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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Indianapolis Colts: Matchups, prediction as Tom Brady takes on surging Indy

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Indianapolis Colts matchup features two contenders vying for the playoffs. How will the Week 12 game play out?

The current form of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts makes this a tough game to make a prediction for and pick a winner. The Buccaneers got right last week, but the Giants were hardly a stern test. Meanwhile, the Colts dominated one of the AFC favorites in the Bills. Let’s take a look at the matchups that will decide this Buccaneers vs. Colts contest before making a prediction as to how the game may shape up on Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Indianapolis Colts prediction | Buccaneers offense vs. Colts defense

Outside of the Washington game, where the Buccaneers offense looked sluggish coming off their bye, Tampa Bay’s offense has totaled 400+ yards consistently over the past month or so. However, mistakes have been a major factor. The Buccaneers offense has turned the ball over 8 times in their last five games and 6 in the last three.

That is a concern going up against an extremely opportunistic defense. With 25 turnovers, the Colts’ defense ranks second in the league. They’ve forced 13 interceptions and 12 fumbles in 2021. Over their past five games, they’ve turned the ball over an impressive 13 times, including two 4-turnover games against the 49ers and Bills.

Tom Brady vs. Colts defense

Tom Brady simply continues to do what he does best. The Buccaneers QB is second in the NFL in passing yards and touchdown percentage, and fifth in passer rating. However, utilizing Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric, we see that while Brady’s statistics are good, he’s not doing anything special to add value to the offense.

That sums up Brady’s career, though. He makes smart decisions, for the most part, and puts his weapons in a position to make plays. The problem is — as we have seen a couple of times this season when a defense has a good plan for his weapons — Brady is not always able to step up and make the game-winning plays that the team needs.

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The Colts defense has been a somewhat strange unit to judge. At times, they’ve looked like they can be ripped apart by opposing QBs. In others, they make opportunistic plays. This is reflected quite nicely in two statistics. Indianapolis allows the second-highest touchdown rate (6.5%) while ranking fifth in the league in interception rate (3.4%).

It will be fascinating to see how Brady attacks this defense. Will he simply stand in the pocket and take what the Colts give him, or will he look to push the ball down the field? The health of his receiving weapons could be crucial in determining which approach he takes against this risk-reward Indy defense. This feels like a defense Brady will be able to figure out, but he’s made enough mistakes this year for the concerns to be too much to simply dismiss.

Advantage: Buccaneers (marginally)

Buccaneers skill position players vs. Colts secondary and linebackers

Chris Godwin looks ready to be the leader of the Buccaneers’ receivers this week. He has 63 receptions for 782 yards and 5 touchdowns at a catch rate of 75.9% in 2021. With Antonio Brown out again this week, and Mike Evans struggling with a back injury, Godwin should be the focus on this passing offense. In the absence of Browns and Evans, expect the Buccaneers to utilize Tyler Johnson, Cameron Brate, and O.J. Howard at different times against the Colts.

The role of Leonard Fournette and Rob Gronkowski in the passing game will be crucial. Fournette has 44 receptions for 323 yards this year but has not really made game-breaking plays as a receiver. Gronkowski is averaging 6 targets and 4.4 receptions per game. He’s scored 4 touchdowns this season while averaging 11.6 yards per catch. The absence of Brown makes their role in this passing offense vital.

The Colts’ secondary is entering Week 12 in reasonably good health. Kenny Moore continues to be the star of the defensive backfield, with 3 interceptions and an 82.5 passer rating against. Rock Ya-Sin has been impressive on the outside, allowing a 56.3% completion rate, but he’s allowed 3 touchdowns and is yet to force a turnover. Xavier Rhodes is the weak point, allowing a 65.9% completion rate, 3 touchdowns, and 10 yards per target for a 111.7 passer rating against.

The coverage ability of the Colts’ linebackers and safeties will be crucial. Bobby Okereke is struggling — 80.9% completion rate against and 3 touchdowns. Darius Leonard has been performing better — 69.0% completion rate, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions — but he’s been limited this week with an ankle injury. How the Colts cover Gronkowski will be interesting. Andrew Sendejo has been better in coverage than George Odum. Yet, Sendejo may not be able to match up well with Gronk’s size.

Advantage: Buccaneers (marginally)

Buccaneers offensive line vs. Colts defensive front

The situation with the Buccaneers’ offensive line is interesting. When you watch them on film, they look like a dominant unit in the run game, creating holes and moving defenders around. However, that has only translated to a 19th-best rushing offense in terms of yards per attempt. Neither Fournette nor Ronald Jones are making the most of the opportunities their line is providing.

The Colts’ defensive front has had mixed success against the run. On the season, they are allowing the ninth-most yards per rush attempt (4.4). However, in the past four weeks, they’ve allowed opponents to rush for 100+ yards just once. If they continue that strength up front, they can force Brady to throw the ball into what has been an opportunistic defense.

No team in the NFL has been better protecting the QB than the Buccaneers. They allow just a 2.9% sack rate this season, keeping Brady clean for the most part. Having a QB like Brady behind them also hides any minor deficiencies they might have.

They should be able to keep Brady upright against the Colts. Indianapolis’ pressure rate is 18.4%, the third-worst number in the league. They sit at the bottom of the table with a hurry rate of 5.3%. Indianapolis does a good job converting that terrible pressure rate into sacks, ranking 19th in the league with a sack rate of 5.78%. The role of DeForest Buckner pushing the pocket from the middle will be vital.

Advantage: Buccaneers

Colts offense vs. Buccaneers defense

The Colts have really found their identity on offense. They run the ball hard and then make passing plays off tired defenses. Indianapolis’ offense has scored 30+ points in five of their last six, equaling their win total in that time. Since early October, the Colts’ only losses have come in heartbreaking overtime games.

The matchup with the Buccaneers defense will be fascinating to watch. Tampa Bay prides itself on stopping the run and should get Vita Vea back this week. They’ve looked susceptible at times against the pass, but they still have a top-10 defense in net yards per attempt. Let’s take a look at the individual matchups that could decide this game.

Carson Wentz vs. Buccaneers defense

It’s a measure of how well the Colts have played that it feels like we’ve barely spoken about Carson Wentz in the last month. However, when you look at his numbers, it’s clear to see he’s not making this offense tick. Going back to Week 7, Wentz has only been over 6 yards per pass attempt once — against the New York Jets.

PFN’s OVM reinforces how Wentz is not providing value to this offense. He ranks in the bottom half in terms of the most valuable QBs in their environment this year. Wentz had statistical impressive performances in the first half of the season, but he’s been asked to do very little since then. If the run game struggles this week, whether he can step up and lead this team to a victory is up for debate.

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It will not be easy for Wentz against this Buccaneers pass defense. Earlier in the season, the secondary really struggled. However, they haven’t allowed more than 226 passing yards in a single game since Week 5. Tampa Bay’s secondary might be the most improved unit in the league.

This will also be a test for Wentz’s ball security. So far, he’s been excellent (3 interceptions and 3 fumbles lost). However, the Buccaneers have forced 4 turnovers in the past two weeks and 9 in the past four. They will present an intriguing test for Wentz, especially if they can use their defensive front to take the run game away.

Advantage: Push

Colts skill position players vs. Buccaneers secondary and linebackers

This Colts offense has run through Michael Pittman Jr. this season. The second-year receiver has 57 receptions with a catch rate of 70.4%. He’s amassed 752 yards and 5 touchdowns through 11 games. With Zach Pascal having to provide the support as T.Y. Hilton struggles with injury, Pittman has been the go-to receiver.

The Colts have also leaned heavily on their backs and tight ends this year. Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor have combined for 58 receptions, 526 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns. Taylor has been the more impressive pass catcher of the two. At tight end, Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox have both played roles with 6 combined touchdowns. Neither has been a reliable weapon outside of the red zone, though.

Tampa Bay’s Jamel Dean continues to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league right now. He’s allowed just 20 receptions on 43 targets and has 2 interceptions compared to zero touchdowns. He has the ability to potentially negate the skills of Pittman this week. Getting Sean Murphy-Bunting and potentially Carlton Davis back this week will be important. Both are significant improvements over the options the Buccaneers have been using in their place.

Tampa Bay has utilized a lot of three-safety looks in the past couple of weeks. That’s because of the superb play of both Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards in coverage. Antoine Winfield Jr. has not been as impressive, but the trio has combined to be a better option than putting another CB on the field in recent weeks. Linebacker Devin White has been somewhat susceptible in coverage, but he’s only allowing 7.1 yards per target and has not given up a touchdown. That will be crucial with Taylor coming out of the backfield.

Advantage: Buccaneers

Colts offensive line vs. Buccaneers defensive front

The improvement of the Colts’ offensive line has been a big part of their resurgent form. They are the second-best team in the league in yards per rush attempt (5.2) and have rushed for over 200 yards in two of the last three weeks. However, the potential absence of All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson with an ankle injury is a major concern. His presence stabilizes this line. Given that he was a full practice participant on Friday, he has a good chance to suit up in Week 12.

The Buccaneers have been dominant up front for the most part. They’ve allowed just three 100-yard rushing games this season and rank second in the league in rush yards per attempt. However, the Colts proved last week that when they are playing their best, they can run the ball on even the best run defenses.

The Colts have also been reasonably good protecting Wentz. Their 4.8% sack rate is the seventh-best mark in the league. That has allowed Wentz to stay comfortable in the pocket. We’ve seen Wentz make generally good decisions with the ball this year, having thrown just 3 interceptions with an interception rate of 0.8%.

The Buccaneers will provide a stern test for the Colts offensive line. They rank fifth in pressure rate (27.4%) and ninth in hurry rate (11.6%). Still, they’ve struggled at times to convert that pressure into sacks. They sit almost exactly at the league average in terms of sack rate (5.8%). This matchup is most likely where this game will be won and lost. If the Colts’ offensive line can create holes in the run game and protect Wentz, they have a great chance to get another statement win.

Advantage: Push

Buccaneers vs. Colts betting line and game prediction

There is a lot to unpack in this game, but when you look at the matchups, it’s no surprise the Buccaneers are 3.5-point favorites even on the road. They have the edge when it comes to their offense against the Colts defense. Additionally, they appear to have a marginal edge in terms of their defense against the Indianapolis offense.

Taylor is the major X-factor here. He’s getting some MVP talk and could be the man who turns this matchup on its head. If he can have success against this Buccaneers defensive front, then the Colts could control the clock and put pressure on Brady. Then, their opportunistic defense can look to take advantage as Brady looks to push the ball down the field.

It’s hard to see the Colts winning this game, but they are the team that has the better form coming in. They humiliated a very good Bills run defense last week and could have the same sort of success this week. Defensively, the pressure Buckner can exert on Brady is also vital. The Colts need Taylor and Buckner to have huge games in order to win.

The edge has to stay with the Buccaneers, but this game could go either way. Taking the Colts and the points might be the smart move here.

Buccaneers at Colts prediction: Buccaneers 27, Colts 24

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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