As the wins piled up over the years, Peyton Manning was praised as the NFL’s model quarterback. He always had a few flaws, but they were comparable to a tiny mole on a supermodel’s cheek.
He’s boring, as mobile as a mannequin and lacks the Super Bowl resume of New England’s Tom Brady.
Manning is down now, and kicking and picking on him is so easy a caveman can do it, so I’m not going to pile on. Manning has had a few bad weeks on the job, but that has not exposed him so much as it has the deficiencies of the declining Indianapolis Colts.
I doubted Manning would lose three games in a row, including two on his home field, but the Dallas Cowboys picked him off four times and returned two of the interceptions for touchdowns in a 38-35 overtime victory Sunday.
“It’s as bad as I’ve seen Peyton Manning look,” said Mike Colbert, M Resort sports book director for Cantor Gaming. “But he doesn’t have too much to work with, so it’s hard to put the blame on him.”
The Colts are diminished by injuries, they can’t run the ball or stop the run, and coach Jim Caldwell has as many answers as a bankrupt contestant on Jeopardy!
Manning is normally the makeup covering the Colts’ flaws. The past few weeks, however, his inconsistent play has been a contributing problem.
Indianapolis closed as a 6-point favorite, and the betting public seemed to like Manning’s chances to cover.
“We did take a couple decent-sized bets on Dallas on the money line at plus-220 and plus-200, but we did have people laying 5½ with the Colts,” Colbert said. “The majority of the public was betting the Colts, teasers and straight bets. It was basically a break-even game for us.”
And Indianapolis is a break-even team at 6-6, with Manning throwing 11 interceptions the past three weeks.
Colbert posted the Colts as 3-2 favorites to win their division going into Week 13. When the odds are adjusted today, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the favorites.
“In my opinion, Manning has never been able to get it done when it counts in big games,” Colbert said. “He stunk last week against San Diego. But obviously, he’s still very, very good.
“Clearly, the Colts are not a favorite to win the AFC South anymore. I just think they look bad. I would be in shock if they get in the playoffs.”
The Colts were one of five favorites to fall Sunday, when underdogs went 8-6 against the spread. The most stunning collapse came from the San Diego Chargers, known for their December dominance.
The Chargers, 13-point home favorites and minus-750 on the money line, were struck down 28-13 by the Oakland Raiders.
Indianapolis and San Diego are in obvious jeopardy of missing the postseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) took over the top spot in the AFC North by rallying to beat Baltimore, 13-10.
The Steelers, 3-point underdogs, fed off the toughness of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu. Roethlisberger played through a bad foot and a broken nose, and Polamalu’s sack and forced fumble caused Joe Flacco and the Ravens to cough up a game they had no business losing.
Atlanta, Green Bay, Seattle, St. Louis, Minnesota and the New York Giants covered as favorites. While the Falcons were fortunate, the Vikings did it without Brett Favre.
Favre sprained his throwing shoulder early in Minnesota’s 38-14 victory over Buffalo. Be prepared for another week of drama as the media breathlessly speculates on his playing status.
“A lot of sharp guys played Buffalo,” Colbert said of the Bills, 5½-point underdogs.
The betting public is riding Brady and the Patriots as 3½-point favorites over the New York Jets in tonight’s dramatic conclusion to the week.
The Colts are back in action Thursday at Tennessee. Manning is down, but I hesitate to count him out just yet.
■ BOTTOM LINES — Auburn and Oregon will meet in the Bowl Championship Series title game Jan. 10. Colbert posted lines for five BCS games, and the other bowl numbers should be up today.
Cam Newton and the Tigers, who humiliated South Carolina, opened as 3-point favorites. I won’t bet against them this time.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the “Las Vegas Sportsline” weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.