The Buccaneers fighting for their playoff lives will take on the Indianapolis Colts Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium, a team that is also fighting for their playoff lives.
The Colts come to Tampa having lost four out of their last five games after starting the season 5-2. The Colts are coming off a dissapointing loss at home to the Tennessee Titans last week 31-17.
The 5-7 Buccaneers will be looking to keep their playoff hopes alive and win their third game in a row. The Bucs have not won three in a row since the 2016 season when the Bucs finished 9-7 in Dirk Koetter’s first season as coach.
The Colts are a heavy run team led By former USF running back Marlon Mack and Jonathan Williams The Colts have the fourth best rushing attack in the league averaging 139 yards a game and 4.5 yards a carry.
The Bucs boast the second best run defense in the league giving up 76 yards a game,
Bucs rookie linebacker Devin White said earlier this week in an interview that the Bucs have one of the best front sevens in the league.
The Colts also have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL anchored by second year guard Quenton Williams.
Williams will be matched up against Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea most of the afternoon and that should be one of the matchups to keep an eye on.
The Colts offense has been hit hard by injuries this season, but nothing could have prepared them for the sudden announcement of starting quarterback Andrew Luck saying that all the injuries had taken a toll on him and he was retiring from the game.
Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett took over and has been better than expected for the Colts. Brissett has passed for 2245 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Wide receiver TY Hilton has been ruled out for the game, and wide receiver Paris Campbell, tight end Eric Ebron, and running back Marlon Mack could all miss the game with injuries.
The Colts will have tight end Jack Doyle available. Doyle is the Colts leading receiver with 36 catches for 377 yards and four touchdowns.
Should Mack not be able to play, that would be a huge blow to the offense especially with Hilton out.
Kicker Adam Vinateri who is in the midst of the worst slump of his career is also out for the game.
The Bucs will look to build on their last two games defensively and send the Colts back to Indy with their third straight loss.
The Bucs had their best defensive effort of the season in last weeks 28-11 win over Jacksonville and will look to build on that effort against the Colts.
How good has the Bucs defense improved in the last few weeks? The Bucs are now fourth in the league in third down defense at 33.6 %, and also lead the league in passes defended with 71.
Bruce Arians noted in his press conference two weeks ago the the defensive backs were getting their hands on a lot of balls but just not coming down with the ball.
The Bucs are fifth in the league in total turnovers with 21.
Offensively, Arians said that running back Ronald Jones will remain the starter at running back after his six carry eight yard effort against Jacksonville. Jones was also benched in the second half of that game for missing a blitz pickup.
The biggest issue surrounding this Buccaneer team, the status of quarterback Jameis Winston will not be decided till after the season according to head coach Bruce Arians.
This is a very good Colts defense led by second year linebacker and Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard. Leonard led the league in tackles last year with 163.
Leonard is joined by defensive ends Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard along the front seven who can wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
The Bucs will be without kick returner TJ Logan who broke his thumb during Friday’s practice. Running back Dare Ogunbowale will handle the kick return duties, while receiver Justin Watson will handle the punt return duties.
Guard Alex Cappa will also miss the game against the Colts after suffering an elbow injury against Jacksonville last week.
Wide receiver Scotty Miller will miss his second straight game with a hamstring issue, and linebacker Anthony Nelson has also been ruled out.
Here are three key matchups to watch for in this game.
1. The Bucs front seven vs, the Colts offensive line, one of the best in the league.
2. Justin Houston Colts defensive linemen vs. Bucs offensive linemen Donavan Smith.
3. Can the young secondary keep playing aggressively and get more takeaways as opposed to just getting their hands on the ball?
Despite their 1-4 record at home, this is a game that the Bucs should win. They’re playing at home, and are getting better week by week on the defensive side of the ball.
The Colts are missing a lot of key pieces on offense, and that will play right into the Bucs hands.
This will be a low scoring affair, but the Bucs should do enough to get their third straight win 17-7 over the Colts on Sunday.