INDIANAPOLIS — Eager to put their recent struggles behind them, the Indianapolis Colts (6-6) this week shift their focus down south in Florida against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7).
Coming off of a tough loss last week at home to the Tennessee Titans, the Colts need to go 1-0 against the Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium to get back on track and put themselves into the thick of the AFC playoff picture.
It won't be an easy task, as head coach Bruce Arians and Tampa Bay are winners of three of their last four games, most recently defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Let's take a look at this week's opponent.
Jaguars' Passing Game
Nick Foles, who was Jacksonville's quarterback when the Colts and Jaguars played back in Week 11, was benched at halftime of this contest. On Jacksonville's first three drives, Foles threw an interception, fumbled (which was returned for a touchdown) and then lost another fumble. Their next three drives all went three-and-out as halftime arrived and Foles was benched in favor of rookie Gardner Minshew II. Foles' final numbers were 7-of-14 passing (50 percent) for 93 yards (6.6 YPA), one interception (Devin White), two fumbles, and he was sacked three times (Shaquil Barrett, Carl Nassib, Jason Pierre-Paul) for a passer rating of 41.7. In relief, Minshew II went 16-of-27 passing (59.3 percent) for 147 yards (5.4 YPA) with one touchdown, one interception (Sean Murphy-Bunting), and was sacked twice (Sam Acho, Barrett) for a passer rating of 71.1.
Jacksonville's leading receivers on the day were wide receiver Dede Westbrook (five catches, 60 yards, one touchdown), receiver Chris Conley (four catches, 57 yards), running back Leonard Fournette (nine catches, 53 yards) and receiver D.J. Chark (two catches, 47 yards).
Jaguars' Run Game
The Jaguars weren't able to get anything going against Tampa's staunch run defense, running for 49 yards on 17 carries (2.9 avg.) as a team. Fournette led the ground game with 14 carries for 38 yards (2.7 avg.)
Buccaneers' Passing Game
Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had a relatively efficient day passing the ball, going 21-of-33 passing (63.6 percent), although he didn't have any touchdowns. He did throw for 268 yards (8.1 YPA) with no interceptions, but was sacked four times — losing one — for a passer rating of 89.0.
Winston's top receivers, Chris Godwin (four catches, 50 yards) and Mike Evans (four catches, 53 yards) — Nos. 2 and 3 in the NFL in receiving, respectively — took a back seat to receiver Breshad Perriman (five catches, 87 yards) and tight end O.J. Howard (five catches, 61 yards) in this contest.
Buccaneers' Run Game
Not often a gaudy statistical bunch, the Buccaneers' ground game was much of their usual performance, totaling 74 yards and two touchdown on 31 carries (2.4 avg.) as a team. Running back Peyton Barber was far and away the backfield's leader last Sunday, running 17 times for 44 yards (2.6 avg.) and both scores.
Buccaneers' Passing Game
Orchestrated by an old friend in Arians, the Buccaneers' passing game is one of the league's most potent. As we've covered, Godwin and Evans are among the most productive receivers in the league, and their offense ranks near the top of the league in several passing categories. Not as talked about has been the pass-catching ability of tight ends Howard and Cameron Brate, and running backs Ronald Jones II and Dare Ogunbowale, who make up 53-percent of Tampa's pass targets outside of Evans and Godwin.
Since Week 8, the Colts' pass defense is allowing just 203.7 net passing yards per game and 2.7 sacks (16 total in that time). It will be a tough test for both sides, but the Colts are getting a bit healthier as defensive backs Pierre Desir, Khari Willis and Rock Ya-Sin have all returned from injuries in recent weeks. Arguably the biggest piece to the Colts' pass defense, cornerback Kenny Moore II, is nursing an ankle injury suffered in Week 13, however.
- QB Jameis Winston — 60.2 percent completions, 3,659 yards, 7.8 YPA, 22 TD, 20 INT, 40 sacks
- WR Mike Evans — 66 catches (116 targets), 1,096 yards (16.6 avg.), 7 TD
- WR Chris Godwin — 74 catches (104 targets), 1,121 yards (15.1 avg.), 9 TD
- WR Breshad Perriman — 16 catches (38 targets), 226 yards (14.1 avg.), 1 TD
- TE Cameron Brate — 26 catches (36 targets), 229 yards (8.8 avg.), 2 TD
Buccaneers' Run Game
While Tampa's run game hasn't been all that threatening, they have a three-headed group that makes up one very talented, capable unit that can hurt defenses on the ground and through the air. Between Barber, Jones II and Ogunbowale, they've proven to be a group that can pick up tough yards in goal line and short-yardage situations (12 combined touchdowns inside opponent's 10-yard line) as well as be dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield (57 combined receptions).
Like their pass defense, the Colts should be very happy with their run defense as well. They did allow 154 yards on the ground to Tennessee last week, which was their highest total allowed since Week 4, but it wasn't a performance where they were repeatedly gashed. Including last Sunday's performance against the Titans, the Colts' defense is allowing just 86.4 yards per game on the ground since Week 5.
- RB Ronald Jones II — 125 carries, 482 yards (3.9 avg.), 5 TD
- RB Peyton Barber — 122 carries, 396 yards (3.2 avg.), 6 TD
- QB Jameis Winston — 47 carries, 220 yards (4.7 avg.)
- RB Dare Ogunbowale — 9 carries, 10 yards (1.1 avg.), 2 TD
Colts' Passing Game
The Colts' passing game was lacking in chunk plays for the last several weeks before coming back alive last week against the Titans to the tune of 309 net passing yards from quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Their main issue right now is health. Leading receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed 5 1/2 games this season with quad and calf injuries, reigning Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron went on Injured Reserve last week with reported injuries to both ankles, second receiver Devin Funchess' season ended three quarters into Week 1 due to a broken collarbone, second-round pick Parris Campbell has missed six games with abdominal and hand injuries and slot receiver Chester Rogers' season came to an end last week due to a knee injury. Recently, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson and Jack Doyle have been carrying the load as pass-catchers. The Colts also have Mo Alie-Cox, Ashton Dulin, Ross Travis and Matt Lengel as receivers/tight ends, and they called up receiver Chad Williams from the practice squad this week.
Tampa's pass defense hasn't been anything to write home about, but the eyes are immediately drawn to pass rusher Shaquil Barrett, who leads the entire NFL in sacks with 14.5 through 12 games. If the Colts can neutralize him and Jason Pierre-Paul, whether that's through extra blockers or tight ends chipping them, then they stand a good chance at having success through the air against a defense that is near the bottom of the league in many passing categories.
- QB Jacoby Brissett — 64.3 percent completions, 2,245 yards, 6.9 YPA, 16 TD, 6 INT, 19 sacks
- TE Jack Doyle — 36 catches (53 targets), 377 yards (10.5 avg.), 4 TD
- WR T.Y. Hilton — 35 catches (52 targets), 378 yards (10.8 avg.), 5 TD
- TE Eric Ebron — 31 catches (52 targets), 375 yards (12.1 avg.), 3 TD
- WR Zach Pascal — 30 catches (51 targets), 473 yards (15.8 avg.), 4 TD
Colts' Run Game
The Colts have had some success on the ground despite missing starter Marlon Mack, who is nursing a hand injury. Jonathan Williams ran for back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11 and 12, and then Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines combined for 69 yards on 15 carries (4.6 avg.) last week. Overall, the Colts are fourth in the NFL in rushing at 139.0 yards per game.
Tampa's run defense has been one of the stingiest units in the league all year, ranking second in overall run defense and yards per carry. Without Mack, but with the Colts' insistence on establishing the run, it will be interesting to see which side gives in first. After all, the Colts' offensive line is one of the most dominant units in football.
- RB Marlon Mack — 192 carries, 862 yards (4.5 avg.), 4 TD
- RB Jonathan Williams — 49 carries, 235 yards (4.8 avg.), 1 TD
- QB Jacoby Brissett — 44 carries, 141 yards (3.2 avg.), 3 TD
- RB Jordan Wilkins — 38 carries, 212 yards (5.6 avg.)
- RB Nyheim Hines — 38 carries, 150 yards (3.9 avg.), 2 TD
BUCCANEERS' 2019 KEY STATS
- 3rd in pass attempts per game (38.9)
- Tied-3rd in pass plays of 40-plus yards (11) and 5th in pass plays of 20-plus yards (51)
- 4th in scoring (28.3 PPG)
- 4th in passing (284.2 YPG)
- 5th in total offense (380.4 YPG)
- Tied-24th in sacks allowed (40)
- 25th in rushing yards per carry (3.7)
- 27th in turnover differential (-7)
- 32nd in interceptions (20)
- 2nd in rushing (76.2 YPG)
- 2nd in opponent rushing yards per carry (3.4)
- Tied-2nd in run plays of 20-plus yards allowed (4)
- 4th in third-down conversions (34%)
- Tied-25th in pass plays of 20-plus yards allowed (46) and tied-27th in pass plays of 40-plus yards allowed (10)
- Tied-29th in touchdown passes allowed (27)
- 30th in scoring (28.8 PPG)
- 31st in passing (281.8 YPG)