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Although there is no SR’s Fab 5 column due to Black Friday, here are the four key match-ups to watch when the Bucs (7-3) travel to Indianapolis to play the Colts (6-5) on Sunday. Indianapolis has won five of its last six games and is playing well after starting the season 0-3.

4 Match-ups To Watch: Bucs Offense vs. Colts Defense

Bucs WR Chris Godwin vs. Colts CB Kenny Moore II

Moore is having a solid season in the slot for Indianapolis. Despite being just 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, Moore is stellar against the run, evidenced by his 71 tackles, which are third on the team. Moore is a twitchy athlete, who has broken up a team-high nine passes for the Colts, in addition to a team-leading three interceptions. Godwin is playing great football right now for the Bucs and will probably be Moore’s biggest challenge to date.

Godwin leads the Bucs with 63 receptions for 782 yards, and has five scores on the season. While he’s the primary weapon in Bruce Arians’ offense, which often targets the middle of the field, Godwin will have to be precise with his route running and be on the same page with Tom Brady for those choice option routes. Moore has proven he can be a ballhawk, and linebacker Darius Leonard will also be lurking around the middle of the defense underneath with free safety Xavier Rhodes over the top.

Tampa Bay LG Aaron Stinnie vs. Indianapolis DT Grover Stewart

Bucs G Aaron Stinnie and Giants DT Leonard Hamilton

Bucs G Aaron Stinnie and Giants DT Leonard Hamilton – Photo by: USA Today

Stewart is a big defensive tackle at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds. He’s one of the Colts’ best defenders despite being unheralded. He has a 72.8 Pro Football Focus grade, which is third on the Indianapolis defense behind fellow starting defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and rookie edge defender Kwity Paye. Stewart clogs the running game with his size and strength, and he’s a decent pass rusher too with one sack on the season. But typically, Taylor Stallworth comes in on pass rushing downs and has been more effective, evidenced by three sacks.

Stinnie played well in an emergency fashion on Monday Night Football, filling in for Ali Marpet at left guard. He handled Leonard Williams for most of the game before surrendering a sack on the final drive when the game was well in hand. Stinnie can rely on his starting experience from last year’s playoffs and the Super Bowl. With him being in a contract year, this new starting experience this year can help him land a starting job next year in Tampa Bay as Alex Cappa’s replacement or elsewhere.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Colts LB Darius Leonard

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Leonard was a game-wrecker the last time these two teams played in 2019. The Bucs prevailed 38-35, but Leonard had nine tackles and two interceptions, including an 80-yard pick-six against Jameis Winston. Although he’s listed as questionable for the game, if Leonard plays he’ll have to contend with Gronkowski down the middle of the field in coverage. Leonard is the Colts’ big-play machine on defense, as he has 78 tackles, five pass breakups, four forced fumbles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries this year.

Gronkowski returned to action on Monday night after missing the last six games outside of six plays at New Orleans due to broken ribs. He was dominant in the passing game, catching six passes for 71 yards, including a season-high 35-yarder against the Giants. Gronkowski will need to be physical and use his long wingspan to contend with Leonard, who is one of the fastest linebackers in the league in coverage. Putting the ball up high for the big, 6-foot-5 Gronkowski will be key for quarterback Tom Brady in this match-up.

Tampa Bay RG Alex Cappa vs. Indianapolis DT DeForest Buckner

Bucs RG Alex Cappa

Bucs RG Alex Cappa – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tom Brady doesn’t like pressure up the middle, and if the Colts are going to try to slow down the league’s best passer Buckner will need to have a big game. The big, 6-foot-7, 295-pound Buckner is a force inside and leads Indianapolis with 4.5 sacks. Buckner has long arms and can reach around blocks to capture the quarterback in the pocket or deflect passes at the line of scrimmage. He has two pass breakups this year already.

Cappa has had a decent season so far, but has surrendered two sacks this year after not allowing a sack during the 2020 regular season. The former third-round pick is in a contract year and this will be one of his toughest match-ups to date. Not only will Cappa’s pass protection be under a microscope on Sunday, but he’ll also have to get some movement off the line of scrimmage to open holes for Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II in the running game. That will be easier said than done against a savvy veteran like Buckner.

4 Match-ups To Watch: Bucs Defense vs. Colts Offense

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting vs. Colts WR Michael Pittman, Jr.

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: USA Today

There was a day when T.Y. Hilton was the Colts’ big-play weapon on offense. But age (32) and injuries have slowed him down. Now it’s Pittman’s turn to be the primary force in Indianapolis’ passing attack. Last year’s second-round pick leads the team with 57 catches for 752 yards (13.2 avg.) and five touchdowns. At 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, Pittman is a downfield threat that resembles Tampa Bay’s big receiver Mike Evans. Pittman has great hand-eye coordination and leaping ability that allows him to win most 50-50 jump ball situations.

Pittman will line up all over the place, but is primarily a flanker who will face Murphy-Bunting the most. In his first game back from injury, Murphy-Bunting was targeted early and often and responded well with seven tackles against the Giants. He kept plays in front of him and helped hold New York without a receiver posting more than 40 yards in Monday night’s game. Murphy-Bunting has the physicality to match up with the bigger Pittman, but must rely on perfect technique to avoid drawing pass interference calls and being bodied out for jump balls.

Tampa Bay ILB Devin White vs. Indianapolis RB Jonathan Taylor

Bucs ILB Devin White

Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Taylor is the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,122 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 5.8 yards per carry. A big back with game-breaking speed, Taylor already has 10 runs over 20 yards this season. He’s coming off a 185-yard, five-touchdown performance in a big win over Buffalo last week. Taylor is also a strong receiving threat out of the backfield, averaging 10.1 yards per carry. He’ll be a handful for White and Tampa Bay’s top-ranked run defense to stop.

White will not be 100 percent for this game, as he’s missed practice time this week with a quad injury. If for that reason White can’t play or gets injured, Kevin Minter would take over as the inside linebacker and there would be a big drop off in play, as Minter is not nearly as athletic. Should White be able to play, he’ll need to be the play-making force he’s been over the last two weeks rushing the passer and amassing a combined 26 tackles. If the Bucs can’t stop Taylor from hitting 100 yards rushing on Sunday they probably won’t win.

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead + ILB Lavonte David vs. Colts TE Mo Alie-Cox

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

While Jack Doyle has more name recognition around the league, it’s Indianapolis’ other tight end, Alie-Cox, who has been more productive this year. Doyle has 20 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown, but is only averaging 9.9 yards per catch. Alie-Cox, who is a much bigger target at 6-foot-5, 267 pounds, has hauled in 15 catches for 211 yards (14.1 avg.) and four touchdowns, which is the second-highest on the team. The Bucs defense can’t sleep on Doyle, but must be prepared to contend with Alie-Cox, especially in the red zone.

Whitehead and David did a great job of holding Giants tight end Evan Engram in check last week with just two catches for 12 yards. There is a big difference between playing against the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Engram and the Colts’ tight ends in terms of size. Whitehead is 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, while David is slightly bigger at 6-foot-1, 234 pounds. Tampa Bay’s safety and linebacker will have to play big, especially when Alie-Cox is in the game. Playing him aggressively and contesting the catch will be key to limiting his plays, rather than waiting for him to catch the ball and then make the tackle. The Bucs’ duo seems up for the challenge.
ADVANTAGE: Whitehead + David

Tampa Bay OLB Shaq Barrett vs. Indianapolis RT Braden Smith

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Smith has only started five games at right tackle this season, but he’s been a dominant run defender. He has an impressive 92.3 run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. While not as adept in pass protection with a 65.9 grade, Smith is still solid. He’s surrendered six hurries, two hits and one sack, and has actually fared better than left tackle Eric Fisher, who has allowed a team-high four sacks, nine hits and 15 pressures. The key for Smith and the Colts to be stout in pass protection is to run the ball and physically wear out Tampa Bay’s defensive linemen and edge rushers, which will negate some of the Bucs’ pass rush.

Although Barrett had six pressures on Monday night against the Giants, he is in a slump. While his 5.5 sacks leads the Bucs, Barrett has not recorded a sack in over a month after a solid start to the season. Whether he plays on the left side against Smith or the right side against Fisher, Barrett needs to be a more productive playmaker, one that registers sacks and sack-fumbles. Carson Wentz is a game manager who succeeds when he has a strong running game to support him. Forcing the Colts to beat the Bucs via Wentz’s arm will be a big key to victory.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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Mike Pengelly
Mike Pengelly(@ontariomike)
1 month ago

Reading this column, might as well chalk up a win for the 6-5 Colts over our 7-3 Bucs ! Having said that, we need TB12 to have superior game and for the team to limit dumb penalties and avoid turnovers if we expect to put one in the win column.

Reply to  Mike Pengelly
1 month ago

I was thinking same lol. Bucs have no chance reading this. No turnovers, stop the run, no stupid ass penalties and Bucs should win this imo.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
1 month ago

Can’t be stubborn and just come out throwing it deep! Indy will defend in that cover 2 shell which is the kryptonite to this offense. BA/BL have to be patient & run until they force the extra defenders in the box opening up some of those down field shots BA likes to take…The key match Alex Cappa vs Solomon Thomas who’s better than WFT Johnathan Allen. If we keep Brady comfortable in the pocket long enough he’ll find his receivers but it all depends on how well we scheme (Ahem) coach around these challenges.

Reply to  Captain Sly
1 month ago

Ya I sure hope we can win your key match-up “Alex Cappa vs Solomon Thomas”. That should really help the team beat the Colts considering Thomas plays for the Raiders. Great analysis, lol.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
1 month ago

Whoops! Both played for the niners however I meant Buckner not Thomas. Nice jab, Too Funny!

1 month ago

Look, These Colts are a lot more than Johnathan Taylor. I have been watching them the last 3 weeks on my NFL feed. They are physical and strong at home. Bucs are gonna have to bring it come Sunday. Hope our running game is on. There secondary can keep pace with our receivers. We win this one and we are back We stay above the fray a little. Won’t miss this one for the world. Be ready Bucs!

1 month ago

It’s almost as if PR thinks we will have to be lucky to win this game. I think Colts will have to be lucky if they even stand a chance to win. How will they manage to account for ALL of our weapons? Buc will win this one and it will be a team effort. Need Defense to play great run defense against Taylor. Shut down Taylor and u win the game. Let’s do this!

1 month ago

The Colts’ destruction of the Bills was a bit of a surprise for me and I’m sure it got the attention of the Bucs, who previously may have underestimated this opponent. When reading Scott’s assessment, I too would have thought the Bucs were the underdog instead of the Colts being the +3 “home-dog”. It’s certainly logical to think the key to victory is to simply focus on slowing down Jonathan Taylor, upon whom the Colts’ offense is so reliant. I’m sure Frank Reich and staff are well aware of the Bucs stellar run defense and will incorporate other ways to… Read more »

1 month ago

The match ups tell the story of our season – we’re vulnerable because we’re injured, out of sync and just not playing well. We didn’t get that bump coming out of the bye, so it’s not clear what triggers our turn around this season. A solid win against a good Colts team might be just the thing to do it.

1 month ago

Slow down Taylor and force Wentz to try to win the game with his arm. Their secondary is good, but I’ll still take our receivers over them any day. The 2 high shell will leave openings for Lenny to take over the game and control the clock. Defense has been playing better and getting healthier, I expect that to continue.

Mb Nfl Double Your First Deposit Football Team Vs Bucs Pewter 728x90 Jpg