INDIANAPOLIS – Another installment of the "never knowing what's around the corner" Colts season comes on Sunday afternoon.
The Colts and Buccaneers, two teams in the thick of their respective playoff races, will meet at 1:00 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here are seven things to watch for in the Colts (5-5) and Bucs (5-5) meeting in Week 12:
1. Make Winston Beat You
-This statement doesn't sound like the brightest for a guy who just threw five touchdown passes (to five different players) last week. Yet, when facing the Buccaneers you must try and take away the league's second ranked rushing attack. Tampa Bay really excelled last week when they used a two-back, six-linemen look, led by Doug Martin, the NFL's second leading rusher.
2. Protect Hasselbeck
-For the first time since 2011, Anthony Castonzo will not be the Colts starting left tackle. It's a shake up that could potentially impact several spots in the trenches. With Matt Hasselbeck under center, we've seen the ball come out quicker and that has obviously impacted the effectiveness in that unit protecting No. 8. It's going to be tested this weekend with some new faces at new spots.
3. Stay Healthy?
-This is an obvious (and unattainable) goal each week, but this is a really banged up Colts team. There are injuries at some key, key spots, on both sides of the ball. If there's a silver lining for the current injuries, none of them are season-ending and it is creating some depth that could come in handy if this team is able to make the playoffs.
4. Find Chunk Plays
-Hitting on more big plays has been a focus for Chuck Pagano and the Colts coming out of the bye week. Tampa Bay might not be the time to get that going with the Buccaneers having allowed the fewest plays of at least 20 yards this season. Getting more touches for T.Y. Hilton should lead to what Pagano is hoping for from the offense.
5. Be Physical In Pass Defense
-It's an injured Colts secondary going up against perhaps the biggest pass catching group of any in the NFL. Cornerback Greg Toler described the 6-5, 230-pound wideouts in Mike Evans/Vincent Jackson as "power forwards" this week. A Colts pass rush we saw in the second half last week against the Falcons would be advantageous in slowing down the beef in the air game of the Bucs.
6. Control Home Field
-In a 41-day stretch, Sunday is the lone home game the Colts will play. The Colts will close the season with two more home, divisional contests and any record short of 3-0 would be a disappointment. If the Colts can win their final three home games and get at least one victory away from home, that should be enough to capture a third straight AFC South crown.
7. Get On A Streak
-The Colts can tie their season-long win streak of three wins with a victory on Sunday. Looking down the road, the Colts will likely be favored in four of their final five games. Chuck Pagano has preached the need to get hot in November and December. There's certainly a chance to do just that in the coming weeks.