INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts hit the road this weekend to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they kick off the final quarter of the regular season.
The Colts have shown the ability to run the ball against quality defenses throughout the season, and they've also had a handful of big performances through the air. The Buccaneers' defense has been an elite unit against the run this season, but what they've shown in that area, they lack as a pass defense.
How may the Colts attack the Tampa Bay defense this week? How will some of their injured offensive weapons and their game status affect their gameplan? Let's take a look at this week's matchup.
*Weekly positional rankings from FantasyPros.com, based on Half-PPR scoring. Ranks as of Friday of game week.
QB Jacoby Brissett
- Last game: 25-of-40 passing (62.5 percent), 319 yards, 1 carry, -1 yard, 1 total TD, 2 total TO — 13.9 FP
- Last three games avg.: 18.7-of-29.7 passing (62.9 percent), 198.7 yards, 2.3 carries, 10.3 yards, 4 total TD, 3 total TO — 14.4 FP
- FantasyPros Week 14 Position Rank: QB20
- Buccaneers vs. QBs: 29th (21.8 FPPG)
The Colts' passing game came back to life last week against the Tennessee Titans as Brissett eclipsed 300 yards passing. However, things came apart in the second half as Tennessee ratcheted up the pressure and the Colts dealt with injuries to their pass-catchers.
This is a good matchup for Brissett this week, as the Buccaneers rank near the bottom of the league in overall pass defense, touchdown passes allowed and pass plays of both 20 and 40-plus yards allowed, but Brissett does still have a banged-up group of pass-catchers. At receiver, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Ashton Dulin and Chad Williams (elevated from practice squad this week) are healthy, while Jack Doyle, Ross Travis and Mo Alie-Cox make up their tight end group. The good news is that the Colts are getting Parris Campbell back in action this week after hand injury kept him out of the last four games.
Tampa Bay is one of the most generous fantasy defenses to quarterbacks, allowing six passers to go over 300 yards, and eight to have multiple touchdowns. The Buccaneers are one of the stingiest defenses in the league against the run, so the Colts may need to pass the ball more frequently than usual.
RB Marlon Mack
- Last game: (Week 11) 14 carries, 109 yards (7.8 avg.), 1 total TD — 16.9 FP
- Last three games avg.: (Weeks 9-11) 18.0 carries, 90.7 yards (5.3 avg.), 0.3 catches (0.3 targets), 2.7 yards (8.0 avg.), 1 total TD — 11.5 FP
- FantasyPros Week 14 Position Rank: RB56
- Buccaneers vs. RBs: 2nd (11.4 FPPG)
With Mack back in action this week after missing just two games with a fractured hand, he resumes the team's workhorse status, averaging 20.4 touches per game.
"I mean not thinking big pitch count. It is a feel with those backs, I mean even when he is humming we don't hesitate to rotate those guys," Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters on Friday when asked if Mack will be on a "pitch count."
"We know Marlon is going to get the bulk of the carries. I am anticipating that all four backs (Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins and Jonathan Williams) will be up. The way it is going to play I am anticipating all four backs will be up. So it might be a little bit more rotation than normal."
Tampa has only allowed one 100-yard rusher this season (Chris Carson's 105 in Week 9), but there have been some other solid overall fantasy performances from opposing running backs, including Todd Gurley's 70 total yards and two touchdowns, Alvin Kamara's 104 and 112 total-yard performances, and Christian McCaffrey's 57 total yards and two touchdowns.
Because standout performances from opposing running backs are so few and far between, your safest bets in the Colts' backfield this week are Mack, and Hines as a flex in PPR lineups.
- FantasyPros Week 14 Position Rank: Zach Pascal WR40, Marcus Johnson WR81, Ashton Dulin WR119 and Parris Campbell WR120
- Buccaneers vs. WRs: 32nd (31.3 FPPG)
This whole group obviously revolves around Hilton's status from a fantasy perspective. And since he's been ruled out, your best bet is always going to be Pascal.
Pascal has two 100-yard games this year, five games with at least 50 yards, and six games with at least six targets. Johnson has come on lately as well. Although he was pretty quiet in Weeks 10 and 12 — catching just one-of-four targets for nine yards — in Weeks 11 and 13 he caught eight-of-10 targets for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Outside of Mack, another big boost to the Colts' offense is the return of Campbell, the playmaking rookie who has been out since Week 9, also with a fractured hand. He's been able to practice on a limited basis the last two weeks before being upgraded to a full participant this week. He fits well into the Colts' offense as someone who can take a short pass and turn it into a chunk play.
The Colts may be working with a depleted receiver corps, but the silver lining is that the Buccaneers give up more fantasy points than anyone to the wide receiver position. There have been eight opposing receivers that have reached 100 yards against them, and they've allowed receivers to score 20 total touchdowns.
TE Jack Doyle
- Last week: 6 receptions (11 targets), 73 yards (12.2 avg.), 1 total TD — 16.3 FP
- Last three weeks avg.: 3.0 receptions (5.0 targets), 33.7 yards (11.2 avg.), 1 total TD — 6.9 FP
- FantasyPros Week 14 Position Rank: TE7
- Buccaneers vs. TEs: 31st (10.1 FPPG)
One of the few skill-position players on the Colts right now whose role we know is Doyle's. With Eric Ebron out for the year, Doyle becomes the primary pass-catching tight end, even though Travis saw action behind Doyle and Alie-Cox last week. Expect the Colts to march forward with their three-tight end rotation, but Doyle — who was just re-signed to a contract extension on Friday — should remain the constant of the group. In his first game last week without Ebron, Doyle put up a heft statline.
Like with wide receivers, tight ends are good plays against Tampa. The Buccaneers give up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends, surrendering six 50-yard games, including two 100-yard games, to the position.
Colts Defense/Special Teams
- Last week: 292 yards allowed, 31 points allowed, 6 sacks, 2 takeaways
- Last three weeks avg.: 332.0 yards allowed, 21.3 points allowed, 9 total sacks, 4 total takeaways, 1 two-point conversion return
- FantasyPros Week 14 Position Rank: DST13
- Buccaneers vs. DSTs: 28th (10.0 FPPG)
Yes, the Buccaneers have an explosive offense, but that offense lacks a consistent run game, and they are susceptible to giving up gobs of sacks and turnovers. What makes fantasy defenses successful? Sacks and turnovers. The Buccaneers lead the league in turnovers (28), and they are tied for 24th in sacks allowed (40). They have only one game this season without being sacked, and they have eight games with at least three sacks. They've also turned the ball over in all but two games, and those turnovers have resulted in four being returned for touchdowns.
Since Week 8, the Colts' pass defense is allowing just 203.7 net passing yards per game and averaging 2.7 sacks (16 total in that time). They are also allowing just 86.4 yards per game on the ground since Week 5. The Colts are middle of the road in creating turnovers (tied-19th, 15), but they have at least one takeaway in the last five games, and nine of the last 10.
With cornerback Kenny Moore II (ankle) out this week for the Colts, the Buccaneers may get their share of passing yards, but the Colts should still be able to come up positively in the sack and takeaway departments.