Picking apart the Indianapolis Colts and pointing out their flaws is getting a little easier. The bottom line, though, is they still have Peyton Manning running the show, and he’s always tough to beat.
Manning has produced more than a few miracles over the years. He directed another one Monday in Miami, a reminder that betting on the best player on the field often has its rewards.
The Colts are in the NFL’s prime-time spotlight again this week, playing at Arizona on Sunday night, and Manning tends to shine in these settings. But there is more to like about the Cardinals as 2 1/2-point favorites.
Mostly dismissed after a season-opening loss to San Francisco, Arizona regrouped last week on the road and routed Jacksonville. Kurt Warner turned back the clock in one of his finest performances, proving the Cardinals are alive and doing more than kicking field goals.
Warner completed 24 of 26 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He was an accurate, equal opportunity quarterback by spreading the ball to nine receivers.
With targets Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, Warner has more options than a buffet line, and now he has a chance to feast on a weakened Indianapolis defense.
Manning will make big plays and move the chains, which is always a concern. But the Colts’ 27-23 victory over the Dolphins could come with a hangover. The Indianapolis defense was drained and out of gas at the finish line.
Miami ran 84 plays and controlled the ball for more than 45 minutes. Colts defenders were dehydrated and gasping for oxygen, and their injury list is getting longer.
Already without their best defender, safety Bob Sanders, the Colts might be missing middle linebacker Gary Brackett and cornerback Kelvin Hayden. The defense was punished on the ground by the Dolphins, who rushed for 239 yards and converted 15 of 21 third downs.
Manning has the ability to mask most of Indianapolis’ flaws. But in the second of back-to-back road games, and with a short-handed and tired defense, the Colts are limping into Arizona.
The Cardinals, 14-5 straight up at home the past two-plus seasons, are a good bet to cover because they are catching Manning at the right time and place.
Four more plays for Week 3 (Home team in CAPS):
X Titans (+2 1/2) over JETS: After sticking it to New England, the Jets showed they are legitimate. New coach Rex Ryan has an impressive defense and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez has a bright future. But this is more about the Titans, and remembering how good they were last season. Tennessee, a desperate team at 0-2, should find a way to win an ugly game.
X SEAHAWKS (+2 1/2) over Bears: Injuries at the quarterback position are old news for Seattle. Seneca Wallace might get the start in place of Matt Hasselbeck, but Wallace is capable of winning. Chicago was extremely lucky to beat Pittsburgh last week. Jay Cutler played better while leading an offense that lacks punch. The Bears’ defense also has plenty of holes.
X Steelers (-4) over BENGALS: Pittsburgh is 0-2 against the spread and coming off a regrettable loss to the Bears. The Steelers are 7-0-1 ATS in their past eight trips to Cincinnati. Whether the Bengals are any good is a mystery, but it’s usually better to bet against them. Pittsburgh’s defense should dominate, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to slam the door this time.
X Broncos (-1) over RAIDERS: The Denver defense has allowed a league-low 13 points and ranks No. 2 in yards allowed at 253.5 per game. We’ll soon see if those numbers are for real. Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell sure looks like a fraud.
Last week: 4-1 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sportswriter Matt Youmans can be reached at 387-2907 or email@example.com.