Scheduled for Week 12 Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) are set to take on the Indianapolis Colts (5-5). The game is slated to kick off at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CBS.
As the Indianapolis Colts, holding a 5-5 record, emerge from a bye week, their determination to keep playoff hopes alive is palpable. Recent victories against the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots in Germany have injected new life into the team's postseason aspirations. However, the road to the playoffs is not without challenges. Despite notable triumphs, the Colts have faced adversity at home with a lackluster 1-4 record and a disheartening 1-10 performance over the past 13 months. Close calls and a multitude of explanations for their struggles have been part of this narrative.
Now, their focus shifts to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team grappling with a 4-6 record and a disconcerting three-game losing streak on the road. This downturn places their two-year reign as AFC South champs in serious jeopardy. The upcoming clash between these two teams is poised to be a pivotal moment in the Colts' season. Adding to the complexity, the absence of Ryan Kelly, sidelined once again due to concussion, raises concerns about the Colts' offensive line. This becomes especially critical against the Buccaneers' Vita Vea, who remains one of the NFL’s best interior presences with 5.5 sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, and nine quarterback hits this season.
On the defensive front, the Colts made a strategic move by releasing Shaquille Leonard, paving the way for E.J. Speed to step into a starting role. Speed, despite playing just 49.9% of the snaps, has showcased aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage, amassing 39 tackles, a sack, six tackles-for-loss, and two forced fumbles this season.
As the Colts enter the weekend as 2.5-point favorites at home, running back Jonathan Taylor remains optimistic. 'To be able to rally guys together, to get focused — all is not lost here at all. Not one bit. Everything we want is still in front of us. It’s going to be on us in this locker room to come together,' Taylor declared, underlining the statistical challenges that await them on Sunday."
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are again taking to the skies for their fourth road game in the last five weeks, landing in Indianapolis. With a current record of 4-6, the Buccaneers are regrouping after a loss in San Francisco, remaining just one game behind the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. Despite their recent setbacks, they've won three of their last four games against Indianapolis, almost evening the all-time series.
In recent weeks, the Buccaneers have leaned heavily on Rachaad White. The Colts, facing an average of 154 rushing yards conceded per game without Stewart on the field, now find themselves in a crucial position to adapt. Pressuring Baker Mayfield to take to the air might just be the key, potentially opening the door to more turnover opportunities. Despite their recent skid, the Bucs are still only one game behind the NFC South-leading New Orleans.
The consistent performance of quarterback Baker Mayfield has been a stabilizing force, weathering stretches of losses with only minor hiccups. Meanwhile, Mike Evans is poised for yet another 1,000-yard season. His often-underappreciated excellence and reliability make him a reliable target for Baker Mayfield. The increasing frequency of Mayfield targeting Evans, with double-digit targets in the last two games, paired with the Colts ranking as a bottom-10 unit in yards allowed per game, presents a significant opportunity for Evans to make a substantial impact on the stat sheet.
However, despite having a robust unit to fall back on, Coach Bowles faces challenges due to a flurry of injuries against the 49ers last week. This unfortunate turn of events necessitates younger players and backups taking on more prominent roles. As the Colts' defense, currently allowing the 26th most points per game (24.8), faces the Buccaneers, Mayfield, and his team will be seeking a more comprehensive performance in Indianapolis after breakdowns in and around the red zone limited them to 14 points against the 49ers.
Buccaneers vs. Colts Odds
Moneyline (ML): Buccaneers +120 (bet $100 to win $120) | Colts -145 (bet $145 to win $100) Against the spread (ATS): Buccaneers +2.5 (-110) | Colts -2.5 (-110)
Over/Under (O/U): 44.5 (O: -110 | U: -110)
Fresh off their bye week, the Colts are in better health compared to the Buccaneers. This could be the deciding factor in a closely contested match where talent levels are evenly matched. Jonathan Taylor is poised to play a crucial role, and the Colts are anticipated to secure a victory, improving their record to 6-5 and sustaining their playoff aspirations.
Prediction: Colts 27, Bucs 17