Ah can you smell that? It’s the smell of Monday Night Football returning to Tampa. We can’t be more excited than to show off this youngry team on prime time television in football’s biggest game of the week. Of course, the team coming to play the Bucs brings back flashbacks that may make any Bucs fan projectile vomit. We touch on that and more in this week’s edition of Fire the Cannons, where we are joined by Nate Dunlevy from 18to88.com and author of Blue Blood, Tales of the Glory of the Indianapolis Colts, which you can check out at bluebloodbook.com.
Cannon Shot 1: The Colts currently stand at 0-3, and the only difference between this team and recent teams is of course, Peyton Manning. Does he mean that much to the Colts that the team has struggled to get rolling without him, or are there other factors that we are not seeing? Is there any doubt that he has been the most valuable player in the NFL over the last 10 seasons?
Nate: If Peyton Manning were healthy, Indy would be 2-1 at worst, probably 3-0. It's all Manning. Indy's D is 11th in DVOA (a footballoutsiders.com metric), but the offense can't score. And no, there's no doubt that his last 10 seasons are unlike anything anyone has ever done.
Cannon Shot 2: With Manning out, Curtis Painter is now slated to start this week. What are some things about Painter that Bucs fans should look for?
Nate: Fumbles, interceptions, and bounced passes. He's quite possibly the worst player in football. He has no pocket presence, and is inaccurate.
Cannon Shot 3: Is Painter the quarterback of the future for the Colts, or will the boys in blue be looking at drafting the next Peyton Manning this April?
Nate: If Manning is healthy, it's too soon to draft his replacement. Painter is nothing. He is a roster spot. He's not the quarterback of the past, present or future. He's a warm body. I wrote about the Manning replacement situation last week:
Cannon Shot 4: Regardless of who is barking signals, the Colts always seem to have a vast array of weapons. Who should the Bucs defense be focused on stopping this week?
Nate: Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. They are the Indianapolis Offense. Dallas Clark has 80 yards in 3 games. Reggie Wayne has just 196. Indy has no offense. Joe Addai is having an incredible run early in the year, but mostly the Colts can't score. As long as Freeman doesn't fumble or throw as he's hit, the Colts might not generate any points.
Cannon Shot 5: Ok, I have to torture myself and ask this. What are your memories of the 2003 Bucs-Colts Monday Night epic matchup that saw a comeback for the ages by the Colts?
Nate: I was living in Argentina, so the game started an hour later there. My mother-in-law was visiting us, and said, "Oh don't worry, they'll win!" in that patronizing way mothers and mothers-in-law have. I woke my wife up with two minutes to go and made her watch the end. I stayed up until 5 AM calling friends and family back home. It was an unforgettable, incredible night. It was the second best game in Indianapolis Colts history.
Cannon Shot 6: As a Michigan grad from the class of 2005, one of my fellow classmates was none other than Marlin Jackson. What does that name mean to you and Colts fans?
Nate: Everything. Marlin is beloved in Indianapolis. If you say his name to a Colts fan, he'll instantly respond:
MARLIN JACKSON! MARLIN'S GOT IT! WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL! That was radio announcer Bob Lamey's call after MJax picked off Tom Brady in 38-34 (the greatest game in Indy history). Fans loved him, and are devastated over his injuries.
Extra Point: How excited are people in Indianapolis to host the Super Bowl this year? Can you keep the weather warm enough to keep everybody happy? If you can’t, do you mind if Tampa hosts for you?
Nate: Indy will blow you all away. The city knows how to host top flight sporting events. The whole downtown has been connected via a system of tunnels and bridges. Even if the weather is bad, people won't have to be outside freezing. Years of hosting hundreds of thousands for the 500, as well as scores of NCAA Final Fours, NBA Finals, World Basketball championships, etc, have helped cement Indy's reputation as a big game city.
It'll be laughable how much better Indy does than Dallas.
Thanks Nate! Niko here... I've got a couple myself to add on...
Nate, Since 1999 The Colts have pretty much consistently had a winning record, and Peyton Manning has a lot to do with that. Do Colts fans feel the team will finish with a winning record this year without him?
Nate:No. This is a 2-4 win team at best. They'll be lucky to win four games. Peyton Manning is the single most important player in the history of the NFL to his team's chances of winning. Everyone is finding out just how important.
Who do the Colts fans want as QB? Painter or Collins? Or anyone other than Manning?
Nate:Fans are high on Painter right now because Collins has been bad and they have short memories. Painter's last drive ended in a touchdown, so he's the QB d'jour. He's awful, however, and it honestly doesn't matter. This team isn't going anywhere.
The Bucs fan base is somewhat splintered among those who support the Glazers (Owners), Raheem Morris (Coach) and even Mark Dominik (GM), and those who don’t. How do Colts fans feel about (GM)Bill Polian?
Nate:Indy has made the playoffs every year since 2002. They've gone every year but one since 1999. Polian is acerbic and mean, but as long as the team wins, no one cares. It's been popular to rip him recently because the team is struggling this year, but for the most part, he's popular because winning is popular.
I was at the crushing defeat 8 years ago in Raymond James on Monday Night Football. How does that game rate in Colts lore?
Nate:It was one of the great games in Indy history. Everyone talks about it still. I've ranked it as the second best Indianapolis Colts game of all time, behind the 38-34 classic against NE in the 2006 playoffs. http://www.18to88.com/fixtures/2007/thetenbestindianapoliscoltsgamesofalltime.html
Everyone has a 'where I was' story for that game.
Who do the Colts need to look out for on the Bucs?
Nate:The Bucs have been bad on defense, but Painter is likely starting and he's the worst player in the NFL. Indy has to be able to keep a clean pocket for Painter. If he gets any pressure it's going to be a long night. Look for multiple defensive scores for the Bucs.
Tampa 35, Indy 10