By J.T. Olsen
Special to Sports Talk Florida
It’s was a nice bounce back win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night football. Dismantling the lowly New York Giants felt good after losing back to back games. However, things will be much more challenging this week as the Bucs travel north to take on the Indianapolis Colts.
At 6-5 the Colts are in the thick of the playoff hunt. Even worse, they are playing very good football right now. After starting out 1-4, Indy has won five of their last six games. This will be a true measurement of where the Buccaneers are at as they begin to ramp up for their playoff push.
Strength vs Strength
Colts running back Jonathan Taylor leads the NFL in rushing by nearly 200 yards. He is powerful between the tackles and has track speed to be a scoring threat on any given play. Stopping him will be the key to this game.
The Buccaneers run defense has looked more vulnerable than what they did earlier in the year. Granted, they started the year on pace to be the best rush defense in NFL history and they’re still the best in this area this season. It will take an entire 11 man effort to limit Taylor, but Devin White in particular has the physical tools to counter the NFL’s leading rusher.
Potential Clash of Titans
Even among NFL players, some men are just built different. They’re bigger and stronger than their peers and they can physically impose their will. This game features two such men going head to head.
Colts star Quinton Nelson might be the best guard in the league. He’s incredibly powerful and is the main piece to a strong offense line and this highly effective running game. However, he will be matched up against Vita Vea, someone who is actually even bigger and stronger.
This is one of the most intriguing head to head matchups you could ask for in the league. However, both are dealing with injuries and are listed as questionable. Something to keep an eye on as both teams prepare for trench warfare.
Front Seven Stars
Overall the Colts defense is fairly average. With that said, the feature a few guys who are among the best at their position.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is disruptive and strong. He uses his superior length to control his opponents and make plays.
Darius Leonard might be the best linebacker in the NFL. He is very much like Devin White for the Buccaneers; a splash playmaker who can alter the course of a game.
A Tight Ship
All year long the Buccaneers have struggled with not beating themselves. Simple unforced errors and penalties have made things more difficult than they have to be. On the other hand, the Colts have had no such problem.
Indianapolis the the third least penalized team in the league. They won’t beat themselves and will capitalize on mistakes. Truly this will be a perfect game to see how far the Buccaneers are from being ready for the playoffs.
The Colts are a good team. They have star talent and are very well coached. This will not be an easy game for the Bucs, particularly on the road.
This is not a game Tampa Bay can afford to be sloppy in. The Colts were a playoff team last year and aren’t a team that can be beat with talent alone. They are also one of the last projected playoff teams the Buccaneers will play this year so they want to have a good showing before the postseason.
Bucs – 31
Colts – 24