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The Indianapolis Colts have been in a bit of a slump, losing their last two games. In their most recent contest, they lost to division-rival the Tennessee Titans 31-17. At 6-6, the Colts are in third place in the AFC South. They need a win on Sunday to keep pace with the Titans and Houston Texans.
Standing in their way is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7). Tampa has strung together two consecutive wins including a 28-11 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Buccaneers are hoping to make it three straight when they host the Colts at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. Kick-off is slated for 1 p.m. EST with the contest airing on CBS.
The Colts are fighting to keep in playoff contentionIn a must-win situation, the Colts received some good news. Running back Marlon Mack will practice on Wednesday after missing time since Week 11 after fracturing his hand.
If he's able to play on Sunday, it gives the Colts' offense the go-to running back they need. Before his injury, he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and had at least 74 rushing yards in each of his last four games.
On Sunday, they face a Tampa Bay defense that's stout against the run. The Buccaneers are 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game with 76.2.
Mack's success on the ground could provide the Colts with the balance they need. Jacoby Brissett should have a big day through the air as he faces a Tampa Bay defense that surrenders 282 passing yards per game.
Defensively, the Colts face one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. The Buccaneers are 4th in the NFL in passing yards (284.2) and scoring (28.3). The Colts' secondary must find a way to corral Tampa Bay's receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans or else they could be playing from behind all game.
The Buccaneers' air raid attackTampa Bay has been able to beat teams thanks to its terrific passing attack. Having two receivers with over 1,000-yards seasons in Godwin and Evans is a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Look for them to test a Colts' secondary that's done a pretty good job limiting opponents' passing offenses, as they're 12 in the NFL in passing defense.
The battle that could determine the game is when the Colts have the ball. The Buccaneers' front seven are exceptional at dominating the line of scrimmage to stuff running attacks. With Mack possibly returning for the Colts, this is the match-up to watch.
If Tampa can stuff the Colts and Mack in particular at the line of scrimmage, it'll force Indy to be more one-dimensional. One player to watch is linebacker Devin White, who's coming off a monster game where he had seven tackles, one interception, and one touchdown.
This success will allow the Buccaneers' defense to play more aggressively. Given the Colts have struggled at times to protect Brisset, this won't end favorably with them.
Trends found on Covers.com Tampa Bay is:
- 4-0 ATS in their last 4 December games
- 5-1 ATS in last 6 after allowing fewer than 250 yards in previous contest
- 2-8 ATS in their last 10 as underdogs of 0.5-3
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Buccaneers' offense has been playing outstanding football as of late. I expect the duo of Evans and Godwin to test a good Colts' secondary. This allows Jameis Winston the opportunity to make huge plays. On the other side, the Colts' offense doesn't have the explosiveness their counterparts have, so they'll be playing catch-up. If Indy can establish some momentum running the ball early, it'll help them keep pace. However, the Buccaneers prove to be too much and win by one possession.
Prediction: Tampa Bay -3
Full-Game Total Pick
Tampa Bay is 4-0 in the Under in their last four games of Week 14. Given their offense is setting a blistering scoring pace, I expect this trend to continue. Both teams' offenses rely heavily on passing plays, resulting in what could amount to a shootout that comes down to who can control the line of scrimmage. I give this edge to Tampa, as their front seven overpowers Indy's offensive line to help Tampa win a higher-scoring game.
Prediction: Over 49