Peyton Manning knows nothing about the Buccaneers' defense, other
than what he can catch on tape. He has seen Simeon Rice speeding
around the corner, Warren Sapp barreling up the middle, Derrick
Brooks clamping on an outlet receiver and John Lynch calling out
his reads from the secondary, but the Colts' quarterback has
never experienced those things. Of course, the Bucs have never
gotten a taste of Peyton, either--those play fakes he sells
better than any quarterback in the business, the special thing he
has going with Marvin Harrison against single or double coverage
(or whatever coverage opponents want to dream up).
That's what makes this Monday-night game so intriguing. When the
teams last met, in 1997, Tampa Bay won by three points and was on
its way to the playoffs. Indianapolis was 0-8, and Manning wasn't
in the league yet. The emergence of Manning changed everything in
Indy, and the advent of a spirited defense this season has lifted
the Colts into the select fraternity of the undefeated.
The Colts aren't going to beat the Bucs by running fancy pass
routes or play fakes. Carolina showed the world how to handle the
Super Bowl champs: Pound them with the ground game and keep
pounding. And while that's going on, you'd better have a defense
that can keep the Tampa Bay offense in check, at least for a
while, or the next thing you know you'll be three touchdowns
behind. Of course, having good kick blockers helps too.
Running back Edgerrin James is key for Indy. Just as he was
regaining his oomph after a couple of injury-plagued seasons, he
hurt his back last week, and he was held out of Sunday's rout of
the Saints. If James can't go on Monday night, the Colts will
find themselves in too many long-yardage situations against a
defense that thrives on them.
If the game were in Indianapolis, I'd look very hard at the
Colts, but in Raymond James Stadium, it's got to be the
Bucs--even if James plays.
--Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb took off and ran when he
had to against the Bills, and just to add an exclamation point,
he didn't run out-of-bounds, even if it meant picking up only a
few extra yards. He wanted to show the world he was back after
two strange games in which he stayed in the pocket and threw
poorly. I think he and the Eagles will keep things rolling
against the Redskins, who barely outlasted a banged-up Patriots
--How many guys were out of action for New England? Better to ask
how many were healthy. Maybe the Patriots can get someone to
shuffle the deck and deal them a new hand. Heroic, yes, but
they're still understaffed. The Titans are the pick.
--The Vikings are due for a letdown, but don't expect that from a
defense that is still proving itself. I like Minnesota's
secondary more and more each time I see it, and I especially like
it against the Falcons minus Michael Vick. The Vikings go to 5-0
with a win on the road.
--Carolina has lost five of its last six to New Orleans. So what?
The Colts had lost five in a row to the Saints going into last
week's game, and look what happened on Sunday night. It won't be
as bad for New Orleans this week, but the Panthers get the win. I
like the Giants to hold off the Dolphins at the Meadowlands, and
I see Mike Holmgren's return to Green Bay a triumphant one, just
as it was four years ago, as his Seahawks beat the Packers again.
Last week: 5-4
Season record: 19-18
Dr. Z's Inside Football, every week during the season at