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5 Things to Watch For in Monday Night’s Colts/Bucs Game

The QBpocalypse is upon us

Last week, the Indy defense gave a valiant effort, but couldn’t over-come the offensive ineptness thrust upon them by the other half of the team. This week the Colts return to the scene of one of the great comebacks in NFL history, Tampa.  It’s another prime time clash, only this time it stars Curtis Painter!  Here’s what to watch for this week:

1. Watch for the run game. Hold on to your chair: Joe Addai is averaging 4.8 yards a carry. Delone Carter is at a Don Brown-like 3.7. The Colts have run the ball effectively through three weeks, and absolutely need to pound it this week. Of course, I write that every week, and every week they go pass heavy. That simply can’t happen now that Painter is playing.  In the preseason, Curtis Painter barely completed 50% of his passes. With the exception of one long pass to a wide open Reggie Wayne (something he showed last week he’s incapable of replicating on a consistent basis), he averaged less than six yards a pass. Curtis Painter is not an NFL caliber quarterback, and I fully expect a two pick, 4 sack, 1 fumble kind of night if asked to throw 40 times. Indy’s ONLY chance to win is to keep the ball out of his hands.

2. Watch the home/road split. In 2010, the Colts defense had one of the most extreme home/road splits in history, playing lights out at the Luke, and playing like they were in the dark on the road. The Colts defense has been impressive through two games at home, and even against the Texans only gave up 13 points on drives opening outside the Indy 20. The real test for this unit will be if they can carry this production on the road with them. Tampa has had a miserable start to the season offensively, and the Colts defense ought to be up to the challenge. If they have a rough game, it could be a sign that the last two weeks were a mirage.

3. Watch for regression. Josh Freeman had a major breakout season in 2010, posting a passer rating over 95, and a crazy low interception percentage. He also has 8 comeback wins in just 28 career starts. In fact, he’s only won 13 total games, and most of those were fourth quarter come-from-behind jobs. Unfortunately for Freeman, his magic might be wearing off a bit. His numbers have come back to the pack some early in 2011. His sack rate is down and his completion percentage is up, but his unsustainably low interception rate has rebounded as well. His DVOA is about league average through three games. Freeman is either on the verge of putting it all together or of showing that 2010 was a bit fluky.

4. Watch for the league’s worst pass defense, almost. The Bucs rank 31st in DVOA against the pass. Granted they’ve played some decent quarterbacks early, and they also have 6 sacks and a couple of interceptions. Still, the Bucs are a far cry from the dominant defenses they fielded for so many years. In many respects this is a game of ghosts. Once upon a time, this was a premier matchup in the NFL, but Dungy and Gruden are in the booth, Manning is sidelined, and Warren Sapp has become a Macey’s parade float. It’s astounding really, how quickly things change in the NFL. Normally, the Colts best chance to beat this Bucs team would be to pass, but, well, we’ve covered that point already.

5. Watch for disappointment. Painter is bad. Really bad. If he throws 10 times, there will likely be a turnover or two mixed in. Part of the problem is that the coaches have shown no inclination to alter the offense to go run heavy. They’ll ask him to throw way more than they should. I expect him to hand the ball to the Bucs regularly. Tampa 35 Indy 10.