Occasionally, a big punch lands, and Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will get knocked down and out. It happened last week. But rarely does it happen two weeks in a row.
Luck is an impressive bounce-back quarterback, going 10-1 in his NFL career after a loss. He has rapidly become one of the league’s elite passers and a favorite of the betting public.
There is no doubt the Colts will get supported again as 3½-point road favorites over the New York Giants on Monday night, and partly because the Giants are difficult to support.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning personifies a Halloween party, because you never know what you might see next, a two-time Super Bowl winner or a hapless, shoulder-slumping loser? Luck is consistently reliable, even if sometimes reckless in defeat.
The Colts reeled off five straight wins and covers before getting pummeled 51-34 at Pittsburgh six days ago. It was one of those days when everything clicked for the Steelers, who piled up 639 total yards and 34 first downs. The Indianapolis defense, which pitched a shutout against Cincinnati the previous week, was ripped by Ben Roethlisberger for 522 yards passing and six touchdowns. Roethlisberger fired 49 passes and was not intercepted or sacked.
That result was probably more of an outlier than a red flag for the Colts. Manning is not going to approach those numbers Monday, though he seems primed to take shots at an Indianapolis defense that was exposed.
Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said he’s seeking “more explosive” plays from Manning and young receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle. It’s cliche, but it is must-win time.
Make no mistake, this is a big game for the Giants, who are 3-4 and falling off the pace in the NFC East. The following opponents on the November schedule facing New York — at Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas — could write Tom Coughlin’s coaching obituary.
Luck has passed for 2,731 yards and 22 touchdowns in eight games. He has few weaknesses. Still, no trend is bullet-proof, and early this season, Luck lost back-to-back games to Denver and Philadelphia.
The Colts are in a tricky spot, playing on the road again with a bye up next. The Giants are off a bye and desperate, so I’ll take 3½ with the home underdog and hope the good Manning shows up to the party.
With six teams on byes, this card is short and ugly, but here are four more opinions for Week 9 (home team in CAPS):
■ DOLPHINS (-2) over Chargers: San Diego is a streaky team, dropping two in a row after a five-game win streak. But beating Jacksonville, the New York Jets and Oakland is nothing to brag about, obviously. Injuries and a tougher stretch in the schedule are catching up to the Chargers, who have not won in Miami since 1981. A relentless Dolphins defensive line will put the heat on San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who is suffering from a lack of support at running back.
■ VIKINGS (-1) over Redskins: The return of quarterback Robert Griffin III might not boost Washington’s offense. The Redskins are in a bet-against spot after their emotional upset at Dallas, and they probably should be sticking with Colt McCoy’s hot hand. Griffin is up against Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, one of the sharpest defensive strategists in the league.
■ Eagles (-1½) over TEXANS: In a loss at Arizona last week, Nick Foles passed 62 times and Philadelphia held a 521-400 edge in total yards. Scoring touchdowns in the red zone is the Eagles’ issue, and the Houston defense is tough to crack. This is just a bet on the better team off a bad loss, and a bet against Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
■ PATRIOTS (+3) over Broncos: Denver deserves to be favored based on its stronger defense. The weather forecast — temperatures in the 40s with a 50 percent chance of rain and winds gusting around 30 mph — favors Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. The home team has won and covered all three meetings since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos, with the Patriots taking two of three.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.