The Talking Plank -
Bucs At Colts:
Well this is an interesting one to predict. If the Colts were completely healthy, I would give them a healthy nod (no pun intended) just because of the shear weapons available to Manning and the fact that this is on the road. I predicted a loss at the beginning of the season, though I stated that an upset was possible. Looking at the situation now, will it change my mind?
On Offense, the Bucs' 18th ranked offense (325.2 y/g), 8th rushing (137 y/g) and 24th passing (188.2 y/g), will be facing the Colts' 11th ranked defense (303.5 y/g), 22nd against the rush (127.5 y/g) and 7th against the pass (176 y/g). The Colts are giving up 18.5 points per game while the Bucs are scoring 20.2 per game. But what is really going to be a factor is score early. The Bucs, if they can get a lead early, or keep the game within a score during the first half, will be able to run the ball against this defense, unless it sells out. The Colts are severely undersized up front, with all but two DL's under 280 (Johnson is 296 and Reid is 288). Mathis and Freeney are small, but quick. If the Bucs's big, but quick OL can get there hands on the Colts' linemen, it's all over. I expect to see some gaping holes at times, with the Colts occasionally closing them down with their speed. The biggest problem Indy may have is with Harris out already, if Keiaho can't go either, the Colts will be very vulnerable at the LB spot. Bob Sanders would normally be there to help out, but he may not go either, meaning that they won't have the explosive Safety play at the line, and will have further vulnerabilities in the secondary. Quite frankly, just with the loss of Harris, and McFarland already lost for the season, the Bucs really shouldn't have any excuse for not being able to generate a running game. The Bucs should also be able to handle the pass rush, as the Colts have had to use blitzes to establish any consistent rush. Freeney only has a sack so far, and Mathis has 2. Furthermore, they've had problems generating any real rush at all. Garcia should have time, assuming Penn doesn't have any issues with Freeney. If he does, he should be able to exploit a secondary that's been exploited a lot. QB's have had some good success except for Brees. This could be another big game for Galloway. If they double him up that will leave Hilliard open, and Clayton open during 2 wide sets. I expect to see Gruden use a lot of 3 wide sets to force the Colts into a nickel package and force the box to be light in players. He can still run at of that. Needless to say, the Bucs will score points in this game, and they might score a lot. If Keiaho, Rushing, and Sanders are all out, the Colts will be a sieve. If that happens, the Bucs will put up big numbers.
On Defense, the Bucs' 5th ranked defense (291.8 y/g), 1st in points allowed (11/g), 6th against the pass (173.5 y/g) and 20th against the run (118.2 y/g), will face the Colts' number 3 offense (both points, 32.8, and yards, 403.5), 6th passing (262.8 y/g) and 7th rushing (140.8 y/g). This will be the strongest test of the season, assuming Addai and Harrison play. If one or both are out, it will severely hamper Manning's ability to find an open receiver in the passing game, and put more pressure on him, as it will make it harder to run the ball. With the exception of Diem, who goes 320 at LT, the rest of the Colts' line is under 300 lbs. which means they should have a hard time opening running lanes against the Bucs' very solid defensive line. The DL will probably struggle mightily to get to Manning (only sacked 3 times this year) because of his quick decision making and release. But the Bucs have the back 7 to cover all of the Colts' weapons, especially if Harrison and Addai are out, and that might slow down Manning's progressions some. We could also see the Bucs' active, and slightly bigger DL break through the Colts' OL at times. The big key, though, is to hit the Colts' receivers hard and quick, gang tackle, and make Manning fight for every yard. If you do that, get a little pressure, and take the running game away, he will make mistakes. Whether or not the Bucs can do that is the key question. I think they will be able to do it at times, more so if the afore mentioned injured players are out. Stopping Manning all game will be very difficult unless the Bucs can create a bunch of turnovers. This defense will show us how good, or bad, they are with this game.
On Special Teams, the Bucs bring in their high ranked coverage and return units to face a Colts' team whose lead returner may be out, and whose coverage teams have had problems stopping people. The Bucs could get very good field position all game long, much as they did last week, and that could be huge. If Rushing is out, the Colts' will have to find someone else to return punts. The Colts do have Vinatieri to kick field goals, but the game's in a dome, so Bryant should be up to the challenge. Both punters are about on par, but Bidwell has been doing some outstanding things, which has resulted in the Bucs allowing a grand total of 13 return yards on punts since the so-so showing in week 1. That's about 1/10th of what the Colts have allowed. It's an amazing stat, almost as much so as the 15.3 yards per kick return the Bucs have allowed. Needless to say, this unit will be key in backing Manning up, while getting us good field position. If they continue to play as they have, and they get Cox back this week, then the Bucs could be in very good shape.
Overall, this is a game that is hard to judge because of the critical nature of the possible losses to the Colts. The Colts have a Bye next week, and may decide to hold most of these players back since we are an NFC team, and they are in the AFC. If they do that, then the Bucs have a solid 50-50 shot at winning the game. If the players play, and I have to assume they will right now, then the chances are more 45-55. The Bucs look like they have the right team, overall, to match-up favorable against the Colts, but this is in the RCA Dome. Because of that, I have to give a very slight edge to the Colts. If Harrison, Addai, Sanders, and Keiaho are all out, then the Bucs will win by 3 points. Otherwise...
Colts 28 Bucs 27