The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got off their snide on Monday night, beating the New York Giants decidedly at home. With a 2.5-game lead now within the division, the Buccaneers are looking to gain some ground in the NFC race for the top seed. However, they’re facing one of the hottest teams in the NFL and doing so on the road.
The Indianapolis Colts have won five of their last six games, having only lost in overtime to their division rival Tennessee Titans. Over the course of those five games, quarterback Carson Wentz has played well - eleven touchdowns, two interceptions, and six sacks - but the star has been the NFL’s leading rusher Jonathan Taylor.
Taylor has over 1,100 yards rushing on the season now and is coming off a career performance in Buffalo where he had five total touchdowns including four on the ground. Over that six game span, Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards five times - all wins - and over 140 yards three times. His only game under 100 yards was the loss to the Titans where he rushed for 70 yards and wasn’t given many opportunities in the second half.
Defensively, the Colts have been relatively stout, allowing just 19.5 points per game but 21 points per game at home. Now, some of that may be the competition having allowed 34 and 30 to the Titans and Jets respectfully but also facing the Texans, 49ers, Jaguars, and Bills. Both games where they allowed 30+ were inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
The big thing to keep an eye on for both fanbases is the availability of Colts’ All-Pro guard Quinten Nelson. Nelson, who has not practiced on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, is a key component of the Colts’ run game. If he is unable to go, that could lead to some positive production from the Buccaneers’ defensive line.
Vita Vea appears ready to go this week which is a huge boost to the NFL’s top rated run defense. The Buccaneers are allowing just 78.4 rush yards per game and the double duos of Vea and Ndamukong Suh as well as Devin White and Lavonte David will have their hands full trying to slow down Taylor and his 102 rush yards per game - which is third best in the NFL behind Derrick Henry (117.1) and Nick Chubb (106.4). Without Nelson there to help neutralize the run stopping duo of Suh and Vea, the linebackers could be looking at a more open path to get to Taylor and slow him up as they wait for reinforcements to arrive and minimize Taylor’s gains.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Bucs, Tom Brady continues to lead the NFL in yards per game (317.7) and passing touchdowns (29) but he will be without Antonio Brown yet again. All signs point to Brown being able to return next week against the Atlanta Falcons, but that won’t help the Bucs right now.
On top of that, Mike Evans has missed practice Wednesday and Thursday this week with a back injury while Chris Godwin is still dealing with a foot injury, The good news? Scotty Miller is back, giving Brady a fast, deep threat to take the top off the Colts’ defense. Not only that, but the Colts are 31st in the NFL against tight ends, so a healthy Rob Gronkowski this week like we saw on Monday night has the opportunity to become Brady’s go to guy early and often against the Colts.
Just like old times, right?
The Colts have allowed nearly 700 passing yards this season alone to the tight end position so Cameron Brate and O.J Howard will be involved in the game plan as well. Evans and Godwin are going to get theirs, but if the Colts zero in on Gronk in hopes of shutting him down, Brate and Howard will have the clear advantage for Brady to expose.
The two teams are back to back in points allowed this season, with the Bucs (10th) giving up 22.2 while the Colts (11th) are giving up 22.3. It’s the offensive side of the ball that differs a little more. The Buccaneers are currently number one in the league with 30.1 points per game while Indianapolis is fifth with 28.1 points per game.
DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the Bucs sitting a -3.5 for this one with an over/under of 53. The Colts have failed to cover the spread in eight of their last twelve home games while losing nine in a row as home underdogs.
The Buccaneers have won two of the last three meetings between these two teams but all three of those matchups were won by the home team. Brady has found plenty of success against the Colts with his teams holding an 11-3 record. Now, of course, all of those came with the Patriots as this will be the first meeting between the Bucs and Colts since 2019 - Bruce Arians’ first year as Tampa Bay’s head coach - but you have to think that Colts fans will be thrilled to see number 12 come onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium once again.
The Buccaneers and Colts kickoff inside Lucas Oil Stadium at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. The game will be broadcast on FOX with Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen on the call.