The Indianapolis Colts are desperate to get back on track and keep their playoff hopes alive in Week 14 as they hit the road to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 8 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Fans in local markets can find the game on CBS.
According to our Week 14 NFL odds, the Buccaneers are 3-point favorites at home. The game also has an over/under of 47 points.
The Colts appear to be in the middle of a terrible collapse during the second half of the season. Indy started the year 5-2 and looked like a genuine contender in the AFC South. However, they’ve lost four of their last five games, including a disappointing home loss to the Dolphins and last week’s 31-17 home loss against the Titans. The Colts are now 6-6, putting them two games off the pace in the AFC South and a game out of a Wild Card spot.
Indy’s schedule down the stretch doesn’t do them any favors either. They are on the road for three of their final four games, including a Monday night game with the Saints next week. Obviously, winning out will be their best chance to reach the playoffs, and you have to figure winning three of four at least gives them a chance. But with that trip to New Orleans on the horizon, this week’s game with the Bucs looks like a must-win for the Colts.
As for Tampa, they appear to be making a late-season push, even if it might be too little, too late. The Buccaneers snapped a four-game losing streak by winning three of their last four games. Of course, their wins during that stretch have come against the Cardinals, Falcons, and Jaguars, all teams with losing records.
Nevertheless, the Bucs have gotten themselves back to a somewhat respectable 5-7. They also get to play three of their final four games against home and only face one team with a winning record during that stretch. Even winning the rest of their games probably won’t be enough to get Tampa to the playoffs. But the Bucs have a chance to at least finish with a .500 record and perhaps finish second in the NFC South, which would be a nice consolation prize for Bruce Arians in his first season in Tampa.
I think I’m ready to sell my stock in the Colts. Indy deserves a lot of credit for making it to this point of the season at 6-6. Remember, Andrew Luck retired on the eve of the season, throwing a huge wrench into their plans. I think we’re finally seeing the team most people expected when Luck left so suddenly. Meanwhile, the Bucs are surging of late and proving that they can beat bad teams. Unfortunately for the Colts, they fall into that category these days, so I’ll lean toward Tampa to win and cover.
Indy’s biggest problem right now is that the running game they’ve relied on for much of the season has gone cold. Marlon Mack has missed the last two games, putting a lot more pressure on Jacoby Brissett, who’s just not capable of carrying a team on his shoulders. Brissett has thrown three picks in his last three games and has been sacked seven times during that span. The Colts have managed just 17 points in each of their last two games, which probably isn’t enough to beat the Bucs on the road.
The silver lining for the Colts is that Mack has been rushed back and is expected to return this week. However, Tampa’s run defense is one of the best in the NFL, so there’s no guarantee that Mack gets going. The Bucs, of course, have been dreadful against the pass this season. But they’ve been better in recent weeks, forcing four turnovers against the Jaguars last week. I’m also not sure if Brissett can take full advantage of Tampa’s porous secondary, especially with T.Y. Hilton nursing an injury that has limited him to just one game since the end of October.
On the other side of the ball, I have no doubt that the Tampa Bay offense will put points on the board. For all of his flaws and the constant threat of turning the ball over, Jameis Winston is still capable of pushing the ball down the field. More importantly, he has a great supporting cast with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Tampa rushing attack even contributed last week against the Jags, as Winston didn’t even have to throw a touchdown pass in the 28-11 win. The Bucs have now scored at least 28 points in four of their last five games, and I’m not sure an Indy defense that gave up 31 points to the Titans last week will be able to change that.
I wouldn’t have thought this a month ago, but I feel good about the Bucs as a home favorite. Unless they face one of the NFL’s elite defenses, I have a lot of faith that the Bucs will score plenty of points. Even if the Colts find some success against Tampa’s defense, I don’t think Brissett can match Winston. In the end, the Bucs should create enough separation to cover the 3-point spread.