Lost in all of the drama surrounding the Richie Incognito situation is that fact that tonight's "Monday Night Football" game between the 4-4 Miami Dolphins and 0-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers is vitally important to Miami's playoff hopes. And for the Bucs? Well, we don't need to repeat Jim Mora's famous speech, but they're just trying to win a game.
For Tampa Bay, it's been a season to forget. The Incognito investigation has taken over the national headlines, but Tampa Bay fans still have head coach Greg Schiano squarely on the hot seat. A lack of discipline on defense in Week 1 (Lavonte David's personal foul on Geno Smith) and a questionable coaching decision in Week 2 (a missed 47-yard FG against the Saints with 1:30 left set up Drew Brees' game-winning drive) got the Bucs off to a tough 0-2 start. Once it became clear that Josh Freeman wasn't working in the offensive system (and couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a 45.7 percent completion percentage), Schiano cut Freeman and turned to Mike Glennon.
Glennon has been serviceable as a starting QB, but Tampa's offense is still 31st in yards per play (4.58) and passing yards per game (196.8). And the defense, specifically the supposedly improved pass D, has not lived up to expectations, as Tampa Bay has surrendered at least 27 points in each of its last four games.
In Miami, perhaps the most underplayed angle surrounding Incognito is the fact that both he and Jonathan Martin won't be blocking for Ryan Tannehill on Monday night. For an offensive line that is ranked 30th in adjusted sack percentage and has given up a league-high 35 sacks entering Week 10, losing two starters is going to be a problem. Marquee free-agent signee Mike Wallace has failed to live up to his big contract, although he did have one of his best games (eight catches for 82 yards) last week against the Bengals.
This line opened at Dolphins minus-3.5 and was bet down under a field goal at most sports books. The Dolphins are 4-4 against the spread (2-2 ATS on the road), but 1-4 ATS in their last five games, while the Bucs are 2-6 ATS (1-3 ATS at home). As Dave Tuley wrote in his weekly Friday column, this will probably be one of the lowest-handle "MNF" games this season and the public doesn't seem to know which way to bet, with 52 percent currently on the Bucs.
Let's turn our attention as always to line-movement analysis from Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hotel and an ATS pick on the game from Insider's panel of handicappers.
Matchup: Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spread: Opened at Dolphins minus-3.5; now Dolphins minus-1.5
Total: Opened at 40.5; now 41.5