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Indianapolis Colts vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Game Preview

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The Bucs aim for their third win in a row on Sunday.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay will need its offense on point come Sunday.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers (5-7) take on the Colts (6-6) this week in what is probably be the biggest test/game of the year for the Bucs.

A win against a 6-6 team that made the playoffs a year ago would be huge when you factor in where the Bucs are, what they’re trying to do, and where they’re trying to go.

But a win won’t come easily against this Colts team. They are well-coached, physical, and they don’t make many mistakes.

The Bucs will have to bring their “A” game this week if they want to move to 6-7 on the season.

Overview

  • All-time series record: The Colts lead the series with an 8-5 record. The Bucs are 3-3 at home and 2-5 on the road.
  • Longest win streak: Indianapolis won three in a row from 1985-1988.
  • Largest margin of victory: The Colts spanked the Bucs, 42-17 all the way back in 1976 and the 25-point margin still stands as the largest margin of victory to this day.
  • 2019 offensive and defensive rankings: Tampa Bay currently owns the 4th-best offense in the league (4th pass, 22nd run) and has jumped to the 17th-best defense (31st pass, 2nd run). The Colts currently field the 19th-best offense (26th pass, 4th run) and the 13th-best defense (12th pass, 9th run).
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Chris Godwin should be right in the mix of things on Sunday.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

What To Watch For

  • The Colts’ play-action/bootleg game: This team knows how to keep a defense off-balance and they do it with a ton of play-action/bootleg that allows Brissett to manipulate the pocket.
  • The trenches: Check out my breakdown of Vita Vea vs. Quenton Nelson that I did earlier in the week. The Colts’ success on both sides of the ball starts up front. The Bucs have to win in the trenches if they want to win this week.
  • Devin White vs. Darius Leonard: Both of these guys should play at a high level for a long time. This is just a preview of what the next decade will look like.
  • Stay aggressive: The Bucs cannot go into a shell against this team. The Colts are notorious for taking risks, so Tampa Bay will have to keep its foot on the gas all game long.
  • Limit the mistakes: Tampa Bay will not win this game if it makes more mistakes than Indianapolis. I promise.

Impact Players

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • QB Jameis Winston: It all starts here and ends here for the Bucs.
  • WR Chris Godwin: Tampa Bay will need to get its quick passing game going (if it exists) because Indy will bring the heat on Sunday.
  • G Earl Watford: He will replace Alex Cappa, who is out. The Bucs allowed an average of five sacks per game when Cappa missed two games earlier in the year. They have to protect Winston on Sunday.
  • DL Vita Vea: Someone has to step up to Quenton Nelson and the Colts’ running game.
  • MLB Devin White: He will be the key to stopping Indy’s offense as a whole.
  • S Jordan Whitehead: The Titans disguised a lot of their coverages using their safeties/corners and it was very effective, so I expect the Bucs to do the same.
NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
Darius Leonard is a monster.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts

  • QB Jacoby Brissett: He is an effective quarterback that can keep plays alive with his legs. The secondary has to keep up the pace from the last couple of weeks.
  • RB Marlon Mack: After missing the last couple of games, Mack is back and will be an integral part of the offense.
  • WR Zach Pascal: The third-year wideout has stepped up in T.Y. Hilton’s absence and is the team’s leading receiver.
  • DE Justin Houston: The Bucs have struggled with veteran edge rushers this year. Will things change with Houston?
  • MLB Darius Leonard: This kid has been lights-out since he entered the league in 2018.
  • FS Malik Hooker: He will be all over the defensive backfield and will be the premier playmaker since CB Kenny Moore isn’t playing.

Cool Stats

  • Through Week 13, the Buccaneers defense ranks fifth in the NFL with 21 takeaways. The Buccaneers were tied for 22nd in the league in takeaways last season, finishing with 17. In addition, the team has scored four defensive touchdowns in 2019 compared to just one in 2018.
  • Tampa Bay has had nine different players generate a forced fumble, eight different players make an opponent fumble recovery and eight different players record an interception. Shaquil Barrett leads the team with six forced fumbles, Ndamukong Suh leads the team with four fumble recoveries and Sean Murphy-Bunting leads the team with two interceptions.
  • The Buccaneers have three opponent fumble recovery touchdowns this season. They need one more to set the single season franchise record (also three in 1992, 2005 and 2017).
  • Barrett has 14.5 sacks on the season. He needs 0.5 more to tie Simeon Rice (15.0 in 2003) third-most, 1.0 more to tie Rice (15.5 in 2002) for second-most and 2.0 more to tie Warren Sapp (16.5 in 2000) for most sacks in a single season in team history.
  • Winston has 3,659 passing yards this season. He needs 153 more to pass Brad Johnson (3,811 in 2003) for fourth-most, 384 more to pass Winston’s own mark (4,042 in 2015) for third-most, 407 more to pass Josh Freeman (4,065 in 2012) for second most and 432 more to tie Winston (4,090 in 2016) for the most passing yards in a single season in team history.
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Carl Nassib needs to make his presence felt on Sunday.
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Game Outlook

This your typical NFL matchup.

You have one team that appears to be on the upswing (Bucs) and one that appears to be trending downward (Colts). Tampa Bay has won three of its last four, while Indianapolis has lost four of its last five.

But don’t get it twisted. Indianapolis is a good team and presents a very difficult matchup for the Bucs. The Colts are also fighting for their playoff lives at 6-6. They were at this exact point a year ago before they won their last four games to make the playoffs, so they know what needs to be done in order to get back to the postseason.

Tampa Bay is fighting for a postseason berth, as well, though. The Bucs will be definitely be ready to play, but I’m not sure if they have it in them to play four crisp, clean quarters of football. We’ve only seen that a couple of times this year in wins against the Rams and Falcons.

If they can limit the mistakes, they should win this game. But I need to see it first before I can believe it.

The Colts take this one in a close game.