Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs have played some of their best football as of late, winning 3 out of their last 4 games. Sitting at 5-7, Tampa still has a small shot at the playoffs, but that would take a lot to happen since the current 6th seed in the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings, have an 8-4 record. They would need to at least win their final 4 games and hope that teams start to go on a losing streak. At this point, the team can control only what they can control, and that is by winning ball games. Bruce Arians is set to go against a former team of his that he won Coach of the Year with and helped propel him into his first head coaching job. I am sure there will be no hard heartfelt feelings in this one since it is a new coaching staff and rehauled roster since he was in Indianapolis, but I am sure he has a special feeling about this matchup. Here are the Top 5 things I want to see from the Bucs against the Colts:
1. Does Ronald Jones really have his starting job back?
After being named the starter a month ago, Jones was sent to the bench by BA for a pass-blocking mistake, which led to Peyton Barber getting 17 rushes, but only managed 44 yards and 2 TDs with those touches. Arians did come out this week and reiterated that Jones is the starter, but will we see that on Sunday? While Jones could be out there in the first series, we could see Barber cut into his touches throughout the game, or we could see the ball in Jones’ hands for the majority of the contest. That is what I will be looking at, the player who leaves the game with the most snaps and touches will have BA’s trust to be the lead back as we head towards the end of the season.
2. Who will win the battle of the trenches?
Tampa holds the 2nd best rush defense in the NFL, only allowing 76.2 YPG. Surprisingly, they struggle to stop the run at home, compared to when they are on the road. They allow 88.0 YPG at Raymond James Stadium but hold tight at opposing stadiums, allowing 70.1 YPG. The Colts hold the 4th best rushing offense in the league, averaging 139.0 YPG. They are better running the ball on the road compared to being at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis averages 172.8 YPG at opposing stadiums and 114.9 when they are at home. The battle of the trenches will be the biggest key to winning this matchup. The Bucs defensive front will have to be ready to bottle up Marlon Mack and the rushing attack of the Colts.
3. Can Jameis Winston take advantage of the Colts banged-up secondary?
Indianapolis will be entering the matchup without Kenny Moore, while Malik Hooker and Rock Ya-Sin have the questionable tag on the final injury report. Moore is arguably their best player in the secondary and if Hooker does get ruled out, then the Colts will be missing their safety valve that helps protect the deep plays from happening. Regardless, the unit will be less than 100 percent on Sunday, so Winston and his passing attack should look to take it to the pass defense of Indianapolis. If Winston can find a rhythm and not force any mistakes, then he can make life easier on their running game. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin could make their fantasy owners happy with a big-time performance on Sunday.
4. Is the secondary going to keep up their great play?
Tampa holds the 2nd worst pass defense in the NFL, allowing 281.8 YPG. But, over the past couple of weeks, the secondary has played a lot better. They held Matt Ryan to 23/46 271 yards and 0 touchdowns while getting an interception. Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew didn’t even combine to go over 200 yards passing, the defense picked both off once. The Colts will be entering the matchup with a depleted passing attack that has seen T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron go down with injuries. Jack Doyle and Zach Pascal will be the notable names for the secondary to keep their eyes on, as well as rookie Parris Campbell who will be making his return from his latest injury. Jacoby Brissett hasn’t played his best since returning from his MCL Sprain, so there are no excuses for the Bucs pass defense to allow Indianapolis to light them up through the air on Sunday.
5. Which Bucs team will we get on Sunday?
While Tampa has played some of their best ball over the past 4 weeks, they still have the capability of putting up a bad performance as we saw the last time they were at Raymond James, losing to the New Orleans Saints, 34-17. The Colts have lost 3 out of their last 4 games, so while the Bucs are one of the hotter teams of late, they are facing a team that has seen their season slowly fall apart as we get into December football. So what Bucs team are we going to see against Indianapolis? The one who has found ways to win games and could finish the season on a strong note or the one who shot themselves in the foot and struggled to find ways to win a football game? It will be interesting to see how the team performs in Week 14.