Game Overview ::
By HILOW >>
- Tampa Bay should be able to approach this game as they normally would, while Indianapolis is likely to be forced to the air when they’d prefer to run the football.
- The Buccaneers are struggling through multiple injuries, as Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and Ali Marpet have yet to practice this week, while Vita Vea, Devin White, Mike Edwards, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all either gotten in limited sessions or have been downgraded as the week has progressed. Keep an eye on Friday’s injury report.
- Center/Guard Qeunton Nelson appears headed for an absence for the Colts, as he has yet to practice this week.
- Overall volume is difficult to project for this game, but Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski are set up to see an increase to individual volume should both Mike Evans and Antonio Brown miss this contest.
How Tampa Bay Will Try To Win ::
Contrary to the pure matchup for the Colts, the matchup for the Buccaneers should be considered entirely a strength on weakness matchup. The Bucs lead the league in overall pass rate, situation-neutral pass rate, pass rate when leading, and pass rate when trailing. The Colts should be considered a pass-funnel defense, ranking second in DVOA against the run and 20th in DVOA against the pass. All of this comes together to create a situation where “how Tampa Bay will try to win” and “how Tampa Bay is likeliest to approach this game” line up well from a predictability standpoint. The biggest influence to “how Tampa Bay will try to win” comes through injury, as Antonio Brown and Mike Evans have yet to practice this week. Brown should be considered doubtful, while Evans is fighting an uphill battle after suffering a back injury late in Tampa Bay’s Week 11 victory on Monday Night Football, giving him one less day to get right.
After coming into the season with legitimate questions surrounding the division of usage in this backfield, Leonard Fournette has emerged as a true lead back, playing between 53% and 82% of the offensive snaps in every game since Week 4. Fournette is an interesting study, however, as his mental lapses and incorrect alignments and routes have left a mark on both head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Tom Brady. Even late in the season (last week), Brady can be heard directing Fournette on the field, voicing clear frustration towards Fournette and his mental lapses. All of that isn’t meant to dissuade any interest in Fournette, it’s simply to highlight the fact that Fournette’s biggest knock largely hasn’t been remedied. Expect Ronald Jones to act as the pure change of pace back, while Giovani Bernard fills the “obvious pass down” role in standard game environments. The matchup on the ground yields a borderline elite 4.58 net-adjusted line yards metric on the backs of Tampa Bay’s second-ranked standing in the metric.
This is very much still Tom Brady’s team, and when we see this team take on opponents that tilt their opposition to the pass, we can be fairly certain that the offense will flow primarily through the air. The Buccaneers lead the league in pass attempts per game at 43.2, while the Colts face an inflated 59.59% pass rate against this season. Should both Mike Evans and Antonio Brown miss, we’re likely to see a primary pass-catching corps consisting of Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Johnson, and recently reactivated Scotty Miller. Expect inflated 11-personnel rates and elevated slot snap rates for Chris Godwin, with Johnson and Miller primarily playing on the perimeter. Indianapolis has forced a moderate 7.9 DADOT (defensive aDOT at time of target) but has faced the fourth most air yards in the league. They also blitz at the fourth lowest rate, instead electing to drop an additional body into a heavy zone coverage scheme. If the Colts fail to direct additional attention to Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, it could spell trouble over the interior of this defense. Behind those four, expect Breshad Perriman, Cameron Brate, and OJ Howard to filter through in various packages through situational roles. Should Evans make it back for this game, expect Scotty Miller to see the biggest hit to individual snap rate and production, with Evans sliding back into his standard role in a difficult individual matchup on the perimeter.
How Indianapolis Will Try To Win ::
This is one of the more interesting studies this week, as the Colts would much prefer to lean on their ground game but face the number one run defense in the league. As we’ve been reminded as recently as last week, a strength-on-strength matchup carries a wide range of potential outcomes. Frank Reich and the Colts bring a 54% situation-neutral pass rate and 63% pass rate when trailing into a matchup that clearly tilts the opposition to the air, but the Colts have shown a propensity to ride the run game for as long as it is working this season. What we do know is that Tampa Bay will likely look to push the pace while Indianapolis looks to slow this game down (seventh fastest situation-neutral pace of play vs. the slowest in the league).
It’s hard to reach sweeping conclusions regarding the split in running back work for this Colts offense, as the team hasn’t found themselves in largely negative game scripts since the first three weeks of the season (which is incredibly impressive). Along the same line, Jonathan Taylor has seen his snap rates, workload, and pass game involvement steadily increase as the season has moved on, starting the year hovering around 50% of the offensive snaps and working all the way up to almost 85% over the previous two games. There are two possible outcomes here – either the Colts continue to ride Taylor and he sees one of his higher target games or Nyheim Hines is worked into the fold at a greater frequency. I would view the expected workload split as a wide range of outcomes in the same way we view how the matchup interacts with expected efficiency.
Through both injury and ineffective play, the pass-catching corps has been one of the most predictable facets of this offense from an expected snap rate perspective (but that’s about where the predictability ends). The Colts operate from league-average 21-personnel rates and above-average 11-personnel rates, meaning we rarely see this offense utilizing two running backs on the field at the same time. The trio of Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, and Kylen Granson typically have game flow to thank for their split in usage, with Doyle and Cox the most well-rounded tight ends of the bunch (which typically means they see the most snaps) and Granson primarily a “pass-catching tight end.” Michael Pittman, Jr. and Zach Pascal are the “starting” wide receivers, each typically playing 80%+ of the offensive snaps, while Ashton Dulin and TY Hilton split the “WR3” role. The biggest thing we need to understand about this offense is that Reich typically mixes and matches offensive personnel within his alignments, which creates interesting alignment percentages amongst the pass-catchers. So while Pittman and Pascal are considered the “starting wide receivers,” they play heavy slot snaps and are moved all around the formation. This makes projecting individual matchups extremely difficult. Consider the fantasy prospectus of all pass-catchers another wide range of outcomes ordeal.
Likeliest Game flow ::
We have an interesting case in this one where the likeliest game flow is likely to be driven by the Buccaneers but the game environment is likely to be driven by the Colts. This is the case due to the dynamics of the matchup, how these teams like to operate, and the strength on strength matchup for the Colts. Because that is the case, the actual game flow holds an extremely wide range of outcomes, which makes it difficult to project for fantasy purposes. As in, we can’t confidently project overall team volume as much as we’d normally like here, but individual volume should be rather bankable within those constraints due to the makeup of the Colts offense and injuries to the Buccaneers. From a macro perspective, we can be fairly certain the Bucs will lean on their pass game, while the Colts are largely dependent on game flow to decide how their end-of-game volume numbers shake out.