No joke: Colts look like solid pick

Few people probably consider Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to be a cool guy. For some reason, he has the image of a nerd who can’t dance and rather would study a playbook than hang out at a party.

Manning has a sense of humor, however, and he has shown it in all those commercials and his “Saturday Night Live” appearance.

In the sports wagering community, where the wiseguys play mostly underdogs, it almost never is cool to bet on the Colts. Only a square — an unsophisticated betting nerd — routinely lays the points and pulls for Manning.

You look a lot smarter by taking the points against the NFL’s best team. This week, most of the wiseguys are putting smart money behind the Houston Texans as 6-point home underdogs to Indianapolis.

I bet on the Colts maybe twice a year. Last week, I bet against them and took the points with Tennessee for my only winner. And I was lucky to get that one.

But, no joke, the Colts are one of my top five plays this Sunday.

Before the season, all the talk was about how personnel losses would wreck an already-poor Indianapolis defense. So far, with strong safety Bob Sanders healthy, the defense looks pretty solid.

Houston quarterback Matt Schaub has played surprisingly well during a 2-0 start. But his top wide receiver, Andre Johnson, is out with a sprained left knee. Johnson has 14 receptions and three touchdowns, and he will be missed.

As tough as the Texans have been on the defensive line, they still are thin in the secondary.

Manning is playing at a high level, as usual, and scoring threats Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai surround him.

One trend indicates the Colts could be in trouble — they are 0-4-1 against the spread in their past five AFC South road games. This also is the biggest game in Texans history.

After last week’s scare against the Titans, though, look for the Colts to be focused to put away an inferior opponent and watch Manning do his victory dance for the 10th time in 11 games against Houston.

Four more prayers for Week 3 (home team in CAPS):

Chargers (-5) over PACKERS: Humiliated by New England a week ago, San Diego will show up ready to play. If not, maybe coach Norv Turner is in the wrong job. Philip Rivers has played quarterback as poorly as possible, and LaDainian Tomlinson has had nowhere to run. Those things will change. Green Bay’s Brett Favre, who did not find the end zone in Week 1, lit up the New York Giants. Favre might flop against the Chargers defense. San Diego is 9-1-2 against the spread after a straight-up loss.

CHIEFS (-3) over Vikings: Minnesota has the league’s worst quarterback situation with Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger. The starter might be veteran third-stringer Kelly Holcomb. Kansas City has a defense ranked seventh in the league, a strong home-field advantage and the potential to get offense from running back Larry Johnson.

BRONCOS (-3) over Jaguars: Despite Denver’s apparent shortcomings — quarterback Jay Cutler is 1-6 against the spread, for example — it has outgained two opponents by a combined 911-437. There are few reasons to be thrilled with Jacksonville, which barely beat a bad Atlanta team last week.

Cowboys (+3) over BEARS: This could be a trap game, and Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman could play well for once. The Bears rank 30th in the league in offense and fifth in defense. But Dallas, averaging 41 points per game, appears to be a strong underdog.

Last week: 1-4 against the spread

Season: 4-5-1

Review-Journal sportswriter Matt Youmans can be reached at 387-2907 or myoumans@reviewjournal.com.

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