When the calendar hits late November, it’s time for playoff-hopeful teams to start stacking wins.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts certainly fit that description as they play each other Sunday in Indianapolis.
Despite being 4-6 after a 27-14 loss last week in San Francisco, Tampa Bay may be in a better position to make the postseason. That’s because they’re in the NFC South, where New Orleans leads the pack at 5-5. Get hot for a few weeks, and that might be good enough to get a division title.
“It’s still in our hands,” said Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. “We’ve got to go ahead and make sure we take care of our business. We’ve got to win our games that we’re supposed to win. It’s still there for us. We have hope in that aspect.
“It’s getting serious. It’s getting down to the wire. … Coming down to these final games, we’ve got to make sure that we get some wins under our belt so we can make this playoff push.”
To make the best push possible, the Buccaneers will need more production from an offense that’s been about as much miss as hit. After scoring 37 points two weeks ago in a bitter loss in Houston, they have managed only 34 the last two games.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is enjoying a good season statistically, completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,389 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions, but Tampa Bay is struggling to score touchdowns. Its touchdown percentage of 46.4 in the red zone is tied for 28th in the league.
“We have to find a way to punch it in the end zone and that’s holding us back,” said Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles. “The small things are holding us back from winning these ballgames.”
Meanwhile, Indianapolis (5-5) is back to work after enjoying a Week 11 bye. It’s coming off a 10-6 win over New England in Germany two weeks ago in which it gained just 264 total yards but was able to parlay Jonathan Taylor’s 1-yard touchdown run and a 51-yard field goal by Matt Gay into a positive result.
The Colts enter Week 12 one game behind Pittsburgh and Houston for the final AFC wild-card spot. They appear to have a schedule conducive to making a run, as none of their final seven opponents have a record better than 6-4.
Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, a part of playoff teams the last four years in Buffalo, is trying to spread the message among his younger teammates that they have what it takes to do some postseason damage.
“I feel like everybody is on board and everybody has to always be on board because this is the NFL,” McKenzie said. “You never know what’s going to happen. I feel like everybody is in tune to what’s going on and ready to try and make a playoff run.”
Indianapolis owns an 8-7 lead in the teams’ all-time series, although Tom Brady and Tampa Bay pulled out a 38-31 win in their last meeting on Nov. 28, 2021.
The Colts ruled out tight end Drew Ogletree (foot), center Ryan Kelly (concussion) and cornerback JuJu Brents (quadriceps) for Sunday. Linebacker Grant Stuard (illness) is considered questionable.
Bucs starting running back Rachaad White was added to the team’s injury report on Saturday due to a knee injury and is questionable for Sunday. White was not listed on the injury reports Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Tampa Bay will be missing two defensive starters: linebacker Lavonte David (groin) and corner Jamel Dean (ankle/foot). Rookie defensive lineman Mike Greene (calf) was ruled out on Saturday. Linebacker Devin White (foot), corner Carlton Davis (hip) and D-lineman Logan Hall (illness) are questionable.
–Field Level Media