NFL Week Four Preview: Indianapolis Colts At Tampa Bay Buccaneers

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Curtis Painter #7 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Steelers won 23-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Colts make their one and only appearance on Monday Night Football this week, when they travel to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers. The Bucs have started off 2011 at 2-1, losing only to the 3-0 Lions in Week 1, but defeating the Vikings and Falcons over the past two weeks. After winning 11 games a season ago, Tampa Bay looks to be one of the better up-and-coming teams in the league.

While the Colts have been regular participants on Monday night, the same cannot be said for the Buccaneers. This will be there first appearance on MNF since 2008, and their first home game on Monday night since 2003, against the Giants. They actually had two home MNF games that season, the year after they won the Super Bowl. They had a 21 point lead with a little over four minutes to go in the game. They won that game easily, right?

Oh, right, Peyton Manning was on the other team. We saw the Colts recover an onside kick, Marvin Harrison make a great TD catch, then make another spectacular catch, the other Ricky Williams scoring the tying TD, the first known call of a "Leaping" penalty, and Mike Vanderjagt hitting the upright on his second game-winning attempt. Just a normal game in the Manning era, right?

The two teams did meet back in 2007, a 33-14 Colts win. It was also an early October game, as that weekend I spent in Los Angeles, seeing the Rose Bowl and Santa Anita Racetrack on back-to-back days. I'm pretty sure the Colts dominated the game throughout, as they were really good that year, and Tampa wasn't. Overall the Colts have a 7-4 record against the Buccaneers.

How do the teams matchup this season? Let's take a look...

Adjusted Statistical Comparison for the Colts and Buccaneers:

Statistic Colts Buccaneers
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 61.6% 27 71.0% 22 70.1% 14 77.7% 31
ANPY/A 3.624 26 5.697 19 2.176 30 8.915 32
Turnovers 1.70 18 1.66 16 1.60 16 1.97 13
Yds/Drive 22.52 28 31.70 22 28.84 16 40.12 32
ToP/Drive 2:12.0 28 3:20.0 30 3:04.0 6 3:22.0 31
Yds/Play 3.954 30 4.793 10 4.549 25 5.890 28
First Downs/Drive 1.37 25 1.86 25 1.88 9 2.41 31
3rd/4th Down 21.1% 31 49.6% 28 47.0% 10 40.2% 14
Avg Start Pos 29.6 18 33.4 25 29.3 19 27.8 9
3 and Outs 5.39 29 3.64 20 4.45 23 1.63 31
RZ Eff 55.8% 24 68.3% 20 66.1% 12 62.2% 12
Plays/Drive 5.522 17 6.398 29 6.216 5 6.910 31
Penalty Yds / Play 0.287 2 0.288 31 0.876 19 0.689 23
RB Success 60.7% 3 45.9% 19 59.3% 4 45.5% 18
Yds/Carry 4.31 13 3.76 14 5.83 5 2.42 4
Net Punts Yds/Game 33.86 27 35.25 7 41.23 12 37.84 16
Overall 28 27 16 30

Keys to the game:

  • Even though the Buccaneers have won their last two games, statistically their defense has not looked good, which might be the spark the Colts offense needs to get going. Tampa Bay has the worst ANPY/A in the league so far this season, giving up nearly 9 yards per attempt, a huge number. All signs are that Curtis Painter will get the start, and I can't think of a better team to start against than the team with the worst passing defense so far this season.
  • They also are not very good at the drive stats, which gives us hope that the Colts could put some drives together. I think we'll see the Colts move the ball, but stall out, once again, in the red zone, where the Bucs have actually been pretty good this season. I agonized over it last week hoping for the Over in their game against the Falcons, and they kept trading field goals. Infruriating when you need points scored.
  • The one area that will be very important will be on 3rd/4th down. The Colts were much better last week after their atrocious showing in the first two games. Tampa has been able to get teams off the field on 3rd down, and should play a big role in determining the winner.
  • On the other side of the ball, Tampa has not thrown the ball well at all this season, as they rank third worst in the league in ANPY/A. The Colts will need to make sure this number stays exactly where it is, or else it could be a long night for the Colts. They need to ensure Tampa's weaknesses stay that way to have a chance.
  • Expect the Buccaneers to try and run, run, and run some more to move the chains. With this being the new found strength of the Colts, we'll really get a good sense into whether they are for real. Tampa is the best rushing team the Colts have faced so far this season. There's a big discrepancy in Time of Possession per Drive, so I'm sure we'll see some long, torturous drives.

The team showed me something on Sunday night, even though they didn't win. While we can argue all week over whether Painter gives the Colts a better chance to win over Kerry Collins, but I think the players, especially the offense, responded really well to Painter playing against the Steelers. I think we'll see the same kind of effort in Tampa as we saw Sunday night, and I think we'll all be witnesses to the Colts first win of 2011, and the Curtis Painter winning his first start in the NFL. Maybe it's a bit crazy to think this, but going off these numbers, the two teams are demonstratively different, and I always feel much better picking the Colts to win, so let's go with it.

Colts 27, Buccaneers 24

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