The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter week 14’s matchup with the Indianapolis Colts looking to achieve something they haven’t accomplished since 2016. With a win on Sunday, Tampa Bay will have won 3 consecutive games for the first time in 3 years. After starting that season 3-5, the Bucs went on to win 5 straight, playing meaningful football in December for the first time in a while. Though it appears the playoff chances are all but dead for 2019, Tampa Bay needs a strong finish to avoid another sub .500 season.
Bucs will need balanced offensive effort against Colts
Last week against the Jaguars, the running game never could get going. But offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich didn’t stray from the gameplan. Leftwich stayed committed to a balanced attack throughout the game. The Buccaneers ran the ball 31 times and attempted 33 passes. Though it was a rare under 300 yard game for Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay set the tone early with the run, controlled the clock, and Winston was able to play mistake free football. The result brought the Bucs their most complete team victory of the season. Nearing the end of a 5 year sample size for Winston, it is evident that he is at his best when not feeling pressured to lead a comeback. Staying committed to balance and setting the tone early will be crucial for a win today.
Defense continues to improve as a unit
If you have watched the Bucs recently and thought the secondary was improving, you’re absolutely correct. This young unit has experienced their share of growing pains this season. But overall, they have come together to make plays when needed over the last few weeks. Expect more of the same today against the Colts. As frustrating as it has been to watch, the improvement has been steady week to week. Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis, and Sean Murphy-Bunting have all come through to make timely plays recently. Rather than seek free agency help, Tampa Bay has stayed committed to letting these guys learn through repetition and it finally appears to be paying off. Combine this improved secondary play with a stellar front seven that’s been lights out against the run and getting to quarterbacks all year, and the Buccaneers have the makings of a top 10 defense.
Shaq Barrett still leads the league in sacks with 14.5. Rookie Devin White recorded his first interception and first defensive touchdown last week. Ndamukong Suh scored his second touchdown of the season last week on a sack-fumble. This team has big time playmakers on defense. They will need to build on recent success to slow down the Colts’ rushing attack with Marlon Mack, and force quarterback Jacoby Brissett into making mistakes.
Homecoming for Colts’ Mack
Colts’ running back Marlon Mack returns to Raymond James Stadium today for the first time since college. Mack was a standout for the University of South Florida, setting many team and American Athletic Conference records. Mack has missed the last 2 games with a fractured hand, but is expected to return today against the Bucs. Expect Nyheim Hines to get his share of touches as well.
Winston vs. Brissett round 2
This will not be the first time Jameis Winston and Jacoby Brissett have gone head to head. In 2014, Winston had to lead then No. 1 Florida State to a comeback win over Brissett’s North Carolina State team after the Wolfpack jumped out to a 24-7 first quarter lead. The 2 QB’s combined for 724 yards and 7 touchdowns in an entertaining affair, eventually won by the Seminoles 56-41.
Earlier this week, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians was asked about the possibility of Winston returning for 2020. He declined to commit to a decision at this time, saying he wanted to wait until the end of the season. Arians noted that there has been some really good and really bad as it pertains to Winston. In a season already expected to be an audition for Winston for a 6th season in Tampa Bay, it appears that audition has now been reduced to 4 games. None of Winston’s 3 head coaches have ever questioned his dedication, effort, and work ethic. I expect to see the absolute best Jameis Winston we have seen in Tampa Bay to close the 2019 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 37
Indianapolis Colts – 23
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