties, but the Colts look a little tougher this year. However, regardless of the baby steps, this is Curtis Painter’s team now, and I’m not yet comfortable with that concept.
Overall, I expect the Colts to be competitive in some games and probably even win a few of them. As sports fans in Indianapolis know, thanks to the exploits of the Pacers, this is just the kind of team that can frustrate us on a year-to-year basis: not good enough to sniff the playoffs and not bad enough to land a really good draft pick. Until and unless Manning comes back (and there is no guarantee he ever will), we’re in limbo.
TPP: How frustrated are you with the way the Colts have started their first Manning-less season in over a decade? Were even you aware of just how overly dependent the Colts were on Manning to succeed or was this expected from a team sans it’s leader?
AH: I knew that Manning was the absolute key to everything good that the Colts usually do. Not only does he drive the offense, obviously, but he keeps the defense off the field and fresh, which allows Indy the luxury of fielding the fast, precision defenders that the team has become known for. When the Colts’ O is going three-and-out all game long, the defense tires quickly and is just ineffective. Thanks to his comeback abilities, Manning also hid problems with special teams that lead to consistently poor field position, and he erases most questionable play calling (he does most of that on offense, anyway).
So, I’m not really surprised at how the Colts have played without Manning, though I did think Collins could direct the offense a little better than he has. Unfortunately, the Colts didn’t change their schemes to fit Collins and they did little to make his job palatable. I am frustrated that the Colts didn’t prepare, even a little bit, for a Manning injury. Who could have seen the decline of a 35-year-old quarterback coming, right?
TPP: Looking ahead to the Monday Night matchup, what do you fear the most about the Bucs or do you not fear one aspect of this Buccaneers team?
AH: Honestly, I’m a little gun-shy these days, and every Colts strikes fear in me! For the Bucs, in particular, I have my eye on Josh Freeman. The Colts’ secondary is in shambles, and it hasn’t been very good anyway. Freeman may be able to exploit them on a grand scale and get his name back on the hot commodities list among QBs. I think he’s been a little overshadowed this season by Cam Newton and even non-performers like Tim Tebow, and he may be ready for a feast.
TPP: How confident are you Curtis Painter can become the next Matt Schaub or Matt Cassel or Tony Romo and emerge from the shadow of a good quarterback and step up and lead in the absence of the team’s leader?
I am not confident at all in Painter. Aside from a strong drive at the end of the Steelers game, Painter has shown us absolutely nothing good during his years in Indy. Colts players, coaches, and bigwigs consistently defend the guy to the press and the fans, though, so there must be something redeeming here. In retrospect, I think he should have been given the starting gig when Manning went down and allowed to sink or swim. I still think he’ll sink, but we need to find out, once and for all.
TPP: Finally, what’s your honest prediction for Monday Night’s game and why is that your prediction?
AH: I’ll take the Bucs, 32-17. As mentioned above, this one has break-out written all over it for Freeman, and I think that will lead to a lot of points for Tampa. With the pressure of actually winning the game off, the Colts and Painter may be able to piece together a couple of scores, but I’d be surprised if they come home with a victory.