It’s back to the AFC South this week with the Bucs heading north to play inside the dome in Indy at Lucas Oil Stadium. That means we are graced again with the insight of Steve Varcardipone who covers the Colts and Jaguars for us. Let’s see what Steve has to say about the Sunday matchup with the Pewter Pirates and the Horseshoes.
LH:Steve, the big question is why are the Colts 2-5 with starter Andrew Luck under center and 3-0 with backup Matt Hasselback as the signal caller. How is this happening?
SV:There’s no reason why Hasselback is 3-0 and the future of the NFL (Andrew Luck) is 2-5. I compare it to when Tim Tebow was playing with the Broncos,the whole team knew they needed to play better to have a chance to win. I think every player on the Colts takes it upon themselves to play better with old man Matt in there. On the flip side of that I think most players stand around and wait for Luck to make the perfect pass or perfect decision for the victory and this season it’s just not happening. I think we can agree that Luck has not been 100% all year and he’s looked average, but I still believe he is a top notch QB in this league and when healthy can lead the Colts to a Superbowl.
LH:Indy seems to be in the drivers seat to win the AFC South. I’m thinking the team that has the best chance to unseat the Colts are the Texans. Who do you like to challenge Indy?
SV:Leo, You nailed it. I think the Texans are the only team in that division that has a shot at Indy. And let’s face it, Bill O’Brien has done a great job coaching that offense with a bunch of back-ups and Hopkins! The Texans will go as far as their D can take them, and with JJ Watt that is pretty far. I just feel if Luck can get truly healthy his Colts beat the fighting JJ’s for the division title.
LH:Now left tackle Anthony Castonzo is out with a right knee MCL sprain. Can the Colts reserves pressed into duty on offense stay successful with these rash of injuries?
SV:They are going to have to protect Hasselback or they have no shot of competing this week or, for that matter, the rest of the year. Hasselback’s best quality is that he won’t lose the game for the Colts and will make the play when it’s there, but he is too old to take a beating like Luck has the first part of the year. But it goes back to my original thought, I think to a man they all step up with because they all know they have to be at their best for any shot to win.
LH:Indy is giving up more points than they score but so is the rest of the AFC South. Is the Colts defense that bad?
SV:They’re not great, let’s be honest, but the Colts have been hit with the injury bug like everyone else in the league. Mathis isn’t 100% and that hurts when you can’t get pressure on the opposing QB with just the front four. When you blitz in the NFL you better be able to play man-to-man behind it. Also, Luck threw so many INT’s that the defense was out there most of the game and a tired D is a vulnerable one.
LH:The bottom line with Indianapolis is, if the game is on the line, kicker Adam Vinatieri is almost automatic especially at home in the dome. How much of a factor is he to the Colts chances of going back to the playoffs?
SV:This year more than ever, with the new longer extra point, kickers and special teams in general will be a tremendous asset when playoff time hits. Vinatieri is automatic inside but let’s not forget he is a former Patriot and is ok with kicking in bad weather. With the Colts slow start they will need to win road games in the playoffs to get where they want to and I wouldn’t want any other kicker in the league on my team for a last second field goal to win the game other than #4.
LH:Steve you’re a former QB. Are you surprised with how quickly Jameis Winston had progressed in his rookie season?
SV:I am a little surprised, but for all of his shortcomings Winston knows how to win and people follow him. He still needs to fix some things with his fundamentals, but to this point he’s the rookie of the year in the NFC. It helps that he has two 6-5 receivers and Evans has been unstoppable recently but I think what will help Winston continue to play great is Doug Martin. A running game opens up so many things for Winston as well as OC Dirk Koetter. If Martin stays healthy and Winston gets more comfortable with Jackson and Evans there is no telling how quickly the Bucs can compete with the Panthers and the rest of the NFC.
LH:My heart says Tampa Bay winning a close one indoors where #3 is 2-0 in domes. My head says Indy with #4 splitting the uprights as time expires to give the Colts the victory. Who do you say wins and why?
SV:I think Hasselback gets his first defeat this weekend. It should be a close game and if it comes down to the kicking game I’d go with Indy, but Lovie Smith cut his teeth with defense and I think with all the injuries to the Colts I see the Bucs D coming up with a few turnovers and Martin having 100+ again this week. As long as Winston stays away from the INT I think the Bucs win 30-17 and get over .500.